vol 28 - 2002

"Women's Right to Choose" has been one of the most effective slogans not only of the reproductive rights movement but also of late-twentieth-century feminism in the United States more generally. It signaled legislative victories and progressive changes in public attitudes. Although materialist and poststructuralist feminists have long questioned the limits of a rhetoric of choice, current conservative setbacks and reconfigurations in the postmillennial gender order make critiques of liberal ideas and strategies especially urgent. This issue of Feminist Studies dramatizes these questions with a cluster of articles discussing abortion, cosmetic vaginal surgery, and the gendering of children's toys. These articles also emphasize the power of visual art and rhetoric to ignite or quench political consciousness. Visual power is also strikingly in evidence in a very different context, that of Indigenous Australian women's art, the subject of one of two articles in this volume centering on Australia.

Are there parallels between the aesthetic motivations for more stylized labia among Euro-American women and African women who consent to female genital surgery? The limitations of liberal discourses of "choice" are examined by Simone Weil Davis in her comparative analysis of an increasingly popular form of cosmetic vaginal surgery known as labiaplasty in the United States and female genital surgery in parts of Africa. Davis problematizes the nature of consent by considering how the rhetoric of "consumer choice" is invoked by plastic surgeons who specialize in labiaplasty to generate anxiety in Euro-American women about the appearance of their vaginas. By detailing several striking aesthetic parallels in the motivations of African and American women to seek cosmetic surgeries on their genitals, Davis challenges "oversimplified binaries that divide women into civilized and un/civilized." She compares the Euro-American purchase of a "clean slit" to African-rooted female genital surgeries. She also challenges the notion of consumer "choices" and cautions us to examine the meaning of consent in the African and Euro-American context, arguing that "the motivations that impel African-rooted female genital surgeries and American labiaplasties should not be envisioned as radically distinct."


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Simone Weil Davis
Loose Lips Sink Ships

Maureen A. Sherbondy
Sútra (Poetry)

P. Lealle Ruhl
Disarticulating Liberal Subjectivities:
Abortion and Fetal Protection

Laurie Shrage
From Reproductive Rights to Reproductive Barbie:
Post-Porn Modernism and Abortion

Diane Bell
Person and Place: Making Meaning of the Art
of Australian Indigenous Women

Susan Magarey and Susan Sheridan
Local, Global, Regional: Women's Studies in Australia

Wendy Varney
Of Men and Machines: Images of Masculinity in Boys' Toys

Dana D. Nelson
Women and Gender in the State of Sympathy (Review Essay)

Rachel Eshed
Pastoral Picture; "Well-Packed Women"; The Fall (Poetry)

Shira Wolosky
Women's Bibles: Biblical Interpretation
in Nineteenth-Century American Women's Poetry

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