Julia Fox’s recent fashion statement sparks intense criticism from FGM survivors

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Apr 15, 2024 at 01:44 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

On 11 April 2024, Julia Fox made headlines when she stepped out in Los Angeles in an outfit unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The 34-year-old caught the attention of paparazzi as she posed in a daring ensemble, wearing a black blazer provocatively draped off the shoulder, exposing much of her upper body. However, it was what lay beneath that truly sparked discussion. Underneath her blazer, Fox wore a lifelike bikini designed to resemble a hairy breast and sewn-up vagina. The word “closed” was prominently displayed on the front of the underwear like a tattoo. While the outfit initially appeared to be a bold statement of liberation, activists have been quick to criticise Fox for seemingly glamorising female genital mutilation (FGM) with her choice of attire.

The model’s intention with the outfit is arguably an act of political protest hinged on the regression of women’s reproductive rights. However, Fox did not take into account the potential harm it could do.

Renowned activist and influencer Shamsa Araweelo, who has openly shared her journey as an FGM survivor and actively campaigns to eradicate the practice, voiced her thoughts about the outfit on social media, stating: “My vagina hasn’t even healed yet, and she’s wearing it, she’s wearing an FGM-affected vulva as underwear, type 3 female genital mutilation.”

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A post shared by Shamsa Araweelo (@shamsaaraweelo)

Leyla Hussein, also an FGM survivor, psychotherapist, and award-winning international campaigner leading the fight against the ritual cutting, took to social media over the weekend to share her perspective on Fox’s outfit. Hussein stated: “Please stop tagging me in the @juliafox image depicting a closed vagina. It is triggering and offensive to survivors of #FGM and all survivors of #sexualviolence. It’s akin to tagging a rape victim with images of rape. We must be more considerate and sensitive. Please do better.”

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A post shared by Leyla Sirad Hussein Gikandi (@leylahusseinuk)

Chanel Ayan, a renowned model and breakout star of Real Housewives of Dubai also shared her perspective: “You know, my vagina looked like that when I was 5 years old, and it’s a constant struggle for my mental health…you have made me [feel] so sad and triggered.”

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A post shared by Ira Snave (@bravobuds)

While Fox is no stranger to making bold fashion statements, this particular ensemble is arguably the most controversial outfit she has ever worn, especially given the gravity of the subject matter surrounding FGM. This statement also comes at a particularly dangerous time, considering recent suggestions from The Gambia to uplift the ban on FGM, putting millions of young girls at risk.

Bustle, in their interview with Fox, referred to her outfit as a “fashion protest outfit,” harking back to a statement in Elle Magazine where the model declared that she was “done with men.” Indeed, Bustle interpreted Fox’s statement as bold and powerful and praised the Uncut Gems star’s decision to shine a light on the numerous ways in which women have been violated and treated like “vending machines.”

However, with Bustle’s massive platform, boasting over 9 million social media followers, their inability to grasp the gravity of such imagery during a critical moment is simply mind-boggling. To add insult to injury, the magazine even shared a picture of Fox in this controversial outfit with the caption: “This look will be living in my mind rent-free for the rest of my life.”

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A post shared by Bustle (@bustle)

Unfortunately, we still find ourselves needing to emphasize the importance of major brands with substantial followings ensuring they demonstrate increased sensitivity and awareness when addressing delicate topics.

While Fox’s intentions behind this outfit may have been well-meaning, it’s evident that this specific statement fell short of acknowledging the lived experiences of girls and women worldwide.

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