The Patriarchy Continuum – FGM Edition

First, read this:

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) horrifies – and bewilders – westerners who find it incomprehensible that a mother would allow her daughter to be so brutally amputated with all the risks of infection, difficult childbirth and deprivation of sexual pleasure. What this film does is to show how custom – even when violent and dangerous – embeds itself in social expectations. These girls are not considered eligible by prospective husbands until they have been cut; their parents need the income from a dowry to shore up precarious family finances. Standing out against such powerful conventions is difficult, dangerous, and costs money.

But even worse it causes huge emotional conflict within the closest, most important relationships. We see a daughter arguing with her mother over why she refuses to be cut, and a wife arguing with her husband. One of the most poignant moments is when Nancy, an exemplary daughter in every respect, challenges her mother’s authority. She doesn’t want a life like her mother’s, she declares. You can see the bewildered hurt on the mother’s face; this kind of rejection may be familiar to many a western parent but perhaps still a novelty in a culture where the idea of making your own fate in life, particularly for a girl, is completely alien.

Implicit in this rejection is a judgment of the inadequacy of the mother’s life, a repudiation of her form of love. “I don’t want to grind stones all my life like you,” says Nancy. “I bury you, you bury me in a vicious cycle of daughter and mother.”

“You are killing me,” says Nancy’s mother, adding: “I am defeated, I am confused.” It’s painful to witness her humiliation at the hands of her daughter. In a culture where respect and deference to your elders, particularly from women, is sacrosanct, such rebellion requires a huge strength of character and determination.

Nancy is also challenging her mother’s preferential treatment of her brother. Nancy’s cutting is the price of her brother’s secondary education. Her dowry will pay his school fees. If every aspect of a culture reinforces this kind of preferential treatment of sons, how does a girl begin to challenge it.? At one point Nancy even threatens to run away and cut all ties with her family. This kind of process of social change requires a rejection of crucial aspects of identity as a woman, as a member of a family with strong ties of responsibility.”

Then, watch the video below. It is worth 30 minutes of your time:

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