It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen and when you finally see females in movies; you think that they have these metallic structures around them, like they are caged by male energy. A certain movie, produced in 2011 really gave me such an emotional response; it became part of my emotional make-up, in a way. Desert Flower tells an amazing story with an undeniable message in an ambiance with scenes that look like those of a different kind of movie. The effect is rather unsettling in understanding the life of Waris Dirie. The film starts off by focusing on a young girl who began life as a member of a nomadic tribe in Somalia. Waris was circumcised as a young girl, according to the custom of many African countries. An old woman cut away those parts that could someday allow her to feel sexual pleasure and stitched shut her labia- so that her husband (damn, wasn’t he an old bag) could be ascertained that his wife was a virgin when he made the grand opening.
Have you ever thought that watching films is watching someone else’s vision? Well not in this case. Many young girls actually die during or due to this damage. Despite been linked to infections, infertility and childbirth complications, it is still practiced extensively in parts of Africa and the Middle East, even though it is not mentioned in The Bible, Koran or any other holy book. Think about it, and how it subjugates our women, how it turns them into commodities and denying them the full lives they deserve as human beings, as citizens.
Young Waris gives you an idea about the thirst for a better life, education and even opportunities when she left her “husband’s” place, and walks across the desert to seek her grandmother who stays in Mogadishu. She finds her, and is later on hired as a house-help in London. Waris, now a grown woman, is played by another model, Liya Kebede, (now that is beauty, my Miss World), runs away again to later live with Marylin, a lady she befriends along the scenes. She gets a job in a restaurant and finally her breakthrough arrives in the form of a fashion photographer who helps her get to the top ranks of modeling, not without any obscurity of course. Towards the end of the film, she condemns genital mutilation before the United Nations, after having some complications and undergoing an operation, and actually becoming their ambassador against the barbaric practice.
Despite a decades-old movement against it, the rates in some countries haven’t budged, and funny enough, there is a misconception, that it is forced on women by men. From my classes, and reading on the topic, elderly women do most of the work in carrying on the custom. I actually thought communities would let it go after learning about its negative impacts, but those who practice just think that the benefits outweigh the consequences (I really feel like going all Kevin Hart on them). I really don’t get it with their thoughts on the benefits, but they actually exist in some cultures. The Rendille, for example, are sexually active before they are married, and this is culturally acceptable. However, when the woman lives with her husband’s family, it is considered as part of inclusion among other women who are identified as circumcised women. So yes, it is part of being introduced into such a female network that holds the importance. Do you also know that some people believe that all male and female bodies contain male and female parts? For the men, the foreskin is a female part (ever looked in the mirror? Haha) and for the ladies, the covering of the clitoris is a male part (so not fair). The whole idea of “becoming one” includes cutting off these parts.
Most girls do not have a right to decide for themselves. It is not an individual behavior. Mothers are not solely in charge of the decisions regarding their daughter’s life, but people in the extended family are. This implies that in addressing the issue, targeting the mothers is ineffective. There is need to target those people in the extended family and the influences on them in the community. In addition, both female and male elders should be included. Addressing this issue entails conversing about the way to secure the future of our girls, which might not be best protected by being circumcised any more.
“Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls- fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it”