The Cut establishes female genital mutilation as a social practice with a history so longstanding that even its apologists cannot explain it adequately. Both those who oppose and those who defend it mention the pressure girls are under to have it done.
“They make a small mark on the knee,” says one man dismissively. I do not think he is lying outright, although he is speaking with heavy euphemism; I think he genuinely does not quite know exactly what is involved. As the film goes on to show, FGM is a female-perpetrated community act in the moment, although as a cultural practice it is endorsed by both sexes and it is ultimately approved, instigated and organised by men with social power. As one woman warns, “the sons of council elders inherit the right to organise circumcision.” Despite FGM being presented by detractors and apologists alike as something done to women by other women, often those women who are closest to them, its survival as a tradition can only be ended officially by council sons of council fathers, not mothers, wives or daughters.
At the FGM ceremony there is an atmosphere of frenzy, an undercurrent of brisk determination to see it through despite anyone's hesitation or aversion and a core of dark zeal, as at any rite where blood is to be shed. Amidst the celebrations of the brightly dressed older women around them – a celebration in whose rhythms and music I can’t help but hear the refrain cycle-of-abuse, cycle-of-abuse – the girls themselves are subdued. They become increasingly and instinctively nervous as they are jostled to stand in a line and then pushed down to sit on the ground, then lie back when their time comes. We see money changing hands as women buy pairs of surgical gloves from a vendor.
|A still from The Cut by Beryl Magoko|