Womanhood and Circumcision: Three Maasai Women Have Their Say
This thought-provoking documentary sensitively explores the cultural context of female genital-cutting practices among the Maasai. It will stimulate discussion and reflection in a wide variety of courses in cultural anthropology, women's and gender studies, African studies, and development studies.
A mother and her two daughters discuss their feelings about circumcision (excision) and its meaning in their lives. The three women discuss their experiences from the perspective of three different stages of the life cycle: Alice, a young woman (enkitok), looks back eleven years to the time when she became a woman. Sikaine, a shy, giggly 14-year-old girl (entito), enjoys the attention of her family and community as she anticipates undergoing the procedure, which she has seen performed on other girls. Tipaya, the mother, is a post-menopausal woman (entasat); she remembers her surgery from several decades back.
The film follows Sikaine through all aspects of the process except the surgery itself. She is shaven in preparation for the surgery; neighborhood girls crowd around the window of the room where Sikaine’s operation is going on; immediately after the surgery, Sikaine stands and walks to the bed where she smiles proudly as she lies down to rest while the elders sing in her honor.
Both Alice and Tipaya offer interesting comparisons of the pain of circumcision and that of childbirth. These engaging women make their perspective on excision comprehensible to western audiences, who are seldom exposed to positive commentary on this practice. The film provides viewers with a new respect for the women who bravely endure this painful surgery.
This is the first in a developing series of films (see also Making Maasai Men: Growing Courage Toward Circumcision) on culture change among the Maasai of Kenya at the end of the 20th century. The two films together illustrate the important differences between the contexts of female and male genital-cutting among the Maasai.
"Womanhood and Circumcision" was produced by Barbara G. Hoffman, Associate Prof. of Anthropology and Director, Visual Anthropology Center, Cleveland State University
"An excellent film for teaching and talking about the controversial subject of female circumcision. Short, engaging, and direct -- we hear and watch Maasai women discuss their own feelings and experiences, without layers of scholarly interpretation and judgement. The multi-generational perspectives, and the comparisons some women make between the pain of childbirth and circumcision, contribute to the debate in insightful ways. A must-see film for courses that explore women and gender in Africa." -- Dorothy L. Hodgson, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Rutgers University
- Society for Visual Anthropology honoree
- African Studies Assn. honoree
- American Anthropological Assn. selection
- Royal Anthropological Institute (UK) Film Festival honoree