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I was at the hair salon getting ready for my book signing event at Bookstar. My memoir The Girl with Three Legs was released today and I was selecting a chapter to read at the event. The hairdresser glanced at the book cover and was visibly shaken. I told her about the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and how many people think that a woman’s intact body is abnormal and must be corrected. The clitoris is seen as dangerous flesh that would drive the woman to madness. To safeguard her chastity and prepare her for marriage, her external genitals must be removed. “You mean they just cut it off?”

I went on to explain the different types of FGM and, before I had a chance to finish my sentence, the hairdresser turned away, picked up the blow dryer and said, “I can’t find mine…I think a warlock might have stolen it!” I told her how hard I worked to locate what was left of me. My suggestion to her was, when she gets home, to sit in front of the mirror and start communicating with her vulva.

My grandmother often said that “women need to understand pain in order to make their spine firm.” As a child, I couldn’t understand what kind of pain she was talking about, but as I grew up and, after being genitally mutilated at the age of thirteen, I understood the kinds of pain women experienced. Women around me knew well the pain of undergoing the practice of female genital mutilation, the pain of the wedding night, when her body suddenly tenses up as her husband tries to break through the narrowed, scarred vaginal opening, and finally the pain of giving birth. These kinds of pain will certainly stamp into women’s minds and make their spine firm. With The Girl with Three Legs, my hope is to continue with the dialogue that is needed to and bring attitude shift within the culture, especially the young generation. When women are educated and empowered, the mutilation of young children will end.

Author Soraya Mire’
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