In a number of her films, Grier would bare her body, distracting hopeless men and wielding her sexual power over her enemies. “I wanted society to see Black women as owning their sexuality. Isn’t that a part of my humanity?” she asks. “You don’t own a woman’s body. You don’t tell the woman how she uses her body which has been oppressed and controlled.” This is a personal mission of hers she says, as a survivor of rape at age six and again in college. She’s developed a fierce criticism of misogyny and other forms of control, including organised religion and white supremacy.
Autonomy is a prevailing theme in her work. In one of the most powerful scenes in her career as Kit Porter in The L Word, Grier depicts a woman who is trying to terminate her pregnancy but gets lured into a pro-life crisis pregnancy centre that offers her an ultrasound to deter her from the procedure. It’s one of the only scenes in mainstream TV that looks at not just the conflicting emotions around people seeking abortions but also the traumatic tactics used against them by fundamentalists in the US. Fittingly, Grier passionately segways into talking about the assault on Roe V Wade and then highlights the hypocrisy of the pro-life movement in a country that has systematically shown it does not value life, especially not the lives of ethnic minorities. “The Sand Creek massacre happened just behind my house. They killed Native American women and children and tore out unborn babies. They didn’t care about African slaves and killing those women and their babies. Now we have to listen to ‘oh babies should survive’. Let’s sit and think about all of that.”
Pam Grier related: iconic Blaxploitation posters and the fitting room scene from Jackie Brown synced up