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Alice Walker, Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women

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Alice Walker, Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of

Women. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993, 373pp.

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a practice that involves the removal of part or all of the female external genitalia. It occurs throughout the world, but most commonly in Africa where they say that it is a tradition and social custom to keep a young girl pure and a married woman faithful. But to some Westerners, the practice is viewed as being primitive and barbaric. We react with disgust and find it nearly incomprehensible that female genital mutilation can occur in the world today

In Warrior Marks, Alice Walker looks at the reality that millions of African, Asian and Indian women suffer from genital mutilation. The book begins with the re-telling of a story of how she lost one eye. This wound was inflicted on her when she was three years old and for years, she felt handicapped and isolated. Her brother, who caused this accident with a BBgun, is referred to as a "warrior" and the blinding of her eye is the warrior mark. Her visual mutilation is what helped her see the subject of genital mutilation. She sees it as a terrible form of patriarchal oppression, characterized by "the feeling of being overpowered and dominated by those you are bound to respect."

The book goes on and discusses the health risks that are involved in the practice. It talks about how the women who perform the surgery have a minimal knowledge of anatomy and hygiene, which results in infections of the genital and often results in the transmission of the HIV virus. Besides the initial pain of the operation, these girls also suffer long-term physiological, sexual and psychological effects. A mother reveals that she would stop the pain and betrayal if she could but because of tradition, she and others would risk banishment, torture and abuse.

In the end, Walker emphasizes that these African women are not victims, but survivors. In the book, the women grow gardens on dry land and trade food, clothing and crafts in the marketplace. Whether a battered wife, a rape survivor or genitally mutilated woman, Walker concludes that a woman warrior learns that if she is injured, she can fight back. She closes by saying, "Your wound could be your guide."

Female circumcision is based on gender oppression and degradation of women. It is the result of a patriarchal society trying to sexually control women. Women are stripped of their sexuality and their virginity is controlled until they are married. As in most patriarchal societies, marriage is essential to the economic survival of women. Therefore, in the minds of these people, the benefits gained from this operation for the girl and her family far outweigh any potential danger. They look forward to circumcision as a coming-of-age ritual, which is necessary to maintain health, virginity and family honor. Circumcised women are considered beautiful while uncircumcised women are considered ugly, unclean, and unfit for marriage. So when parents request a genital procedure for their daughter, they are only seeking to enhance their child's acceptance into their culture and assure her desirability as a wife.

There is also a health issue here because these procedures are usually performed under unsanitary conditions. They use tools non-sterilized like knives, scalpels or a piece of glass to do the cutting and there is no use of any anesthetics. Normal risks of circumcision include hemorrhage, severe pain, shock, infection, and even death.

Harm that is done to women from female genital mutilation is a human-rights issue. The practice is considered as child



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