Warrior Marks

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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....
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