Alice Walker | Critical Review by Victoria A. Brownworth

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Alice Walker.
This section contains 789 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Victoria A. Brownworth

Critical Review by Victoria A. Brownworth

SOURCE: A review of Warrior Marks, in Lambda Book Report, Vol. 4, No. 6, September-October, 1994, p. 37.

In the following review, Brown worth praises Warrior Marks by Walker and Pratibha Parmar for exploring the reasons that female genital mutilation and other forms of mutilation are allowed to continue.

In 1989, while living part of the time in London, I reported on a series of cases of young girls who had been kidnapped and sexually mutilated in and around the city. But unlike other sex crimes I had reported on, these attacks were not at the hands of strangers. Each of these young girls had been mutilated at the request of her family.

I had been aware of the practice of so-called female circumcision since college when it had been a primary focus of the first International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women. But before the girls in London, I had never seen the face of genital mutilation close-up. And until I spoke with a Somali woman gynecologist at a London clinic, I never truly understood what was being done to these young girls in London and how their lives were forever altered.

Reading Warrior Marks created the same sense of horror and rage I felt in that London clinic. Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar, a Pulitzer Prize-winning African-AmerIndian writer and internationally known Indian lesbian filmmaker, embarked on a joint project to document female genital mutilation in Africa.

Warrior Marks is a record of that process and the making of Parmar's film. Letters, diary entries, poems, interviews and photographs from both women all combine to provide an indelible image of the mutilation of millions of the world's women and girls. Girls as young as a month old to women as old as thirty are taken away, often into the bush, where they have their clitorises and inner and outer labia cut or ripped away. The ritual is done manually, with no anesthetic. Because there are arteries that flow in and near the clitoris, sometimes girls bleed to death.

In some areas, what remains of the genitalia is stitched together or pinned together with thorns in a process called infibulation. Small holes are left for urine and menstrual flows, but infections are commonplace. Before or on a young woman's wedding night, she is slit open again to allow penetration by her husband. When I was in London, where both female circumcision and infibulation have been illegal since 1985, doctors would not perform this process; it was done (again without benefit of anesthesia) by aunts or mothers with a razor blade or knife.

Walker and Parmar present very different commentary, both mesmerizing. Walker ties the practice to the range of mutilations women across the globe suffer at the hands of patriarchal influence. Parmar's responses are less poetic, less intellectualized than Walker's—she is simply raw with the images. Both women, in very different ways, discuss how fragile they are made by their experience. Both of them (and most of the women on their crew) end up getting injured and/or sick; Parmar has nightmares, Walker, insomnia. Walker talks about nearly going off her head from the horror, Parmar calls her lover in London and cries to her.

The images are cataclysmic, oppressive, dramatic, insufferable. Walker's feminism pours out on the page like a kind of healing salve for these tortured girls. Parmar, whose films have spoken eloquently of the oppressions of Indian women, and lesbians and gay men, worries that she won't be able to get the images she needs to tell the story properly.

Warrior Marks is as chilling as it is visionary. Walker and Parmar lead us like brave guides into the enamel house. But they show us not only the terrible horrors: AIDS spread when the same knife is used on 20 or 30 girls at a time; women sexually maimed for life, often dying in childbirth or even from infections caused by menstruation; women who escape the mutilation banished from their families. They also show us the valiant women (and some men) struggling to eradicate the ritual through education and political movements, the faces of the youngest girls who may possibly escape, the words of mothers who insist they will not allow their daughters to be mutilated.

Female genital mutilation has been allowed to continue under the rubric of "culture." But as Walker so simply and astutely notes, "there is a difference between torture and culture." Lesbian and gay men have been tormented under the same guise of heterosexual "culture." Warrior Marks provides valuable insight for the queer community, as Walker and Parmar each explore the reasons this mutilation and others are allowed to thrive. Female genital mutilation is the most primal form of sexual oppression. Warrior Marks is a book every queer must read.

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This section contains 789 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Victoria A. Brownworth
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