The Common Good
January 1994

A Contagious Resistance

by Kari Jo Verhulst | January 1994

Warrior Marks, the recently released Alice Walker-Pratibha Parmar collaboration, continues the exploration of female genital mutilation begun in Walker's Possessing the Secret of ...

Warrior Marks, the recently released Alice Walker-Pratibha Parmar collaboration, continues the exploration of female genital mutilation begun in Walker's Possessing the Secret of Joy. This very personal film traces Walker's visits with women working to abolish the practice and documents her attempt to understand its practitioners.

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Parmar and Walker, rather than citing statistics and anthropological reports, employ conversations and powerful images to explain the perpetuation of this custom. While the account of a young girl undergoing the ritual is recited, a dancer interprets the narrative. The suffering is communicated without gratuitously shocking the audience or exploiting the subjects.

The film laments the enslavement of women's sexuality by juxtaposing images of newly mutilated girls shuffling back to the village against the dancer's free and complete movement. But Walker moves from mourning to celebration, rejoicing in the contagion of resistance, the power of joy, and the ability to survive, rebalance, and come out triumphant.

Warrior Marks, like the writing of Walker herself, gently raises questions that prompt us to see that control of women's sexuality pervades all societies - it is not just an African or Muslim problem. Female genital mutilation is a matter of injustice that points to the broader struggle for liberation into which all are called. Thanks to Alice Walker, that pathway has been gracefully paved.

Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women (Harcourt Brace, 1993) is a collection of journals and interviews integral to the film's creation.

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