The community and the self: Patriarchy, female genital mutilation, and the quest for identity in Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy and Osman Conteh’s Unanswered Cries
Keywords:Community, Female Genital Mutilation, Identity, Self, Patriarchy
Female genital mutilation is a major controversial issue which has generated and continues to generate oftentimes acrimonious debates within feminist literaryand anthropological cycles. This paper joins the ever-vibrant conversation on theissue of female identity in a conservative patriarchal setup. It examines femalegenital mutilation and the quest for identity in Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy and Osman Conteh’s Unanswered Cries from a feminist perspective. It shows that the two authors see female genital mutilation (FGM) as the most glaring manifestation ofpatriarchy’s objectification and oppression of women. The two authorssee patriarchy as a monolithic system which forces these communities toabide by its precepts. As such Tashi’s action in Possessing theSecret of Joy and Olabisi’s in Unanswered Cries are nothing short ofrevolutionary. Their rebellion against socialconformism exemplified by the practice of FGM, and their option for freedom andself-determination can be seen as a quest for an individual identity in communitieswhere individual identities have all been subsumed into one collective identity. Byfighting against an obnoxious, but common practice like FGM, Tashi and Olabisihave become the torchbearers of the feminist fight for freedom and identity.
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