The Depiction of Female Circumcision in Selected Memoirs by Female African Writers and Novels by Female African American Writers

By Ratliff, Peggy Stevenson; Hill, Linda R. | Journal of Intercultural Disciplines, Spring 2016 | Go to article overview

The Depiction of Female Circumcision in Selected Memoirs by Female African Writers and Novels by Female African American Writers


Ratliff, Peggy Stevenson, Hill, Linda R., Journal of Intercultural Disciplines


Between 100-140 million babies, girls, and women have undergone female circumcision. This practice occurs in approximately 30 African countries, some countries in the Middle East and Asia, and the countries to which migration occurs from these countries. There are several types of female circumcision, which is frequently referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) or cutting. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (1997), three of these types are as follows:

Type 1

In the commonest form of this procedure the clitoris is held between the thumb and index finger, pulled out and amputated with one stroke of a sharp object. Bleeding is usually stopped by packing the wound with gauzes or other substances and applying a pressure bandage. Modern trained practitioners may insert one or two stitches around the clitoral artery to stop the bleeding.

Type II

The type of severity of cutting varies considerably in this type. Commonly the clitoris is amputated as described above and the labia minora are partially or totally removed, often with the same stroke. Bleeding is stopped with packing and bandages or by a few circular stitches which may or may not cover the urethra and part of the vaginal opening. There are reported cases of extensive excisions which heal with fusion of the raw surfaces resulting in pseudo-infibulation even though there has been no stitching. Types I and II generally account for 80-85% of all female genital mutilation, although the proportion may vary greatly from country to country.

Type III

The amount of tissue removed is extensive. The most extreme form involves the complete removal of the clitoris and labia minora, together with the inner surface of the labia majora. The raw edges of the labia majora are brought together to fuse, using thorns, poultices or stitching to hold them in place, and the legs are tied together for 2-6 weeks. The healed scar creates a hood of skin which covers the urethra and part or most of the vagina, and which acts as a physical barrier to intercourse. A small opening is left at the back to allow for the flow of urine and menstrual blood. The opening is surrounded by skin and scar tissue and is usually 2-3 cm in diameter but may be as small as the head of a matchstick. (Classification of FGM (2008) section, para. 6-8)

This study examines how selected African women whose memoirs have addressed the topic of female circumcision, specifically Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her memoir Infidel, Waris Dirie in her memoir Desert Flower, and Fauziya Kassindja in her memoir Do They Hear You When You Cry as well as how selected female African American novelists, specifically Kuwana Haulsey in The Red Moon and Alice Walker in Possessing the Secret of Joy, have depicted female circumcision in their works. It reveals that female circumcision adversely affects the lives of real and fictional African women who undergo it as well as those who have not undergone the procedure. This study further suggests that these two groups of women writers see the practice in very similar ways.

There are a number of reasons why female circumcision is practiced, but frequently a number of justifications (not just one) are provided. For example, Ali (2007, p. 30) writes in Desert Flower, "In Somalia, like many countries across Africa and the Middle East, little girls are made 'pure' by having their genitals cut out." She also notes that the practice originated before the birth of Islam:

Not all Muslims do this, and a few of the peoples who do are not Islamic. But in Somalia, where virtually every girl is excised, the practice is always justified in the name of Islam. Uncircumcised girls will be possessed by devils, fall into vice and perdition, and become whores. Imams never discourage the practice: it keeps girls pure. (p. 31)

In Ali's case, her father, whom she describes as "a modern man" (p. 31) did not want his daughters to be cut. However, her maternal grandmother, a traditional woman who lived with her daughter and her family, took advantage of her father's incarceration due to protesting the government and her own daughter's absence to ensure that her granddaughters underwent "the necessary and proper dignity of purification" (p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Depiction of Female Circumcision in Selected Memoirs by Female African Writers and Novels by Female African American Writers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.