The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

By MaryKate Schwerdt

The duality of woman has been echoed in almost every piece of theory we have read, the basic aspect of her duality being her residence in both the cultural and natural realms. Alice Walker excellently compares the creative process to child bearing by describing the silenced black female artist as having died “with their real gifts stifled within them;” just like woman is anatomically built for holding, nurturing, and birthing humans, she is spiritually built to do the same with ideas. 

Once Walker associates the artistic creative process with child carrying, it is only a short step to associate the creation of art with the natural. What is more of nature than the cycle of new life? Furthermore, what is more unstoppable than nature? Despite centuries of trying to triumph over mortality and escape great storms and earthquakes, every living thing must eventually die, cities and regions are still wiped out year after year. More relevant to this discussion, Walker explains the white man tried to stop the creative process of all women, but especially doubled down on female minorities. For black female slaves, both processes were suppressed because not only was it illegal for them to posses the literacy that is necessary for many types of art, like poetry, music, etc., but they were also denied the fruits of their womb since their children were often sold as property. However, the white male patriarchy was unsuccessful because, like nature, woman cannot be completely stifled, and the evidence is apparent in anonymous artworks in museums around the country. The expression of these emotions in art was inevitable because the oppressed woman used “the only materials she could afford, and in the only medium her position in society allowed her to use.” Nature carried on despite attempts to control it; generations of black women continued to create new bloodlines and new works of art.

Walker takes Cixous’ concept a bit farther by suggesting that this expression is not only inevitable, but healthy, and will result in severe consequences if silenced. Instead of Cixous’ case of the passive omission of woman from history, a simple absence or lack of proof of woman’s presence, Walker suggests a more literal violent effect will manifest. If the woman does not produce from what she intakes, she herself will become absent. This will occur especially in the shackled black female slave because she is denied all aspects of her duality; she cannot exist in the natural realm because she has no claim to her offspring, yet she cannot exist in the cultural realm because she is denied the opportunity to create and participate. Although Walker seems to claim woman as a whole cannot be stopped from creating, a single woman can. She describes the successfully suppressed woman as almost an invalid without spirituality, “driven to a numb and bleeding madness by the springs of creativity in them for which there was no release.” 

Just as mother and child will likely die if she never delivers the baby, just as she will suffocate if she never exhales, the metaphysical essence of the woman will die if there is no outlet for her creativity.

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