Looking into the dynamics of Nawal El Saadawi we find that she was a versatile genius. Apart from being a writer she was also a physician as well as a noted social activist. Critics and scholars are of the opinion that she was a feminist writer. She has written numerous research papers and books on feminism. It is interesting to note that she was an Egyptian writer and she is considered as one of the most radical writers of Egypt. She has written on subjects like mutilation of female genital that is mostly practiced in Islamic religion. She was born in 1931in KafrTahla, Egypt. In Arab she is known as protector of human rights. It is noteworthy to find that she is the founder member of Arab Women’s Solidarity Association. Her genital was mutilated when she was just a child of six. She was very close to her father. She has remarked that she was fortunate enough to have liberal mother and father. In her family education was given prime importance and it can be one of the reasons that she was highly educated. Her father believed that it is the right of every child to stand equally in the society. Nawal El Saadawi projects prejudices and oppressions of Middle Eastern women through most of her characters. We can also find that there are certain autobiographical references in most of her writings.Through her writings we can find that she has tried to highlight the predicament of Islamic women. It seems that Arab women are exploited on the name of religion. Saadawi has written about such religious practices in several novels. She is a kind of novelist who believes in change. She knows that the condition of women in Islamic countries is pathetic. It is one of the main reasons that she has tried to listen to the repressed voices of such women. She has projected such voices in her novels through her characters.It is noteworthy to find that Saadawi has remarked that writing means expressing herself.She strongly believes that nobody has the right to suppress her individuality. Be it her husband, president or the almighty (Saadawi131). Her personal experiences as a doctor are revealed through her writings. It seems that Saadawi is resisting against the oppressive Egyptian regime. It is this because of this regime that she was forced to live a life of self-imposed exile. In her novels we find that she has highlighted the existence of the repressed female characters. She understands that it is not only the patriarchal forces of the society but also repressive measures of the Arabian religious world that women are forced to live a life of alienation and repression. The discourses of orientalism of the Western world are clearly visible in her novels. In Islamic countries we can find that female sexuality is considered as a taboo but surprisingly Nawal El Saadawi discusses such themes freely in her novels. She is mature enough to understand that it is a part and parcel of life which needs to be discussed in detail. It is noteworthy to find that she was detained by the Egyptian government and she got threats from several Islamic organizations. It is reflected in Memoirs from the Women’s Prison. When she was released then she got assassinated in 1981. Her novels have been translated in over twelve languages of the world and her readers are not only from Arab but the whole world. She is very popular among her contemporaries because she was far ahead of them. Her influence on Arab feminism is praiseworthy. Saadawi has remarked that when she started writing then she was sure that conventional methods of writing were ineffective. She adopted new methods of writing that was both convincing as well as appealing. She started following her own route and chasing her own instincts (Saadawi 129). Fedwa Malti Douglas has said that Saadawi is one of the most radical writers who highlight the sufferings of Arab world. Egyptian society is both political as well as religious and the writings of Saadawi have created controversy and raised questions over the authority of this society. The anti patriarchal stances have made her a mouth piece of Arab feminism. It is interesting to note that Saadawi is one among nine siblings. It has already been stated that her father gave prime importance to education. In 1955 she completed her graduation in medicine. Being a doctor she has closely perceived that religious fundamentalism is expressive through women’s body. She has highlighted that religious fundamentalism of Islam is focused around Muslim woman’s body and there seems a connection between sexuality and religion. In Woman and Sex that got published in 1972 she has written on the sexuality of Arab women. It is because of this writing she was removed from the post of public health director in the same year. Her novels explore and interrogate Egyptian patriarchal society. She was considered as a threat by some Islamic fundamentalists and government of Egypt. It can be one of the reasons that she was confined to jail during the regime of Anwar Sadat in 1981. This period was very tough for her and she understood that one has to pay the penalty for truth and honesty. She was strong and rebellious and her views were uncompromising on sexual freedom and rights of Arab women. She was more committed in the confinement. Critics and scholars are of the opinion that her writings became more mature during the period confinement. Her fictions and non fictions successfully bring forward the realities associated with Islamic patriarchy. In 1982 she was released from imprisonment and she was firmly determined that she has to do something for liberty of Arab women. As a result she immediately established Arab Women’s Solidarity Association. This organization worked hard for women’s right but in the eyes of government this organization misguided Arab women. It can be one of the reasons that this non profitable international organization was closed by the government in 1991. Saadawi was brave enough to take the decision that her efforts will never cease and she will expose the real face of Islamic patriarchy. She wanted to free all those women who were living a life not less than a hell in Egypt. She knew that it was not an easy task but it was her indomitable will to safeguard the honour of women. She was threatened for her writings but she never turned against her wishes because she valued honour greater than a worthless life. Western feminists have argued that there will always be a dichotomy between Islam and feminism. Islam can never accept feminism and even if Arab feminism is accepted by Islam, then it will be an eye wash. Even today we can notice that there is a dichotomy between feminism and Islam. It can be one of the reasons that Arab feminism has been labeled as ‘other’ by Orientalists. It can be a discourse and the present chapter is an effort to explore postcolonial feminism in the writings of Nawal El Saadawi. For Westerners Arab women are incapable to express themselves because they are considered as exotic and veiled entities. It is amazing to find that in Arab women are still confined to the four walls. It can be one of the reasons that women of Arab are considered detached from the notions of feminism. Kumari jaywardena is of the opinion that Islamic fundamentalists consider feminism as alien to the Arab world. It is the main reason that feminism is irrelevant to Islamic society. She further says that feminism is an outcome of Western capitalism. This is the politics of Western capitalism that women are kept alienated from their tradition and culture. It is the duty of women to look and safeguard their tradition and culture. They have responsibilities of their family and they cannot struggle to attain personal freedom because freedom is a derogatory term. It varies from person to person. We cannot overlook our responsibilities on the name of feminism and freedom (Jayawardena 1). Saadawi is a kind of writer who believes that it is the duty of a writer to highlight truth and realism through their writings. She records the comprehensive Islamic society in most of her novels. It has already been stated that Saadawi is an Egyptian writer who is concerned for Arab citizens especially women. She writes in Arabic and her opinions are the opinions of a third world writer who has the capacity to perceive different situations with an intellectual mind. She addresses to English speaking audience through her lectures, interviews and translations of her works (Amireh 3). In 1977 she wrote Al-Wajh al-‘ari lil-mar’a al-‘arabiyy and in 1980 it was translated into English with the title The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World. It is a work of nonfiction and it was controversial in nature. It explored the real world of women living in Arab. It exposes the pathetic condition of women and it also suggests that women are victim of their own situation. They donor want to attain freedom from slavery and bondage. They are treated as puppet in their own family and there is no one to liberate them from their situations of alienation and repression. In 1999 A Daughter of Isis got published in English. It brought immense popularity to the novelist and she was considered as one of the most radical voices of Arab women. Novels of Saadawi attracted western readers because it was facilitated by Western academia. It is noteworthy to find that Saadawi resists both the Islamic fundamentalism on one side and Western Orientals on the other side. Thus, we can notice that she struggles a lot to advocate the rights of women. Initially small publishers used to publish the novels and writings of Saadawi but later when she was noticed by Western readers then international publishers and big brands started approaching her. Zed Publishers from London has published several novels and writings of Saadawi. In America she became popular because of the efforts of Beacon Press. Later we find that Memoirs from the Women’s Prison was published by University of California Press. In 1994 this press also published Innocence of the devil. Saadawi was popular among Western readers because she wrote the truth. She also took teaching assignments at various universities. She gave lectures at Duke University and University of Washington. Thus, it becomes evident that there is a sudden shift of popularity of the novelist. Her writings were produced by different publishers in America and England. She was approached by the mainstream publishers because she was a sensation in herself. She was firm in her decision that women empowerment is the demand of the time. She successfully brings forward the powerful voice of third world women with a vision that Women of Arab are not sexual objects and they too have pain and sufferings of their own. She understands that her voice was a bone of contention both for orientalists and fundamentalists but she kept on writing unto the last. Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian feminist writer and activist, has made significant contributions to the postcolonial feminist discourse through her novels and essays. In her work, El Saadawi examines the intersections of gender, class, and colonialism and portrays the experiences of marginalized women in Egypt. Her writing emphasizes the importance of intersectionality in feminist theory and practice and critiques Western-centric feminist discourse for ignoring the experiences of women from the Global South. This Chapter will explore the ways in which El Saadawi’s novels, Woman at Point Zero, God Dies by the Nile, and The Hidden Face of Eve and others contribute to the postcolonial feminist discourse. In Woman at Point Zero, Saadawi explores the intersection of gender and colonialism and portrays the experiences of marginalized women in Egypt. The novel tells the story of Firdaus, a woman who has been forced into prostitution due to poverty and societal pressures. Firdaus is a symbol of the exploitation of women under patriarchal and colonial systems. Saadawi uses Firdaus’s story to expose the ways in which women are systematically oppressed and marginalized in Egyptian society. Through Firdaus’s experiences, the novelist highlights the importance of understanding the intersection of gender and class in order to address the structural inequalities that perpetuate the subordination of women (El Saadawi 8).
In God Dies by the Nile, the novelist portrays the struggles of women in resistance movements and critiques Western-centric feminist discourse for ignoring the experiences of women from the Global South. The novel tells the story of a group of women who organize to resist the patriarchal and colonial systems that oppress them. El Saadawi critiques the simplistic view of feminism that ignores the diversity of experiences and struggles of women around the world. She argues that feminist movements must recognize the intersection of gender, class, and colonialism. Through her writings, the novelist encourages solidarity among women across borders and emphasizes the importance of recognizing and valuing the diverse experiences of women from different cultures and backgrounds (El Saadawi, 33).In The Hidden Face of Eve, El Saadawi continues her critique of Western-centric feminism and highlights the importance of intersectionality in feminist theory and practice. The book is a memoir in which she reflects on her experiences as a doctor and activist in Egypt. She discusses her own journey towards feminist consciousness and the challenges she faced in her activism. El Saadawi argues that feminist movements must be grounded in the experiences of women from the Global South and must recognize the intersections of gender, class, and colonialism in order to effectively challenge the structures of oppression that impact women’s lives. Through her writing, El Saadawi emphasizes the importance of recognizing the diversity of experiences of women around the world and the need for solidarity among women across borders. It is noteworthy to find that Saadawi was well aware that women were discriminated in the society because of their gender. They were considered weaker than men. It can be one of the reasons that the novelist has used feminism as a tool to challenge this inequality. She has advocated the reasons behind women empowerment. She was a source of inspiration for other female writers not only in Egypt but worldwide. The branch of feminism which Saadawi followed was radical and unapologetic. She was strongly against the patriarchal norms of the society and she wanted women to make their own choices in every area and sphere. It may be the reason that she founded different organizations to support and stand for women’s rights. She strongly spoke against harmful practices like forced marriage and female genital mutilation of Muslim girls. She considered that this mutilation was painful and baseless. On the name of religion, nobody has the right or authority to oppress girls. She wanted to stop such practices because it disturbed her internally. She was very sensitive towards such oppressive measures taken against women. El Saadawi was a kind of novelist who believed that equality between men and women can only be achieved by dismantling the power structure of the society. It is because of this power structure of the society that women are supposed to be incompetent. It is through the activism and writings of Nawal El Saadawi we come to know about the wretched condition of women of Arab. It is noteworthy to find that she was committed for women’s rights throughout her life. She died in 2021 but her efforts are immortal and she is respected worldwide for her bravery. Her contributions to feminist theory are praiseworthy. Her feminist activism encompasses several waves of feminism. In 1960s and 70s second wave feminism was in prominence and Nawal El Saadawi was fighting from the oppressive forces during these years. 1990s witnessed third wave feminism and Saadawi was still there to support women’s rights. Thus, it becomes evident that she was beyond the second and third wave feminism. In second wave feminism there were several women writers who were questioning the code of conduct of patriarchy. Feminists were trying to discover new opportunities for women during second wave feminism. Saadawi highlighted fundamental aspects of feminism in most of her writings. There are few strong feminist characters in the novels of Nawal El Saadawi. In Woman at Point Zero we can find that Firdaus is a character who symbolically stands for resistance against oppression. She is a kind of character who questions over the authority of social justice. She stands firmly and decides to fight from the system. She wants to take control over her decisions and behaviour. It can be one of the reasons that we can find a complete transformation in her character. She understands that society is based upon the notions of patriarchy and it is not an easy task to challenge the authoritative power structure of the system. Initially she is unable to accept it because she thinks that it is her destiny to accept the norms of the society but later, she understands the true colours of patriarchy. Her story is an example to show that women can fight back against oppressive systems. In The Hidden Face of Eve, we can find that the novelist has talked about female genital mutilation. It is important to note that in various parts of the world such practices can still be found. In this book we can find that there are several women who undergo such ill practices. These women want to talk about their experiences because they can no longer remain silent on such issues. They want justice because they feel that their body has been mutilated against their will. They want to reclaim their body and they know that no religion can give commands to mutilate its followers. No religion can advocate violence and hatredness. Saadawi is of the opinion that gender is a category that is constructed through society. It is the society which generates the idea that women are biologically weak and so they should remain confined to domesticity. With the advancement of the age society has also changed a lot. Today we find that women are no more considered as weak. In Arab the condition of women has not changed in comparison to other countries. It is noteworthy to find that in every Islamic country women are not given equal chance to stand with their male counterparts. They are considered weaker than men and it can be one of the reasons that they are considered as veiled entity by Western orientalists. Nawal El Saadawi considers it as a crime because she thinks that nobody has the right to decide the fate of women. They must be treated equally with their male counterparts. It is the society that changes the mentality of people. In a typical patriarchal society less space is given to women because it is a male dominated society. It is the society that creates pressure on individual members of the society. Patriarchy according to Saadawi is a key feature of post-colonial societies. In such societies traditional values are restored and reinforced through politics, culture and religion. It has already been stated that Saadawi is a vocal critic who spoke against the ill practice of female genital mutilation that is commonly practiced in Islamic countries. Saadawi finds it as violence against women and she says that such practices are deeply rooted in patriarchal traditions. Such practices must be abolished and I also feel that Saadawi is right in her approach. The physical and mental effects of genital mutilation can never be good. She was a doctor and it is one of the main reasons that she was aware of the consequences of female genital mutilation. She has also remarked about the politics associated with sexuality. She has highlighted that sexual repression is utilised as a tool by patriarchal power. She has highlighted that sexual liberation is the fundamental right of any women. If any woman is not sexually liberated then her individuality is also captivated. In postcolonial societies the legacy of imperialism and colonialism is still in practice in some countries. This legacy is a key factor that suppresses the individuality of women. In post-colonial societies traditional gender roles have been disrupted by colonial forces. New orders and hierarchy have been formulated that support patriarchy. Saadawi believes that new power structures have been created in the society. Such power structures can never understand the tender and sensual feminism. Women are sensual and beautiful but not weak and submissive. They are the creation of the almighty and we should not forget that the same almighty has created the lamb as well as the tiger. Women are neither lamb nor tigers but human beings, who have similar sensibilities as men. It is a matter of understanding but few men have made it a debate because they are scared of individual existence of women. These are not my personal opinions but findings of the present chapter. In the essay Woman and Sex Saadawi has elaborated her opinion that women’s sexuality is repressed in a post-colonial society because it poses a threat to the existing power structure of patriarchy. Colonialism has heightened the sufferings of women by reinforcing patriarchy in societies. Colonialism has changed the school of thoughts of men in the society. A man thinks that by being a male he has full rights over the female members of his family. It is the main reason that women are not allowed to express herself freely in the society. It seems that every rule of patriarchy has been made for women because they were treated similar to commodities. Veil and circumcision of women are fine examples to prove this point. This form of oppression is new to patriarchy because it is based upon religious and cultural differences. Saadawi is concerned for post-colonial feminism and she thinks that it must address race, sexuality and gender together in the Global South because they are inter connected. In Global North there are movements related to feminism but they fail to express the agony of women living in the Global South. They feel marginalized not only because of patriarchy but also colonialism. In Western countries there are movements related to feminism and their main area of interest is wage equality between men and women along with reproductive rights of women. They ignore oppression and violence that is frequently happening with the women of postcolonial societies. Female body is politicized in post-colonial societies. Saadawi has highlighted that female body has often been used as a symbol of cultural and national purity. In the seminal essay Men and Sex, she further challenges the idea that men are aggressive and dominant sexual beings. She develops the idea that such dominant notions have been created by patriarchy. It is an illusion that men are dominant and aggressive on bed. Such behaviours have been reinforced by social structures of patriarchy. She highlights that most men fail to enjoy sex because they have been trained by the patriarchal forces that sex is the method to prove aggressive masculinity. It has already been said that she was a doctor and she was well aware with the biological and scientific differences between men and women. To prove that men are aggressive on bed sexual violence and harassment against women occur everywhere but reported less. Women are veiled in Islamic countries and it can be one of the main reasons that sexual violence and harassment against women are not reported in abundance. In the essay The Naked Face of Arab Women Saadawi has exposed the complex intersection of sexuality, gender and colonialism in Arab. It has already been stated that she was a political prisoner and it can be one of the reasons that she was well acquainted with the problems of Arab Women. She knew all the ways through which women were tamed and controlled in a typical patriarchal society. On the name of religion women were exploited as if it was only their role to safeguard the religion. Saadawi raised her violence not against the religion but oppressive forces. Women were subjugated physically as well as politically. Social discrimination against them was a method to control them. The naked face of Arab women not simply reveals their appearance but it also highlights their cultural, political and historical context. Female body according to Saadawi is not just a human body but it has been treated as a site of resistance and oppression. By saying this she mean that in Arab women were colonized by several forces. It can be one of the main reasons that they were forced to conceal their face and body through veil the burqa. The naked face of Arab women shows that they are struggling to access their own identity. In recent times Veil the burqa has been banned in countries like France but it was controversial because it is not only a cloth to hide the face and the body but it is connected to the roots of Islam. In the seminal work The Naked Face of Arab Women, Saadawi has also highlighted that time has come to prove that women are no more weak and submissive. Women have been affected in such countries because they are not united. They are not allowed to form their own union or association because of oppressive forces. Saadawi understands the real problems of working class women, women living in rural areas and women who have been captivated in jails (Saadawi 102). Fatima Mernissi has remarked in Beyond the Veil: Male- female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society that in Muslim society the relationship between men and women is complex. She further remarks that veil is not just a dress code or a symbol of oppression but it also acts like a tool for women. It is tool to organize them and use it for empowerment and resistance (Mernissi 320). In the essay A New Battle in Arab Women’s Liberation, Saadawi has argued that there is a hope that women of Arab can help themselves. They can restore the lost feminism by believing in themselves that they are no more puppets of the patriarchal society. Colonial forces have compelled them to live a life of miseries but we should not forget that men come out from the body of women. We cannot imagine any society without women because humanity is born out of them. If we talk about religion and culture then Leila Ahmed’s response becomes crucial. In Women and Gender in Islam she has remarked that religion is nothing but a tool to subjugate women in the Arab world (Ahmed 42). It is interesting to note that post colonial feminism came into prominence in twentieth century. It was a reaction against traditional feminist theory because traditional feminist theory ignored the fundamental feminine understandings of the third world. The needs of the Global South were completely ignored because it highlighted only the Western experiences of global feminism. New theories were developed by post colonial feminists and they sought fresh solutions for the traditional problems. Nawal El Saadawi is a kind of writer who has given us problems associated with Arab feminism. Such problems were not new and it was already solved in Western countries. Women who belonged to Western countries were searching new opportunities for them and they felt that they were supported by the government. In case of third world countries we have already seen that government forces were involved in oppressing women. Critics and scholars are of the opinion that even in western countries women felt oppressed because of oppressing forces of the society. With the advancement of age fresh opportunities were created for women in Western countries and it is evident in the writings of Virginia Woolf and others. In 1929 Virginia Woolf has written A Room of One’s Own. It is a series of lectures that she delivered at Cambridge University in 1928. In this seminal work of feminism Woolf has talked about the role of women in society. She has remarked that women were kept away from literary tradition and it was harmful for their existence. She further remarks that it is important for women to create their own space. Earlier women were kept away from literary tradition because they were not educated and economically independent (Woolf 4). Woolf says that women can also write great literature and for this purpose they need a room of their own. Room symbolically stands for space and individuality. Virginia Woolf highlights the importance of economic freedom for women. She has supported her arguments by giving several examples directly or indirectly from history and literature. She said that earlier women were not allowed to enter into universities but now time has changed a lot. There are certain parallels between the writings of Virginia Woolf and Nawal El Saadawi. Both the writers have written for the causes of women. It seems that Saadawi echoes the voice of Woolf in The Naked Face of Arab Women. The content is different but there are certain parallels in their style of writing. In the next chapter of the present research work we will explore art of living in the unjust world. A detailed analysis of postcolonial feminism and theorists will be done with the views of Nawal El Saadawi.
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