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16Feb

Nawal el-Saadawi On The Role of Women In Egypt’s Revolution

I have a lot of respect for Nawal el-Saadawi, though I don’t agree with everything she says. I once listened to her on the Strand, BBC World Service arts programme and I could not stop laughing. Her sense of humour is out of this world and her books have such great action on the pages that you can transpose yourself to the scenes and life situations the characters find themselves. Someone gave me a gift sometime back and one of her books, God Dies By the Nile, was part of the parcel. I cannot wait to read that particular book and her collection of plays, The Dramatic Literature of Nawal el-Saadawi. One thing that has stayed vividly on my mind from that BBC broadcast was when she said, “Marriage is an institution of prostitution. Wives are prostitutes, who get paid for a lifetime while real prostitutes are paid in different ways.” The audience laughed but I didn’t laugh at that comment. In as much as it had humour and who knows, she meant no harm and maybe, just maybe, the question posed to her was from the point of view of the role of women within the patriarchal Arab world and the world at large. Nevertheless, as a woman, who will get married one day, I personally refuse to classify myself as such and that is the reason, I respectfully disagree with that point of view about marriage being an institution of prostitution.

In this edition of  Riz Khan, from Al Jazeera, el-Saadawi describes herself as a radical feminist. I find that description very interesting as someone who so far, refuses to use the word feminist to describe myself. I am a huge proponent of equality and believe without a shadow of doubt that men, women, boys and girls are equal on the playground and from the boardroom to the bedroom. That’s right, in-between the sheets we are equal, after all when we are in that setting both parties are naked and the only difference is that one has a vagina and the other a penis. Nevertheless, the fact that you are both naked means you have nothing over each other. However, simplistic that sounds, if we take that mindset and start applying it to daily life without the sexism and suppression of women based on culture, tradition and religion or the need for some strands of the feminist movement, professing that men hate women and the need for women to start oppressing men. Maybe, just maybe, we can actually achieve the equality we are all fighting for.

While she is wrong that not a single girl was harassed during the revolution, I agree with a whole lot of the points she has raised. Lara Logan, a CBS reporter, suffered a brutal sexual assault at Tahrir Square on the day Hosni Mubarak resigned.  Nevertheless, I agree that this revolution was for democracy and in that democracy is women’s rights to function equally and side by side with men in society. Collective leadership is a good start, after all, we live in one society, why should any group or set of people have more power over others?

Watch and make up your mind but as for me, I have a lot of appreciation for Nawal el-Saadawi and her continuous fight for the equality of women in society.


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