Friday, November 8, 2019

The Picture of Arabic Feminist

The Picture of Arabic Feminist The three stories titled The Picture share the perspective that sex and desire are complicated, not uniformly happy elements in a woman’s life, and that they carry terrible risks, whether one is very young or quite mature in years.Advertising We will write a custom essay sample on The Picture of Arabic Feminist specifically for you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More Looking at three women and the families around them, the stories by Layla Al-Uthman, Nawal Al-Saadawi, and Latifa Al-Zayyat examine women who are becoming aware of a new aspect of their sexual life, often with less than joyous implications. Narjis, the barely pubescent heroine of Nawal Al-Saadawi’s story, discovers both her own emerging sexuality and her father’s hypocrisy and exploitativeness of his household servant. Latifa Al-Zayyat’s heroine, Amal, becomes aware of the potential for her beloved and desired husband to be faithless. Layla Al-Uthman recounts the tale of her heroine in the first person, a woman contemplating the possibility of cuckolding her husband. All three discover aspects of their own sexuality that open up the potential for great pain. In Al-Saadawi’s tale of self-discovery, the little girl explores her own body in a way that would be entirely unremarkable in a western or secular household. However in the context of her religious upbringing and the strict and reserved behavior of her father, this self-exploration becomes frightening, and momentous. It ultimately destroys her world, which is founded on a worshipful respect for her father. If she were not feeling the new feelings engendered by her growing and developing body, she would not have been up so late to belatedly fulfill the obligatory ablutions her father and her religion have imposed on her. As a result, she is awake at a time of night when her father imposes his sexual will on the house servant. Thus, she discovers the possibilities of her own body and th at of all women, in a cataclysmic moment of revelation.Advertising Looking for essay on history? Let's see if we can help you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More Narjis is apparently motherless. There is nothing to suggest that she has a mother now, or ever did. Her only female role model is the taciturn house servant who is fulfilling the role of mother, servant, and, apparently, sex object for her father. Thus, at this turning point in her life, she has no one to ask, no one to share her new-found insights with. She is limited.herself, to the role of supplicant at her father’s feet, doomed never to look him in the face, a hero worshipper, uttering the same two words that her father’s servant uses to communicate with him. She persists in her investigations of herself, nonetheless, experimenting and wondering at what she finds. She is too young to have experienced the ‘male gaze’, but has frequently basked in the reflected glory of her father’s respected position in the community. Thus, her budding buttocks are in a sense the first element of her own identity apart from her overbearing father. They are something he has not asked her to do, that he did not cause to happen, and they are her exclusively her own. As noted above, however, they are also a mystery. Najir notes that, She could see Nabawiyya from the rear, but not herself. At that moment, she imagined that she had discovered a new human misfortune: you could see other peoples bodies but not the body in which you were born and which you always carried around However, in a society where women have little or no status, what could be a woman’s own territory, or fiefdom; namely, her own body, Najir is confronted with the unavoidable fact that all a woman’s parts are at the service of men. This is symbolized by Najir’s father’s exploitation of his maidservant. The fact that the act may be pleasurable for Nabawiyya is irrelevant. Najir’s father’s taking of her sexually excludes her from chances at a marriage of her own, because she is deprived of her virginity, and exposes the young woman to the risk of a pregnancy which could be literally life-threatening.Advertising We will write a custom essay sample on The Picture of Arabic Feminist specifically for you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More The fact that the two girls are developing secondary sexual characteristics at the same time suggests that they are roughly the same age, which makes his deflowering of Nabawiyya all the more disturbing. The author leaves us with the clear sense that Najir is bound to a path that will be different from the one she was on when the story opened. She does not drape herself modestly in the sight of her father’s portrait. She regards him, in the same photograph that she so admired at the start of the story, very differently. Here is how her father’s image is described before the revelation: His head looked big, his nose large and crooked, and his eyes hollow and wide, almost swallowing her up. After her discovery, the description changes subtly. There is almost a phallic feel to the way Najir’s father’s portrait is depicted – note the use of the image of bulging, and slicing: His wide eyes were bulging, and his sharp, crooked nose sliced his face in two. By the end of the story, Najir has acquired a sense of her own identity, her own body, her own thoughts. Her buttocks, the readers imagines, will likely be bestowed, in her future, where and when she chooses, and not where any man insists they be bestowed. At the other end of a woman’s sexual and reproduction life is the heroine of Layla Al-Uthman’s version of The Picture. She tells her story herself, a near brush with humiliation. The woman has the societal role of a wife and mother, with a grown son, so her marriage was at an early but perhaps not too early age. She acquires an ambition which even she herself terms â€Å"frivolous†, to have an affair. This occurs in spite of her being married to a man to whom she is still attracted, and who cherishes her enough to stage an elaborate birthday party for her.Advertising Looking for essay on history? Let's see if we can help you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More In the process of contemplating her own potential infidelity, she considers the possibility that her husband has long since been unfaithful to her. She also reviews the possible candidates for both disloyalties. The fact that none of the men in her life strikes her as being as attractive to her as her own husband signals that the lech is not so much sexual as existential. Is it not more likely that she wants excitement to offset the ennui she feels? She says, I became very calm, but my mind was racing. I felt a continuous sense of rebellion. I was driven by boredom, drawn from one room to another, from wardrobe to drawer. I searched for something to do. All the things that might need tidying up or dusting suddenly looked in perfect order. I loathed everything around me. The house was rejecting me. Her role in the family is very probably constraining and suffocating, although she has the freedom to drive a car, and walk in public. She finds no relief in driving fast, however. Instead , she encounters a woman who either is, or resembles closely, the older woman with whom her son had a brief affair. It is clear from the son’s letter that he regards the woman as having humiliated herself and disgusted him by her behavior. In remembering this story, the protagonist draws a direct comparison between herself and this nameless older woman. She is appalled at the prospect of her own aging body and face being involved in such a liaison. She would, herself, play the role of a fading beauty trying to recapture some desirability of youth if she pursued her intention of infidelity. As she guns the car motor, she flees both her own foray into infidelity, and, perhaps, the chance to escape the stifling boredom of her life as it has been. In this depressing finale, the reader senses the tyranny of youthfulness in determining sexual desirability. There is no a priori reason why an older woman should not be as attractive as a younger one when fertility is not the aim for t he relationship. However, the protagonist clearly feels, by the end of the story, that she is disqualified from that particular solution to boredom and social constraints. The reader is left to hope that the protagonist will find constructive ways to spread her wings and bring some fresh air into her cigarette-drugged lungs, ways that do not hold the risk of destroying her family. The somewhat younger woman in Latifa Al-Zayyat’s story still has an active role to play as the mother of a young son. She has the excitement of finding that her husband still is capable of fierce desire for her, perhaps sparked by the unfamiliarity of an â€Å"away† vacation. However, this gratification is spoiled by her suspicions that her husband is contemplating infidelity. The author does not make clear whether Amal’s concerns are justified. The process by which Amal arrives at her suspicions draws attention to the sade fact that she seems to have defied her parents and married for love rather than with an arranged marriage. She also seems to have exerted lifelong efforts to be a modest and appropriate woman and wife. During her engagement, for example, she did not want to have a picture taken that revealed a public display of affection. Her chaste and devoted behavior contrasts violently with the other woman’s. The other woman wears shorts, swings her posterior, smokes, drinks, and laughs at another woman’s husband. The other woman is as trapped by her role as Amal is, however. Even if she is actually a PhD in chemistry, her image labels her as a floozy. Izaat may follow at her heels, panting, but he will not take her seriously. She is as shut out of serious life as Amal is. Amal clings to her son in her effort to remind herself of her rights as a mother and wife. However, when she clings to her huband, she finds herself embarrassed by the result. The picture shows her as a desparate woman squeezing her husband’s arm so hard that he grim aces. He runs off immediately afterwards, putatively for change, but the reader is left to wonder whether he has actually gone to get change, or to arrange an assignation with the shameless woman in shorts. Amal takes this photograph as a true reflection of her relationship with her husband. She clearly feels that something has been breached that will not allow for healing. How else is the reader to interpret her willful and spiteful act of defacement of the photo? In case this message is not clear, Al-Zayyat ends the story with the fateful statement that, there was a long road ahead of her. This is a bleak assessment of Amal’s future. As a mature woman, she faces loneliness and possibly deprivation if she breaks with her husband. If she takes her life into her own hands, she will irretrievably change her life. She may lose her child. Is this worth it? Is being independent more important than being married? Is being married to someone who may be faithless worth more than bein g alone? What role would Amal play as a divorced woman? In the course of a few minutes and a few pages, the reader is dragged from a watching a happy wife laughing at rainbows, to watching a wife with serious suspicions about her mate. This reflects the way such revelations occur in real life, so the impact is powerful. The message seems to be to avoid pinning one’s life and happiness on one man, to avoid playing a role that depends on a weak-willed man’s keeping faith. These are three very different stories, but only one holds any hope of long term happiness. Najir has the best chance of creating a life for herself that does not depend on a man’s whim. In each case, the roles imposed on the heroines, whether semi-servant, cosseted arm candy, or simply taken for granted, are hardly a bargain. The only way out for all three seems to lie in a lonely life apart from men. If this is the aim of feminism, it is a bleak one. As has been observed, the categories of Arab feminist writing are not fixed . These stories are definitely feminist because they focus on the women in them, and they are clearly Arab because the challenges that the women face are shaped by the Arab culture around them. However, there is much that is common to women everywhere who think about their roles and their own sexuality. All women need to think carefully about sex and desire. These are potentially dangerous parts of life. Women all share, in the words of Magda M. Al-Nowaihi, â€Å"sorrows and dreams† . Bibliography Al-Saadawi, Nawal. The Picture. Cohen-Mor, Dalya. Arab Women Writers: An Anthology of Short Stories. Ed. Dalya Cohen-Mor. Trans. Dalya Cohen-Mor. SUNY Press, 2005. 60-64. Al-Uthman, Layla. The Picture. Cohen-Mor, Dalya. Arab Women Writers: An Anthology of Short Stories. Ed. Dalya Cohen-Mor. Trans. Dalya Cohen-Mor. SUNY Press, 2005. 73-78. Al-Zayyat, Latifa. The Picture. Cohen-Mor, Dalya. Arab Women Writers: An Anthology of Short Stories. Ed. Dalya Coh en-Mor. Trans. Dalya Cohen-Mor. SUNY Press, 2005. 65-72. M. Al-Nowaihi, Magda. Resisiting Silence in Arab Womens Autobiographies. International Journal of Middle East Studies 33 (2001): 477-502. Mendola, Tara. Where do We Go From Here? College Literature 36.3 (2009): 221-9.

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