The issue of the state of women in society has always been actual. Throughout all history, women were deprived of rights and they had to be in the shade of their husbands, very often not being allowed even to speak without permission. Things were even worse in Arab countries. Traditionally, women had very few rights there. This fact was connected with the peculiarities of religion and culture. However, society changed and there was a hope that the state of women in society would improve. Unfortunately, being proclaimed the epoch of tolerance and humanism, modern age did not bring much relief to them. The book The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World by Nawal El Saadavi serves as the best evidence of this statement.
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The author describes horrible conditions under which women in Muslim countries live. The focus is made on Egypt women and their difficult life. The book consists of four parts each of them is devoted to certain issue. The author tries to present different perspectives on the question of the role of women in society. However, in the book she tries to avoid mentioning Islam as one of the main factors which influences the role and position of women in society. The author tries to show that current state of affairs exists because of the wrong interpretation of Islam. Her book shows great problems which exist in modern society.
The first part of the book The Mutilated Half seems to be the most striking and shocking. It describes sexual definition of women in Muslim countries and prejudices based on gender. It opens with the description of feelings of a young girl which was subjected to cliteroectomy. Being full of shocking details, this part shows rightlessnes and helplessness of women in Egypt. Moreover, the girls mother was present “right in the midst of these strangers, talking to them and smiling at them, as though they had not participated in slaughtering her daughter just a few moments ago” (Saadawi, 2007, p.14).
The episode shows how deeply women in Egypt are affected by these prejudices. They take it as a usual practice not even trying to resist. The tragedy of women in Arab world is that they are born “of a special sex, the female sex” (Saadawi, 2007, p.15). They are not able to resist horrible traditions which exist as they do not have the needed moral qualities. Being raised with the idea of dominant character of men, women could not even think about disobedience.
The problem of gender discrimination in Arab world comes not from the lack of education of people and their restriction. The girl describes her parents as “fortunate enough to have very good education by the standards of those days” (Saadawi, 2007, p.16). However, they still follow all rules which were accepted hundreds years ago by their uneducated ancestors.
Having read the book, it is possible to make certain conclusions. It seems incredible that nowadays state of women can be so horrible in some countries. Moreover, barbaric traditions and complicated relations between men and women impress a common reader. It is obvious, that something should be done in order to improve the situation. However, all women should be united in their desire to change current state of affairs. “Solidarity between women can be a powerful force of change, and can influence future development in ways favourable not only to women but also to men” (Saadawi, 2007, p. 230)
Saadawi, N. (2007). The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World. London: Zed Books. Web.