Saiyma Aslam in “Travelling and Female Mobility in Saadawi’s Fiction,” explores the restrictions of travel and movement of women in Arab-Islamic cultures as presented in Nawal El Saadawi’s literature.
In this article, Aslam highlights the ways in which Saadawi reconstructs and critiques “a social world where travelling is a male privilege and dwelling within four walls is a female destiny” (Aslam 2), highlighting the reasons for, effects of, and philosophies behind the Egyptian culture that confines women to the sphere of domesticity.
Aslam’s most interesting points include, but are certainly not limited to, the idea that Saadawi’s culture seems to identify a woman travelling by herself as inviting sexual favors (Aslam 9), that a woman “proverbially leaves the home twice in her life: travelling from her father’s to her husband’s home on getting married, and from there to the graveyard on her death” (Aslam 4), and that male success in a public sphere is utterly dependent on female submission and subjugation (Aslam 8).
However, I believe her most poignant observation was in partially attributing women’s confinement to the domestic sphere as based on their so-called “destructive sexuality;” or rather, Aslam suggests that Egyptian society has been “tying women to the private domain” because, somehow, supposedly, “if [their destructive sexual power was] not controlled or subdued [it] would distract men from performing their religious and social roles” (Aslam 9).
Aslam also suggests that for this reason, veiling is considered “vital for social stability” (Aslam 9). I think it is rewarding to note, then, that Saadawi herself is never depicted as wearing a veil, as shown below:
All tangents aside, however, this notion of “destructive female sexuality” is an especially interesting point in light of Saadawi’s “In Camera,” which Aslam did not mention in this article, for in “In Camera,” the female protagonist is beaten and raped by ten men as “punishment” for her involvement in politics (Saadawi 1113).
But just as damning as that cruel action, is the protagonist’s father’s musings as he anticipates the outcome of his daughter’s trial. In what should be his act of mourning her abuse, he instead grieves that his honor was violated, that “If she had…listened to him” “that politics…is not for women and girls,” or “if she had been a man, he would not be suffering now the way he was” (Saadawi 1113).
Ultimately, his thoughts are incriminating, attributing the guilt, blame, and shame of his daughter’s rape to none other than herself, and what kind of sick man calls himself a father when he believes his daughter deserves to be raped?
With this in mind, Aslam’s critique of “destructive female sexuality” casts this scene in a new light because while her father never expressly mentioned anything to this effect, his attribution of blame to his daughter instead of the criminal party suggests that they rapists are not to blame – That they are helpless in light of their sexual desires, or perhaps worse, justified in their forceful satiation of them.
But a society that punishes political opponents via rape is not suffering from “destructive female sexuality;” it is suffering from destructive, corrupted humanity.
Aslam, Saiyma. “TRAVELLING AND FEMALE MOBILITY IN SAADAWI’S FICTION.” Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies = Alam-e-Niswan = Alam-i Nisvan 22.2 (2015): 1-11. ProQuest. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Saadawi, Nawal El. In Camera. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. F. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. 1106-115. Print.
Digital image. Bccfeministphilosophy. N.p., 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <https://bccfeministphilosophy.wordpress.com/tag/nawal-el-saadawi/>.
Digital image. Alchetron. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://alchetron.com/Nawal-El-Saadawi-382044-W>.
Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2010/4/15/1271352885389/Nawal-El-Saadawi-001.jpg>.