I’ve been covering the most recent controversies surrounding the great Egyptian feminist, Nawal Al-Saadawi, a heroine of mine; my earlier posts can be found here and here. Most recently a play Saadawi, author of 30 books, wrote, God Resigns in the Summit Meeting, was banned and all copies destroyed by the publisher because the play was said to “offend religion.” Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest institute of learning, followed up by filing suit against her. In response Saadawi left Egypt, not out of fear, she says, but in order to “breathe”. Saadawi’s fearless confrontation of patriarchal abuse of women has made her always a controversial figure.
A couple of paragraphs in an article about Saadawi published today in the Middle East Times stood out to me:
[Saadawi’s] detractors in Egypt are saying that her supposed exile is little more than a media stunt for her “massive ego” so she can continue publicizing her agenda of “hatred for society and religion” as well as “anti-male racism,” according to an article in Rose Al Yussef magazine.
While the pro-government magazine is as anti-Islamist as the author, it slammed Saadawi for her anti-regime politics and feminist stances, and even accused her of having “sexual issues.”
…Saadawi has no intention of being cowed by threats and the bad press she is accustomed to receiving.
“I have always been threatened,” she said. “I live in fear – it has become a part of me.”
This is the way it is for revolutionary women. What matters to the patriarchal mainstream — including women, including self-identified feminist women — is not Saadawi’s amazing, groundbreaking writing, speaking and activism which have brought centuries of atrocities against girls and women to public attention. What matters aren’t the death threats against her, her challenges to patriarchal religion, the years she spent in prison. What stands out to some is the hugeness of her supposed “ego.” What they are most interested in is accusing her of “trying to get attention.” Who the hell does she think she is, after all, anyway, some sort of an outspoken leader? An activist? A revolutionary? Doesn’t she know her place for god’s sake? She’s a woman. Women don’t have big “egos”. They don’t “seek attention.” They are demure. They are soft-spoken, kind, sensitive and deferential. They make everybody feel as comfortable as possible. They do not threaten or challenge. They take care of everyone’s sensibilities. They shun the public eye and serve, tirelessly, never thinking of themselves. And they make sure other women toe that line, as well. Because who will hold the world together with their tireless and endless self-sacrifice if women do not?
The manner in which all courage and self-reliance is educated out of the girl, her path portrayed with dangers and difficulties that never exist, is melancholy indeed. Better, far, suffer occasional insults or die outright than live the life of a coward…The best protector any woman can have, one that will serve her at all times and in all places, is courage…
Discussing the courage to “sin big,” Mary Daly writes:
As women roam about without masters, breaking the rules of the snools, the statutes of studs, the decrees of drones, the canons of cocks, the precepts of prickers, we are indeed “in error…” Wandering away from a “proper or desirable course or development,” [as we] we presentiate ourselves.
Self-presentiating women … may be said to Sin. ….Clearly, our ontological courage, our courage to Be, implies the courage to be WRONG. Elemental be-ing is Sinning; it requires the Courage to Sin.
…The Courage to Sin, to be Elemental through and beyond the horrors of The Obscene Society, is precisely about being true and real ontologically, about refusing to be “a player of the [patriarchal] female part.” It is about moving away from elementary pseudoreasoning to Elemental reason. To Sin against the society of sado-sublimation is to be intellectual in the most direct and daring way, claiming and trusting the deep correspondence between the structures/processes of one’s own mind and the structures/processes of reality. To Sin is to trust intuitions and the reasoning rooted in them. To Sin is to come into the fullness of our powers…(2)
(1) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, quoted in Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy, by Mary Daly
(2) Daly, Pure Lust