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Pre-2008 Posts

Critics say Nawal Al Saadawi is “Egotistical, Man-Hating, Always Trying to Get Attention”


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




12 thoughts on “Critics say Nawal Al Saadawi is “Egotistical, Man-Hating, Always Trying to Get Attention”

  1. ‘anti male racism’ – yes this is surely a movement we need to be afraid of… as a man i have no protection against women going around randomly speaking the truth; i mean where will this end??? mind you, i do find a hatred of society and religion quite a persuasive argument…

    Posted by simplywondered | March 9, 2007, 12:37 am
  2. Oh Heart, post modernists do not understand Mary Daly. Nor do they care to try to understand what she said. There is no history or feminist heroines. All is a befuddle of this and that. I am so being sarcastic. However, nowadays, there is no standing on a principles. We are all mutating into the new evolutionary man. Who the f…k cares about sexism, racism, or classism? Post modernism and science has released us from any concern about that and if anyone is concerned, well just label them narcissistic or pathological and give them some new drug call them essentialists. It is all in their head and the powers that be know what they are doing. Trust them? Re/label everything and life is just hunky dory. Oh, by by the way if you are feeling oppressed, well it is your own fault. Get with the program. You know, what is the line. Oh yes, you have given your power away. Well, well, isn’t just the message we need.
    Some days, I just feel I could blow up something. Oh, but that would not be nice white thing to do. I am so stupid.

    Posted by rhondda | March 9, 2007, 1:15 am
  3. Oh Heart, post modernists do not understand Mary Daly. Nor do they care to try to understand what she said. There is no history or feminist heroines. All is a befuddle of this and that. I am so being sarcastic. However, nowadays, there is no standing on a principles. We are all mutating into the new evolutionary man. Who the f…k cares about sexism, racism, or classism?

    I care!! I dare u to too.

    Posted by jo | March 9, 2007, 2:18 am
  4. Stanselen I just read some posts on your blog and find WOW we are contemporaries. You are old, you declare in one of your posts. Well I am too! You are 32 and I am 64. But by patriarchal standards, we are old.

    Posted by Pony | March 9, 2007, 2:43 am
  5. I must stop being so self-effacing..being ‘old’ is something to celebrate aye, its about putting all the uncertainities of youth behind yourself. I use to worry about what I looked like, that just seems stupid and a waste of energy now. I guess I gave up ever looking perfect when I reached an age where none of the billboards and models in magazines resembled me in the slightest, (being air-brushed and 18) And now I have more confidence and inner-security than ever before. I like getting older.

    Posted by jo | March 9, 2007, 7:41 am
  6. Then I’m *not* old! Putting the uncertainties of youth behind…no, this has not happened to me. I just seem to have tacked new ones onto the old unresolved ones. I find myself frequently startled by the stereotypes of age, ageing, and being old, possibly because I held many of them, and now I see how wrong they are. Not just in the politically correct way of wrong, but wrong. That stereotype of old, having figured everything out and being ‘grannies’ is so not me.

    I am just as uncertain about things now as I was then. Just as much *me* as the 32 year old me. I cannot speak for other women, maybe Mary Sunshine, Luckynykl, CM and Heart have something different to say there.

    I have lots of thoughts about being an older woman. CM or some other older feminist maybe will post about it (hint) and then we can all rant and share out thoughts. We’re OT here I think.

    Posted by Pony | March 9, 2007, 5:30 pm
  7. Wow, how blatantly obvious that they’re grasping at straws and trying to discredit her any way they can. They’re using every trick in the anti-feminist book – she hates men, she has “sexual issues”, she’s thinking only of herself, she’s trying to destoy society… I haven’t read her work but now I’m very curious to see what it is that these Egyptian men are so adamantly averse to.

    Posted by gingermiss | March 9, 2007, 7:26 pm
  8. sorry was totally going off topic aye! it’s always like this, this total fear of a woman who is a friend to her-self, who says what she thinks, and expressing herself terrifies the up-holders of patriarchy, to think that one can cut thru their crap so succently. I haven’t figured everything out, I’m just not afraid to keep learning.

    Posted by jo | March 10, 2007, 12:16 am
  9. Thank you again for reminding us of the persecution of this brave sister. Great quotes on women’s courage too. A hero of mine who happens to be a man, Bertrand Russell, wrote in 1930 that, “A woman who is courageous has to conceal the fact if she wishes conventional men to like her.” He recognized this as a problem and was way ahead of his time in that regard.

    What I think ties this thread together is that the older and wiser a woman is, the more stereotypes are in place to dismiss and discredit her. Then again, young women are discredited for being bimbos and silly. Did everyone else know that Bill O’Reilly said the Dixie Chicks are “silly women who deserve to be slapped around” after they dared to criticized the head patriarch, Bush?

    The system is rigged. Cheers for Saadawi who will not be silenced.

    Posted by roamaround | March 10, 2007, 2:09 am
  10. Heard on the radio this morning: an 80 year old woman of some middle eastern country got special dispensation from whomever hands that out–an Imam perhaps–saying she needn’t cover her face any more. There was some threat to her about not covering, and so the authorities were consulted and a great to do and meeting and palaver occurred over it, and ta dah, they decided she didn’t need to be in purdah any longer. She isn’t shaming any man anymore I guess. To old who cares.

    80 years old. Saadawi is indeed brave.

    Posted by Pony | March 10, 2007, 2:26 am
  11. Pony, under the current world circumstances, I think phrases like, “some middle eastern country” should be avoided. Too many deadly generalizations, misconceptions and outright lies about Muslims, Arabs and Middle Easterners are being used to imprison and oppress women and men from that diverse and complex part of the world.

    Some Middle Eastern countries are secular and relatively liberal, and many non-Middle Eastern countries have very oppressive customs regarding women (Nepal, India, China, El Salvador). It’s important to be careful with words since the current “war against terror” is interpreted by many as a holy war against Islam. Also, purdah is seclusion which is different from veiling. Your point about age may have been a good one, but it needed more facts.

    Posted by roamaround | March 10, 2007, 3:12 am


  1. Pingback: THIS IS FOR YESTERDAY.. » stanselen - March 9, 2007

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