Oppression Evil, sinful, lover of Satan and weak are just a few adjectives to describe women through history. Nevertheless, women were not always portrayed as so. Women once held a strong and dominated figure within the society. In the ancient Egyptian society, women were equal to men in status and prestige. Within the XVIIIth Dynasty, women such as Nephertiti and Hatchipsoot reign the country.
“In that period, Pharaonic women laboured in textile and carpet manufactory, traded in markets and shared in hunting side by side with her husband (El Saadawi. 1980, P. 108-1).” Furthermore, women played sports, drank, held positions of government, worked, etc. However, as time past and countries began to flourish, there was a shift in the socio-economic status in women. Women began reducing in standing. What happened? Nawal El Saadawi, author of The Hidden Face of Eve, strongly believes that circumcision is the cause of women’s oppression and feeling of powerlessness. However, many within the society believe that conditioned oppression is supported due to religion, landowership and the patriarchal system and they are utilized as in instrument of fear, oppression and exploitation. Circumcision is still practiced in many Arab countries because a woman’s virginity and hymen is extremely important. “Behind circumcision lies the belief that, by removing parts of girls’ external genital organs, sexual desire is minimized (El Saadawi.
1980, p. 33).” This procedure is not performed by a doctor but someone similar to a midwife. It is believe that deep incisions must be done in order to remove all the remains of the genital. Consequently, this may result in infection and even death. Furthermore, “sexual frigidity is one of the after-effects which is accentuated by other social and psychological factors that influence the personality and mental make-up of females in Arab societies (El Saadawi. 1980, p.
33).” Due to Circumcision, girls are subjected to a series of pain humiliation because of the notion of how virginity is valued. Many girls believed that the genital was a root of all evil. El Saadawi had many patients, bleeding from infection but happy to get rid of the source of their desire. For example: “I did not know anything about the operation at the time, except that it was very simple, and that it was done to all girls for purposes of cleanliness and purity and the preservation of a good reputation. It was said that a girl who did not undergo this operation was liable to be talked about by people, her behavior would become bad, and she would starting running after men, with the result that no one would agree to marry her when the time for marriage came.
My grandmother told me that the operation had only consisted in the removal of a very small piece of flesh from between my thighs, and that the continued existence of this small piece of flesh in its place would have made me unclean and impure, and would have caused the man whom I would marry to be repelled by me.” “Did you believe what was said to you?” “Of course I did. I was happy the day I recovered from the effects of the operation and felt as though I was rid of something which had to be removed and so had become clean and pure (El Saadawi. 1980, p. 35).” El Saadawi knew from experience what many of these girls are going through because she went through the same experience. She could never forget the painful experience that made her lose her “childhood once and for all, and that deprived me during my youth and for many years of married life from enjoying the fullness of me sexuality and the completeness of life that can only come from all round psychological equilibrium (El Saadawi.
1980, p. 9).” Nawal El Saadawi believes that religion is used as an instrument in order to justify why the girls in the Arab societies are forced to go through circumcision. Once religion was formulated as a monotheistic one, the three main religions of the world developed Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The world begins with ‘Adam and Eve’ and this story is shared within all three religions. The story of Adam and Eve is the first sign that women are portrayed as less than a man. The Bible takes away a factor that was associated with women, birth.
However, “Eve was born of Adam’s rib (El Saadawi. 1980, P. 102).” In the Judaism religion, arose the notion that “women was sinful and that sex was sin (El Saadawi. 1980, p. 95). According to El Saadawi (1980) this story “shows clearly the injustice suffered by women, and the attempt to mask her situation by religious sanctification aimed at smothering all doubt, all discussion and all resistance (p.
102).” In other words, within this male dominated society, women are being circumcised not because it is being enforced by men, but the Bible dictates it to be so. That is what they like everyone to believe, however, who wrote the Bible? Men! As El Saadawi points out (1980), God exalts man in His Bible as one of high intelligence and on if thought, where as a woman is just a body without a head (p. 103). Fir example, in Christianity “God had created man in his own image, and God was spirit. Woman on the hand was the body, and the body was sex (El Saadawi. 1980, p.
95)” In other words, men is the depiction of God, where as women are just a deviation of men. Women are born without an essential factor, a head and therefore, she is not complete because a head is the center of thought, which distinguishes humans from animal. It is based on this fact that it is believed that women should be circumcised. Since a woman is of the flesh, she must be rid of anything that will give her sexual pleasure. With the Sudan culture, girls are forced to undergo an amputation of her whole external organs.
This includes cutting off her “clitoris, the two outer lips and the two minor inner lips. The wound is repaired. The outer opening of the vagina is the only portion left intact, not however without ensured that, during the process of repairing, some narrowing of the opening is carried out with a few extra stitches (El Saadawi. 1980, p. 9).” El Saadawi believes (1980) that religion is used as a shackle upon the mind of patriarchal society in order to oppress, dictate, dominate and domesticate women (p.
98). Religion has led people to believe that women are the roots of all evil. They are filled with lustful behaviors and they are filled with evil and Satan. In a way, women are seen as disciples of Satan. It is a ma’s job to control them. The male dominated society reinforces the idea that women must be pure, chaste and virginal in order to be worthy of a man.
These puritanical values are utilized “to build on oppression and are still part of the arsenal of heavy weapons which maintains a continuous barrage in the war against revolutionary struggles of women, colored races and the exploited classes living under the semi-feudal or imperialism and neo-colonialism (El Saadawi. 1980, p. 98).” The monothei …