Male and female writers have different perspectives about the women’s issues in the society. The research indicates that women tend to have a wider understanding of the female experiences than men do. In most cases, the men’s writings are based on a stereotype because they understand very few things about women. The one’s culture and nationality plays an important role in influencing on the author’s beliefs about women. This paper provides a full understanding of how one’s gender influences on his or her writing about the women’s issues in the Muslim society through an analysis of two novels.
All human beings are affected by their gender in one way or another. Each culture shapes different genders to follow the certain codes that differ one from another. The most patriarchal societies view men to be superior to women. In most times, women in these societies lead subservient and subjugated lives (Khanam 34). An example of this is the Muslim society in which women are expected to be submissive to their husbands. It is due to this that men find it hard to perform the roles played by women for they are viewed as the inferior beings. In addition, the roles assigned to men and women force them to view the world at a gender perspective rather than that of human beings. This is clearly indicated especially in different arts all over the world. It is not easy to dispel gender roles that male authors, however, have tried to write at the perspective of women (M%u012Bnah 16). It has though proved to be hard for these authors to do away with the stereotype and provide an accurate reflection about the women’s experience.
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Theories on Feminism
The research indicates that most feminists are women. During the year 2008, in Damascus, there was a debate on the female writing. Said Benkrad, a Moroccan novelist, stated his belief that the Arab female novels carry in themselves the temptation as well as the body. He also asserted that these female writers put much of their desires mainly above their words. This, therefore, brings out the distinction between the female and the male characters. Yessra El Maqadam, a Lebanese writer, considered Benkrad’s views as typically male and chauvinist. She explained further that his views act as the objects of destruction in the Muslim world. There has also been an assertion that female writers imitate men greatly in their writings. They see themselves in a manner that men see them. Such opinions of belittling the women’s literary skills bring a division to the creative world of both female and male writers (M%u012Bnah 85). Mahan Hassan is a major female writer in the Arab world; and she has often insisted on the Arabic writing world as often caught in stereotypes. When she published her first novel known as Infinity, she came under criticism by men since the narrator in the novel known as Adham was male, and he was the novel’s main character as well. The criticism saw her including the male major character as well as the narrator in her second novel The Cover Painting. She used a male voice again depicted by Karim Al Hawi
In the Muslim culture, the male is still seen as the omnipresent creature in several instances. This is unlike other countries in the world, whereby women also present the omnipresent role. In the Arabic world, however, the female writers still struggle to put out or rather assert their views. The world of writing since the time immemorial is under the governorship of men but it has gradually changed. The main question, therefore, is whether or not these female Arabic writers will continually exist in the era of writing. Arabic female writers though have great abilities since hundreds of them are in the writing field with most of them currently churning out the best books with the worldwide recognition as well as the worldwide acceptance. They do not give in to the views of Muslim male writers who believe that males must be the only ones in the literature world (Cohen-Mor 115). They are the same writers that would like to bring the best out of men and intimidate women at all levels. There are, however, the male writers who believe that women should be given a chance to express what they feel about the society. They though try their level best to write a perspective of women Allan Williamson explains that it is difficult to write at a woman’s perspective. One difficulty emanates from genders issues. He explains that human motives and emotions are termed as feminine according to certain cultures. The predominance of such issues in men leads to a crisis in gender identity. Most men who try to identify themselves with women faces feel the humiliation from the society. Men who fail to identify with their fellow men are mostly termed as weak. The feminist backlash is another challenge that is facing most male writers today. Williamson explains that men with feministic ideas have always been termed as biased. Most people tend to be suspicious when it comes to the writings done by men about women. It is due to this that most male authors mainly focus on the issues that affect men in the society rather than those that affect women (M%u012Bnah 97). Williamson believes that critiques of male authors are making this difficult to fully understand the change in a gender role witnessed all over the world. It is unless the public stops viewing men as sexist and patriarchal that they will be able to change our society for better. It is through the study of the oedipal stage that one will fully understand male authors. In his works, Williamson tries to make us understand the main reason why men write as women. The issues of Female Creativity and The Blank Page are an example of the books that Williamson tries to explain this. Susan Gubar believes that most Arabic male authors use literature to create women according to their expectations. Women are termed as a blank page that has to be filled in by men. This, therefore, means that a woman can never be a creator. Judith Kegan believes that the one’s life experience shapes his or her writing about women. It is due to gender difference that women have different life experience than men do. This can only be reflected through their writings. Kegan tries to explain this through her essay entitled On Female Identity and Writing by Women. She says that the society has socialized men to believe that they are different from women in all forms (Khanam 46). It is due to this that each gender has to act and behave differently from the other one. Identifying one as a female makes a procedural .personality and is mainly shaped by the one’s gender which later affects the one’s writing.
Some theorists have argued that some male authors tend to disguise themselves as feminists, while in the real sense they are not. Elizabeth Langland and Laura Claridge try to explain this in Out of Bounds. They say that it is not easy for a male writer from the patriarchal society to write about the liberation of women from the cultural bondage. Female critics believe that male authors provide the inadequate information about women’s issues. Susan Gubar, however, believes women are not only considered as ‘blank pages’ by men but also by other female authors. Most female authors tend to use so much energy on reshaping themselves while their male counterparts try their best to develop other things that are not concerned with their gender (Khanam 132). Annis Pratt tries to explain in her book Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction how gender roles affect the one’s writings. The women’s fiction is mainly concerned with her personal experience. Literature, according to Pratt, has been used to oppress the female gender. Female authors have tried to express this through different art works. Through the women’s novels one will understand that most societies consider the female gender as an outcast. Women are shown as individuals who lack a cultural place and homeland in the society. The female goals in life are mainly controlled by the cultural demand rather than the individual desire. Most male authors do not express their dominance through their writings. Pratt’s says that it a high time that the women have tried to overcome this oppression by making them aware that they too have an equal opportunity in the society. This can only be achieved by writing the novels that denounce gender disparity in the society (Johnson-Davies 176)
Ruth Robinsontries to explain more about female writers in her book Literacy Feminism. According to Ruth, women were only allowed to participate in writing after the realization that this did not overshadow their domestic duties. They were, therefore, allowed to come up with female characters that were more independent and assertive; and they at the same time played the role of mothers and wives. Later women deviated from this to the self-expression. Interactions in the society influence on the personal identity according to Robbinson. Not all female writers are feminists. Those who are feminists by their nature are those who have been exposed to the same through the social interaction. The images that people read about or see are the reflection of our society. The research states that the society views women differently compared to the past years. The public is slowly learning to appreciate women as the members of the society. This is evident through the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (Khanam 143). Robinson supports other female critics by saying that some women’s writings are inaccurate and quite detrimental. Mary Wallstone is an example of the author who had a misconception about the role of women in the society. According to her, women should be passive and obedient. Wallstone can be termed as an author who had been greatly influenced by the patriarchal society. She had fully embraced the beliefs of the patriarchal society concerning the role of women. Reading the literature created by women from patriarchal societies proves to be dangerous for other women because they might be misleading. The readers’ perception about novels is influenced by authors’ gender. The universal experience has been known to be represented by men (Cohen-Mor 23). Men are also known to write about real life experiences, while women mostly write fiction stories. This means that women have not had a chance to interact with truth. They have been mainly socialized to put their children and men at the first place. Those who fail to do this are mainly considered to be incomprehensible. It is until women are exposed to the truth about their real positions in the society that they will be able to realize their meaning.
Women Issues as evident in different stories
Women issues have been addressed in books, novels, short stories and newspapers all over the world. Dalya Cohen-Mor in his book Arab women writers, he tried to address different issues that affect women in the Arab society. This is mainly an anthology containing sixty stories from forty women writers in Arab. There are several themes that have been addressed in this anthology. They include freedom, work, education, love, marriage, new needs, old needs and childbearing. The relationship between men and women has also been explored in these stories. Women have been depicted in these stories as individuals with a great desire to achieve their aspirations (Cohen-Mor 54). The main reason why Dalya wrote this anthology was to make English readers understand the life of Arab women. Most readers have argued that this anthology is unique compared to other anthologies than have been done by authors all over the world. It is unique in the sense that it centers on one author, different genres and a specific country. The anthology’s scope extends to several women writers from different generations. There is a pioneer generation, younger generation and present generation. It is due to this that readers are able to understand a wider spectrum of Arab women’s fiction. Several factors motivated Dalya to come up with this anthology. One is that Arab readers were accustomed to reading short stories, therefore there was need to produce a complete story for these readers. Another reason is that short stories are capable of conveying concise messages and dramatizing essential issues.
A story had to cover a variety of issues for it to qualify being part of Dalyas anthology. It also had to address current interests and concerns of women from Arab. These were political, social, moral and cultural dilemmas. Authors had to incorporate creative approaches in their work, several techniques, writing modes and different styles. Heuristic value in the stories was also important. This was to help in providing suggestions that can be used in confronting situations and solving problems in life (Cohen-Mor 54). Themes in these stories are evident through their headings. Although the concerns of these stories were similar in all sections, each author interpreted the themes differently leading to an overlap of other themes. In addition, several stories in this anthology have different themes therefore making them to fall under several headings.
Eight parts have been used to address the thematic aspects in this anthology. Each part focuses on events, issues and major events in Arabic women. The complexity and diversity of their social and physical environment are some of the factors that have been addressed in this part. Fawziya Rashid, Najiya Thamira, Buthayayna al Nasiri’s are some of the authors that have been included in this anthology. Najiya in her story entitled The Slave; tries to address the away women oppress their fellow women. Najiya talks about a girl who was adopted by a cruel woman after losing her father. The girl’s spirits were broken by this woman. In addition she was not allowed freedom to do what she wanted. Through this story readers get to understand that women’s problems do not only emerge from men but also from their fellow women. The story clearly shows that some women are worse than men. Another moral of this story is that, women can abuse power if not well guarded (Cohen-Mor 54).
Another story that addresses women issues in this anthology is Fragments from life by Sharifa Al-Shamlans. The story talks about the victimization, abuse and neglect a young girl faces when she was in a mental institution. Her problems emanate from different individuals. These are her father who failed to take her to school and doctor who attempted rape on her. In addition her step mother was very unfriendly to her. Everyone around her treated her with much cruelty. She didn’t know who to turn to. The nurse she expected would provide her with care and love she missed from her parents mistreated her by taking away her medicines. It is due to these that her personality crumbles. In this story Dharifa was trying to addresses the theme of injustice and how it affects the well being of women in Arab society. Mysteries of sexuality and love have also been addressed in this anthology (Cohen-Mor 54). Most Arab writer were writing against the strict laws that were imposed on female sexuality. These are social segregation, veiling, circumcision, and virginity. Despite sexual oppression evident in the Arab society, female writers were keen to address themes like erotic pleasure, passion and love. Another similarity that is evident in these stories done by Arab female writers is that their titles resemble each other in one way or the other. Layla al Uthman, Latifa al Zayyat and Nawal al Saadawi wrote on The Picture (Cohen-Mor 65). Stories in this anthology not only deal with the same subject but also object. The Picture has been used by authors to address female sexuality. Authors have revealed this sexuality by using different phases. Saadawi has used adolescence, Zayyat adulthood and Uthman adulthood. Consciousness originates from suffering, this is according to Dostoyevsky. Saadawi has revealed a traumatic incidence about a daughter witnessing her father rape their maid. Zayyat’s tells us how a woman was accused falsely by her husband for infidelity. Uthman on the other hand talks about the desperation of a woman who seeks extramarital affairs in order to gain sexual reassurance. Marriage in the Arab society is highly valued. It is through marriage that a father hands over her to daughter to a husband. Girls in this community are not allowed to choose a marriage partner. It is the role of their parents to play this role. It is due to this that women in this society view marriage as an institution of oppression and captivity. The main role of a woman in marriage is to perform domestic chores, provide sexual fulfillment to the husband and reproduce. Women are therefore to ensure that they keep themselves pure. Purity of a woman bring honor not only to herself but also her family (Cohen-Mor 133). Polygamy is another factor that affects marriage in the Arab society. Men in this community are allowed to marry more than one woman. Women on the other hand are not allowed to have more than one man. Polygamy has always inflicted stress, misery and insecurity. Hanan in her story entitled The Sun Am the Moon clearly shows how polygamy affects women (M%u012Bnah 53). Hanan shows how a young wife plans to kill his husband due to stress. She thought killing her husband was the only way through which she could avoid misery. Men are at liberty to divorce their wives at their own wish. Women who try to carry out divorce face harsh punishment from the law. Other stories that address marriage in this community are A mistake in Knitting by Ihsan Kamal, The Cat the Maid and the wife and the Dream (Cohen-Mor 112). They all address the theme of misery faced by women due to marriage laws in the Arab society.
Modes of writing
The difference in writing of men and women has been of great concern to most critics. There are those who argue that gender has nothing to do with one writing while others argue that it does. Those who hold that one’s gender does not affect his or her writing argue that one’s writing is affected by his society, life’s impression and experiences. They have therefore argued that it is pointless to try differentiating the writings of men from women. It is only important to acknowledge that women’s interests differ from those of men (Johnson-Davies 112). This is due to the differences in psychological and social circumstances.
Women in most societies have not been allowed to express their thoughts. They are restricted unlike their male counterparts. This is an argument made by Yusuf Idris who believes that there is a big difference between female and male writing. He is impressed that women are able to fight through different means in ensuring that they are heard. Most individual have argued that the main difference that exists between female writing and male writing is the use of first person. This style is important because it helps in eyewitness accounting. There are those who argue that this form presents disadvantages to female writing. Readers and critics tend to assume that use of first-person pronoun mainly refers to the author and not the character. It is due to this that they regard women’s work as fictional and self revelations (Johnson-Davies 93). This can create great controversies to the author especially in instances where she is addressing sensitive matters. Nura Amin is an example who had problems due to her writing. When she tried addressing issues concerning lesbianism everyone despised her by assuming that she was talking about her personal experiences. In order to avoid these problems most female authors try to use gender ambiguity. This is perfectly illustrated by Suhayr in her work entitled The Gallows.
Another technique that female writers in Daylas anthology tried avoid pronoun problems was by applying different techniques in narration. Use of a protagonist was used in most stories. The Collapse of Barriers is an example of a story that uses this technique. One can also combine different techniques in the same writing (M%u012Bnah 16).. For instance use of third-person speaker and interior monologue. Female writers from Arab have continued to perfect their experience and craft in writing by new forms of narration and expression. It is through their creativity that most women have ben able to excel in the field of writing. An example of this is Salwa Bakrs the writer of a story entitled International Women’s Day. She has skillfully used intersexuality in her work. Arab women writers are still remembered all over the world as individuals who have contributed greatly to the well being of Modern Arabic Literature (Johnson-Davies 212). This literature grows each passing day in form, content and volume due to their contribution.
The approach of male and female authors towards the women’s issues is different. This difference is due to the individual’s experience, social interaction and culture. Most cultures try to bring out men to the society as being superior to women. This superiority is clearly defined in most of the literature created by men and women. Men tend to base their works on the stereotypes about the role of women in the society. In addition, the challenges that women are facing are being rarely discussed by male authors. It is due to this that most female authors have been termed as feminists. Male authors usually face a grate challenge in addressing the women issues in their writings. This is due to gender identity. The society expects men to be different from women in all forms. This is the reason why men who try to write their works centering on women are considered to be weak. Women are faced with different challenges in the world. These challenges include abandonment, divorce, rape and discrimination. Among the Arabs, women are expected to be submissive to their husbands. The Arab culture dictates men to be superior to women; therefore, they have the role of controlling and protecting them. Religion is seen as a major contributor to most challenges that women are facing in the Muslim society. Women have tried to express the need for the equal opportunities in the society with the help of writing different kinds of literature.