Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Woman's Worth

What is a woman’s worth? Is it based on how society sees her, how men see her, how her parents or relatives see her, or how she sees herself? Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero shows me a world very much unlike my own. This book makes me see the suffering endured by women that has occurred in the past and that still is happening in some parts of the world today. It makes my heart ache, I want to jump up and shout about the injustices. To tell these women that they can get out, that they can change their world for the better, they just have to try.

This novel about a woman in Egypt who feels she is powerless to change her status in the society.Her whole life, the main character Firdaus, is used and abused by the men in her life.One day as she talks to one of her male “friends” he tells her that she is not respectable.Up to this point she had not valued her self and she had just finally recognized that she was worth something.Even if it was to ask for more money from a man who wished to have intercourse with her.She was happier than she had ever been in her life, but all that came crashing down with that little phrase ‘not respectable’.To cope with this new knowledge she quit her profession and went out into the world to become a respectable woman.

Firdaus finds a job at a company, it is not mentioned what the company is only that she doesn’t make very much money.The men in the company frequently harass the women and the women would use their bodies to procure advances in the company.At one point in time a man higher up in the company asked her if she wanted a ride.Firdaus replied “The price of my body is much higher than the price that can be paid for it with a pay raise.”After about three years of working there she realized that as a prostitute she was paid more, had more respect and overall lived a better life. “I came to realize that a female employee is more afraid of losing her job than a prostitute is of losing her life.”

This woman began to pity the other women employees and to view her old life as better. “An employee is scared of losing her job and becoming a prostitute because she does not understand that the prostitute’s life is in fact better than hers.”Firdaus’s realization was that a woman employee pays a much higher price “of her illusory fears” than Firdaus ever did, with “her life, her health, her body, and her mind.She pays the highest price for things of the lowest value.”

“I now knew that all of us were prostitutes who sold themselves at varying prices, and that an expensive prostitute was better than a cheap one.”Is this really true are all women prostitutes, do we all sell ourselves for the things that we get?Firdaus grew up in a world where women were treated like second class citizens, where a husband was expected to beat his wife and there was nothing wrong with it, where women were expected to be subjugated to men in every way.But just as Firdaus said that she had not meet every man who photo she spat upon, she could not have meet every woman, or even every woman that worked at the company that she worked for.How can she make this sweeping accusation?But that was her view of the world around her, she did not know of any women who had broken free of this oppression from the menaround them.Maybe if she had things would have gone better in the rest of her life.

This was the point were she starts to give up her dream of being a respectable woman and to go back her old life. “I also knew that if I lost my job, all I would lose with it was the miserable salary, the contempt I could read every day in the eyes of the higher level executives when they looked at the lesser female officials, the humiliating pressure of male bodies on mine when I rode in the bus, and the long morning queue in front of a perpetually overflowing toilet.”But she stuck it out for a little bit longer, it took getting involved with a man whom she fell in love with to break her heart to force her to completely give up and go back to prostitution.

For some time after wards she was successful as a prostitute, until a day came where a man wanted to be her pimp and forced himself upon her. When she could no longer stand his oppressive presence in her life she tries to run away from him only for him to stop her in the act and try to harm her. She kills him in self defense, but that does not matter for now she knows that she is capable of murder. After wards she is arrested. “They condemned me to death not because I had killed a man, but because they are afraid to let me live.” In the end I believe that she had finally found her own peace in herself, but that she was never free of the trappings from the life she had lived.

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