Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Community of Female Voices in Arab Women Literature :: Fatima Mernissi Arab Culture Cultural Essays

The Community of Female Voices in Arab Women Literature In her memoir, Dreams of Trespass, Fatima Mernissi remembers asking her grandmother Yasmina how one can discern a true story from a false one. The wise old woman, Yasmina, told her granddaughter to relax and not look at life in extreme polarities because "there are things which could be both [true and false] and things which could be neither" (Dreams, 61). "Words are like onions," Yasmina explained further and "the more skins you peel off, the more meanings you encounter" (Dreams, 61). Thus, according to Yasmina, the real power of finding the "true" answer for oneself is to discover "multiplicities of meanings" because then right and wrong become irrelevant (Dreams, 61). Yasmina's image of words as onions can be used in one's understanding of the multilayered complexity of oppression in Arab women literature. Although in some novels, such as The Pillars of Salt and Drams of Trespass, female oppression is an obvious result of social norms, in other texts (In the Eye of the Sun, for example) the main female character, Asya Ulama, seems to be free of any form of social pressure. However, one has to keep in mind that no woman ever stands alone in her oppression, whether it is physical or psychological oppression, or both. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to "peal off all the skins of an onion" or to uncover all the different layers of female oppression presented in the five books: Pillars of Salt, A woman of Five Seasons, A Balcony Over Fakihani, Dreams of Trespass and In the Eye of the Sun. The Feminist Theory The feminist writer, Gloria Anzaldua, argues that in order for silence to "transform into speech, sound and words," the silence must first ‘traverse through our female bodies" (Making, XIII). According to Anzaldua, the female silence is richly layered and it hides important voices which once discovered lead to women's liberation. Many feminist writers would argue that women can only tell their stories when they listen to (and follow) their inner voices. These inner voices are not only singular voices of the "self" but also communal voices that connect women with past and future generations. Thus, if one is to explore the oppression of Muslim women through the work of Arab women novelists, one must keep in mind the multilayered complexity of women's voices, or what I call the "community of

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