In this novel, Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi many societal standards and societal issues are presented throughout the basis of the novel. In egyptian society, women are seen as inferior. Nawal El Saadawi uses comparisons to reflect the societal standards in the novel and show Firdaus does not mold to the standard women in this time period. They have little to no rights, and have double standards when it comes to life, ex. female circumcision, which take away any chance that women have at getting pleasure from sex, men get to enjoy it while woman tolerate. Their are restricted, and they must always dress very moderately, no education, and they must marry a man and be a housewife /property item.
While in the novel Firdaus is quoted “A question flashed through my mind. Why was it that I had never stabbed a man before? I realized that I had never been afraid, and that the fear had been within me all the time, until the fleeting moment when I read his eyes. ” This quote exemplifies to show fear is what restricts her in the man-dominant society and sets a standard to be afraid of them. Firdaus then realized men were the ones who were afraid of women who stood up for themselves. This was an standard for the action of the work because men feared Firdaus because she knew the truth about the corruption in the patriarchal society. The class system in the community set a societal standard. It is relevant in the text that even though she wore beautiful clothes and makeup, her background defined her as middle class with her secondary school certificate. Firdaus recites “With my secondary school certificate and suppressed desires I belong to the “middle class”, by birth I was lower class. ” Although, Firdaus has the wealth and possession of upper class, she is not treated with the same respect as men in the same position. She is not treated with the same respect as the men in the same position, even with her luxury items. Men can move through social ranks, however, women cannot move up in class in this way, if at all.
One way women attempted to do this was by becoming prostitutes. This is because her money earned through prostitution, which is looked down upon by men in the society. In the novel, Firdaus fights the standards by becoming a prostitute and breaking free from being dependent on a man. Firdaus is able to choose where she lives, pick out her own clothing, and choose who she sleeps with. For Firdaus, prostitution is a way for her to ‘get her power back’ and to be free. She is defying the rules and regulations of society by claiming her body as her own. Firdaus learns in the beginning of the novel that men have power and women do not. Bayoumi, who locks Firdaus in his apartment and lets his friends have sex with her, teaches her he has power over her. Sharifa teaches Firdaus how to use her physical appearance for power, and she has discovered that she can exploit the desire that many men have for her by getting money for it. Another standard is that being a prostitute is not “respectable” so Firdaus quits the job and benefits that it gave her to work in an office job, where she met Ibrahim, but ultimately rejects the idea of respectability and the judgement from society and returns to prostitution.
At the end, she has no more hope and nothing to lose so she is no longer bound to the patriarchal rules and customs. Firdaus said “I was the only woman who had torn the mask away”, which shows that by her killing the pimp and telling her story to El Saadawi, she is revealing the injustice inherent in her society. Firdaus only murdered him because of how Egyptian society views women. No men in the novel are respectable because in one way or another, they all use women. This is because in their society, they told that they are superior to women and they think that gives them the right to abuse and disrespect them.
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