[The Role of Women in Arabic Literature]

Abu Nasr abu-nasr at SPAMusa.net
Thu Aug 10 12:28:44 MDT 2000

Dear Mine and everybody!

Thanks for this piece on women in Arabic literature.  At least it should show
what should be obvious, (but is not, unfortunately) that women in the Arab
world need not depend entirely on their western sisters for enlightenment.
This is not to say that westerners are all wrong or stupid, obviously, but
merely that they don't have a monopoly on "modernity."

On the pitfalls of relying on enlightened Westerners to guide the backward
people of the East, I thought I might share a passage I ran across in a
"pioneering" book written by an American back in 1914 about the social
transformations taking place in the Islamic world.  He was particularly
optimistic about the role of women's education in turning ignorant ladies of
the "Orient" into "new women." --

"Give the mothers education and the whole situation is transformed.  Girls who
are learning other things than the unintelligible phrases of the Koran are
certain to impart such knowledge, as daughters, sisters, and mothers, to their
respective households.  Women who learn housewifery, methods of modern
cooking, sewing, and sanitation in the domestic-economy schools, are bound to
cast about the home upon their return the atmosphere of a civilized community.
 The old-time picture of the Oriental woman spending her hours upon divans,
eating sweetmeats, and indulging in petty and degrading gossip with the
servants or with women as ignorant as herself will be changed.  The new woman
will be a companion rather than a slave or a toy of her husband.  Marriage
will advance from the stage of a paltry trade in bodies to something like a
real union involving respect toward the woman by both sons and fathers, while
in a new pride of relationship the woman herself will be discovered."

-- Clayton S. Cooper, "The Modernizing of the Orient".  New York: McBride,
Nast & Company, 1914.

Revolutionary greetings!

Abu Nasr

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx <xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxx.xxx> wrote:

People who have uniformly portrayed third world women as passive agents
of "traditional" culture should at least attempt to read the Arabic
literature.  Here is a perplexing piece of literary work by Mona Mikhai.


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