This is post #50 in 100DaysOfBloggingChallenge
The Woman at Point Zero was my first read by Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian Feminist writer, activist, and psychiatrist. And I have found another great author! Firdaus, the Protagonist, was a real woman whom the author met in prison. Nawal was intrigued by her calm and the fact that she did not want to plead mercy for her crime and chose death over life (maybe her story can answer why was that so!). She never spoke to anyone except the author while she was in prison.
The Woman at Point Zero is a heart-wrenching tale of Firdaus, as told by herself to the author just the day before her death sentence was to be executed. Firdaus lived in Egyptian Islamic society before democratization and when feminism hardly existed. She was exploited by every single ‘male’ relation or character that touched her life, breaking her more each time!
Firdaus lived most of her life as a prostitute, sometimes force to be one and part of it when she accepted that as a profession herself! Inspite of all the wrong-doings of men, she dared to love in a world full of lies and she was disappointed again. She never gets respect from her father, uncle, husband and her lover. Policeman, Prince or a pimp, she is never considered anything more than an object. She asks this question to one of her clients as a prostitute:
“My work is not worthy of respect. Why then do you join in it with me?”
Classic example of hypocrisy, ain’t it?
She lives a life full of fear. When she overcomes her fear, she kills and that’s when she gets an escape from her oppressive life.
The writing is amazingly brilliant. The sadness of her story is prosed so very beautifully. When she finds that every woman is forced to sell her virtue in this cruel world, she decides to be a free prostitute than to be an enslaved wife. Can anything be more sad and demeaning to a woman’s spirit?? A lot of women today are lucky to not experience abuse at that level and in that magnitude but it’s still there in one form or the other. There are many stories like Firdaus’s which remain untold, and the social systems and humanity will always remain indebted to women like Firdaus who never live a single happy day in their lives. The author has paid a tribute to Firdaus by writing her story and bringing it to us.
“Life is very hard. The only people who really live are those who are harder than life itself.”
“Yet not for a single moment did I have any doubts about my own integrity and honor as a woman. I knew that my profession had been invented by men, and that men were in control of both our worlds, the one on earth, and the one in heaven. That men force women to sell their bodies at a price, and that the lowest paid body is that of a wife. All women are prostitutes of one kind or another.”
“All the men I did get to know, every single man of them, has filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face.”
“Men impose deception on women and punish them for being deceived, force them down to the lowest level and punish them for falling so low, bind them in marriage and then chastise them with menial service for life, or insults, or blows.”
“Now I had learnt that honor required large sums of money to protect it, but that large sums of money could not be obtained without losing one’s honor. An infernal circle whirling round and round, dragging me up and down with it.”
“Life is a snake. They are the same, Firdaus. If the snake realizes you are not a snake, it will bite you. And if life knows you have no sting, it will devour you.”