New Telegraph

Feminism as solution to society’s imbalances

Book Title: Woman at Point Zero
Author: Nawal El Sadaawi
Year 0f Publication: 1975
Pagination: 114
Publisher: Zed Books Limited
Reviewer: Kunnu, Adeniyi Taiwo


This novel is based on a true event where Nawal met Firdaus in a jail who was a criminal and was soon to be hanged for the murder which she has committed. This novel is mostly about Firdaus and her tragedy, but it is impossible not to notice that she is not alone in her grief. When a female life costs almost nothing and men have all power in their hands, a tragedy is bound to happen.


Being protected by the law, traditions and, what is even more important, religion, men don’t bother themselves to pretend that women have any place in the society. The interesting thing is that Firdaus is not appealing for life time imprisonment instead of death penalty and demanded death.


Nawal got very curious to know about her life and finally Firdaus narrated her whole life story which was full of sufferings and struggle done to her by the men in her life and the society. Actually Firdaus was tired of this male dominated society and death was the only source of emancipation for her. The aspect of Firdaus’s desire for the release that come with death is indicative of a society where female repression is choking to say the least.


From being an orphan to eventually being handed over to one relative or the other and eventually becoming a prostitute, the reader find men in virtually all the stages of her life, not helping her make the right sexual or even marital choices, rather, these men add to her woes, rejection, engaging in commercial sex and ultimately culminating in the death of an abuser.


Nawal got very curious to know about her life and finally Firdaus narrated her whole life story which was full of sufferings and struggle done to her by the men in her life and the society. Actually Firdaus was tired of this male dominated society and death was the only source of emancipation for her.


A narrative full of themes which include, Abuse of Women(by men); Socio- cultural limitations against women using the instrumentality of culture and religion, Patriarchy and such others as to make a woman evidently second fiddle as long as she lives. Firdaus feels rejected in the patriarchal society because no one cares to show her a little love and care. From childhood, her father neglects her and fails to show her fatherly love and care.


Her mother who is absorbed in her father‟s tyrannical control has little or no time to give her children the care and love that a child yearns for in a mother. During her teenage years, she is exploited for selfish reasons by her uncle and his wife. As an adult she is exploited and molested by Sheik Mahmoud, her husband, Bayoumi and even Sharifa, a fellow woman.


The only man she falls in love with ─ Ibrahim ─ deceives her and gets engaged to his boss‟s daughter. She discovers that she is vulnerable in a society where everyone exploits her because she is a woman. She feels lonely and rejected in the patriarchal society. On page 20, we read the understated:  “I could feel it somewhere, like a part of my being which had been born with me when I was born, but had not grown with me when I had grown, like a part of my being that I had once known, but I left behind when I was born.”


Abused women are more likely than others to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, eating problems, sexual dysfunction and many reproductive health problems, including miscarriage and stillbirth, premature delivery, Sexually Transmitted Infections, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Sexually abused children tend to end up in abusive relationships and have a higher than normal risk of becoming involved in prostitution and drugs. Children that are abused sexually or undergo female circumcision end up having a phobia for sex and rarely enjoy it.


Due to  the clitoridectomy experience, Firdaus only endures sex. In her sexual relationship with Sheik Mahmoud, Bayoumi and his friends, and the men she meets when she becomes a prostitute, she regards sex as time for enduring pain. Teenage brides with much older husbands often have limited capacity to negotiate sexual relations, contraception, childbearing, as well as other aspects of domestic life. They often have limited autonomy, freedom of movement and face higher risks in their pregnancies, including obstructed labour leading to Obstetric Fistula or Vesico-Vaginal Fistula.


They are more likely to be beaten and threatened due to their young age and inexperience. Firdaus‟ movement is closely monitored by her husband. She is also physically molested and sexually abused by him. If we took this book away from Egypt where it is set and places it within the Nigerian context, it will aptly fit into the many reasons why a segment of the country is underdeveloped, in the light of the 13.5 million out of school children in Nigeria.


Also, the challenges associated with child brides, which still remains a predominant issue that many governments find rather difficult to tackle, amongst many other unhandled concerns in a society that had to legislate to ensure that women’s rights are rights. It is a pointer to the realities of feminism and why women will continue to fight and spew deserved bile against men and society, who feel either fear or revel in deliberate wickedness, when it should have accepted the importance of women and their roles to greater development of society, rather than all sorts of negative inhibitions that keep them far from rightly fulfilling their dreams and achieving their goals.


Woman at Point Zero, although first written in 1975, remains relevant and will continue to be beyond any fixed time, because the Arab World, Nigeria, ditto every society of the world will continue to draw from its automatically refreshing well spring of great insights, thus proffering solutions.

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