"They said, 'You are a savage and dangerous woman.'
March 21, 2021 3:13 PM   Subscribe

"I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous." So wrote Nawal El Saadawi, who has died at the age of 89, according to Egyptian media reports. She was imprisoned by Anwar Sadat. Her work was censored and her books banned, but she never backed down. When BBC presenter Zeinab Badawi suggested during an interview in 2018 that she tone down her criticism, El Saadawi replied: "No. I should be more outspoken, I should be more aggressive, because the world is becoming more aggressive, and we need people to speak loudly against injustices. I speak loudly because I am angry."

Memoirs of a Woman Doctor: Rebelling against the contraints of family and society, a young Egyptian woman decides to study medicine, becoming the only woman in a class of men. Her encounters with the other students - as well as the male and female corpses in the autopsy room - intensify her dissatisfaction with and search for identity. She realizes men are not gods as her mother had taught her, that science cannot explain everything, and that she cannot be satisfied by living a life purely of the mind.

Woman at Point Zero: "All the men I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face." So begins Firdaus's remarkable story of rebellion against a society founded on lies, hypocrisy, brutality and oppression.

The Hidden Face of Eve: Nawal El Saadawi writes out of a powerful sense of the violence and injustice which permeated her society. Her experiences working as a doctor in villages around Egypt, witnessing prostitution, honour killings and sexual abuse, including female circumcision, drove her to give voice to this suffering.

Off Limits: New Writings on Fear and Sin: Presents a selection of El Saadawi’s most recent recollections and reflections in which she considers the role of women in Egyptian and wider Islamic society, the inextricability of imperialism from patriarchy, and the meeting points of East and West.

Walking through Fire: The Later Years of Nawal El Saadawi, In Her Own Words: "Words should not seek to please, to hide the wounds in our bodies, or the shameful moments in our lives. They may hurt, give us pain, but they can also provoke us to question what we have accepted for thousands of years."

(Found via a Facebook post from a friend who described discovering her forbidden books on his mother's bookshelf as a teen and said, "To this woman, I owe a great debt of gratitude. Her brave words have helped to shape me into the man that I am today in a very significant way.")
posted by clawsoon (21 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Sublimity at 3:25 PM on March 21

posted by Silvery Fish at 3:54 PM on March 21

posted by carrioncomfort at 4:17 PM on March 21

Here's a connection I never thought to make, but now that I've read it, the connection between the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest and Brazilian Evangelicalism clicks together with the neoliberalism of Hindutva clicks together with the role of Wahhabism at the centre of the global oil economy: "The root of the oppression of women lies in the global post-modern capitalist system, which is supported by religious fundamentalism."
posted by clawsoon at 4:40 PM on March 21 [14 favorites]

posted by lord_wolf at 4:48 PM on March 21


I don't know enough about her and this post reminded me it's well past time I did.
posted by cendawanita at 5:13 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]

When I read about people I like this, I am stunned by their courage.
I like her quote: "Be your own hero". Maybe this'll help me become just a bit braver.

posted by storybored at 6:26 PM on March 21 [4 favorites]

posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:17 PM on March 21

posted by scruss at 7:50 PM on March 21

posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:23 PM on March 21


Lovely, thoughtful, erudite tribute.

Would be wonderful if you-know-who doesn't drop in.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 9:50 PM on March 21

posted by Kattullus at 10:39 PM on March 21

Thank you for this.
posted by y2karl at 6:51 AM on March 22

posted by Glinn at 8:50 AM on March 22

posted by LobsterMitten at 9:34 AM on March 22

posted by the sobsister at 9:34 AM on March 22

posted by doctornemo at 10:33 AM on March 22

I ordered "Woman at Point Zero" today and I will be sharing the book. You had me with "All the men I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face."
posted by elkevelvet at 10:58 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]

posted by benzenedream at 7:39 PM on March 22

Thank you for this post.

posted by lazaruslong at 9:03 PM on March 22

posted by All hands bury the dead at 3:10 PM on March 23

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