cta-image

Donate

Donations from readers like you allow us to do what we do. Please help us continue our work with a monthly or one-time donation.

Donate Today
cta-image

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to receive daily or weekly MEMRI emails on the topics that most interest you.
Subscribe
cta-image

Request a Clip

Media, government, and academia can request a MEMRI clip or other MEMRI research, or ask to consult with or interview a MEMRI expert.
Request Clip
memri
Aug 11, 2017
Share Video:

Egyptian Women's Rights Activist Dr. Nawal El Saadawi: Women Enable the Tyranny of Their Husbands

#6175 | 06:33
Source: The Internet - "Tangier TWIZA Festival on YouTube"

Egyptian women’s rights activist Dr. Nawal El Saadawi recently spoke about male guardianship and recounted her own experience of getting divorced three times. "My mind cannot accept being ruled by someone of a lesser mind, an idiot," she said. Women fear divorce, she said, but "divorce will set you free." "There can be no tyrannical husband anywhere in the world, unless his wife enables his tyranny," said El Saadawi, calling for a change in education. She was speaking on August 11 at the Twiza Tanger festival held in Tangier, Morocco, where she was the guest of honor.

Dr. Nawal El Saadawi: "What is the meaning of male guardianship? Guardianship should be awarded to someone who is wiser. I got married three times and thank God, I divorced all three. Why? Not because I am a person who... I am a normal, regular, and reasonable person, but my mind cannot accept being ruled by someone of a lesser mind, an idiot... When my husband... Let me give you an example of male guardianship: My second husband was a lawyer. He knew the law and wanted to rule me by means of the law, through male guardianship, and all that... So I would argue with him. Then I studied the law in order to be able to argue with him.

"He couldn't argue with me about medicine because he didn't know anything about it, but I studied law and started arguing with him. 1+1=2. If X, then Y. You can go out and have fun, you are free to have male and female friends, but I cannot have any friends, not even women friends. He was jealous even about women [friends], would you believe that? He wanted complete ownership of his woman. The woman is the man's property, but not the other way around. So I told him: 'Forget it. I have a mind that has been working since childhood. How can I accept this injustice?' I am a doctor, and I contributed to the income of the household. I was making twice as much as he did... It is very important for women to have financial means. I was earning as much as him and even more, and my mind was working just like his and even more. I had medicine as a profession just like he had law.

"So what gives him the right to rule me? Why prevent me from having female friends, from going out, and from being free? He himself used to go out and party. Why was I supposed to cook, so that he would find lunch or dinner ready when he came home? I was at the hospital all day, operating on patients. We have inherited this slavery. This happens to all wives – even if they are ministers. I know ministers in Egypt who get home from work to prepare lunch for their husbands.

[...]

"Women fear a lot of things, but first and foremost they fear divorce. Therefore, in every conference anywhere in the world, especially in the Arab world, I say that I got married three times and divorced all three. I am very proud of this. Divorce will set you free.

[...]

"A tyrant can only rise to power if the people enable his tyranny. Similarly, there can be no tyrannical husband anywhere in the world, unless his wife enables his tyranny. If she refuses, she could prevent this tyranny, but she would have to pay the price – with divorce or having to go out and find work. Many women say: 'My husband beats me every day, but if I leave him...' I know female doctors – colleagues of mine – and writers who are battered wives. Even leaders of the Egyptian feminist movement suffered beatings at home. She would deliver a lecture on women's liberation, only to come home and get beaten by her husband for being late. What are women afraid of? First and foremost of divorce. Secondly, they are afraid that their standard of living will decline.

[...]

"They are afraid of what people might say. They are afraid of a lot of things, which are mere illusions. If you break it down, you see that these are mere illusions. Divorce is an illusion. What's the big deal about your standard of living? Living in a mansion is overrated... I live in a two-room apartment in the Shubra quarter in Cairo. I am very happy. I don't want to live in a mansion. Why would I want to live in a mansion? I'd rather live in a two-room apartment with my dignity intact. We need to change the way we educate women and men, and we have to start from childhood.

[...]

"The people in my grandmother's village used to eat bread and salt. They had nothing to eat and did not have shoes. My grandmother led the peasants on their way to the village chief... I was five then, and she took me by the hand like this. She took me with her when she went to the village chief. I was five years old, but I would listen to everything... At the age of five, children listen and understand everything. She said to him: 'God will punish you for taking what we worked hard for and giving it to the king and to the British.'

"He answered her: 'What do you know about God?' He sat there, holding a Quran written in threads of gold. He was dressed in golden robes, while the peasants were barefoot and would eat salt. He used to take all the cotton they picked. He said: 'You talk about God. Do you know our Lord? Have you read the Quran?' He held the Quran in his hand. My grandmother waved her hand and said: 'Who told you that our Lord is the Quran? Our Lord is justice, and we know Him through our minds.'"

Share this Clip: