With nearly 40 books, novels, short stories, and memories to boast, it is safe to say that the veteran Egyptian feminist and writer Dr. Nawal El Saadawi knows a thing or two about feminism (among a long list of other topics). In the much-anticipated special evening of April 2, 2017 organized by Fe-Male, and in the packed hall of the Russian Cultural Center, El Saadawi discussed topics that ranged from politics and culture to feminism, sexism and patriarchy with an eager audience who longed to meet her. The night didn’t pass without El Saadawi’s typically rich, straightforward and tongue-in-cheek talk.
In the presence of journalists, activists, civil society members and representatives of local media institutions, Dr. Nawal sat there, articulating about what feminism means to her, and how women should be strong and loud about their rights, and how they should stand by each other in the face of patriarchy. “Solidarity between women can be a powerful force of change. The feminists who are aware of the effects of patriarchy realize that we are all in the same boat, and that the oppression of women is universal.”
As usual, Dr. El Saadawi appeared with a simple look and spoke to the audience in direct words that provoked their minds where some agreed and others disagreed, but with a lot of content and openness. She raised a lot of controversial topics like a woman’s veil, make-up, nudity, marriage and LGBTQI+ people.
“The problem is not with the woman but with the mind of the man.” (Ironically) she called on all men to cover their eyes instead of asking a woman to wear a veil, pointing to this headscarf as an expression of a “political symbol” and that it has nothing to do with sex or religion. Make-up to Dr. El Saadawi was only a waste of time, and it was invented to prevent women from doing more important stuff like focusing on their education or work, and rather focus on their looks as a way to please a man.
The discussion and the questions that followed were very interactive, and even though the audience had their conversations on many of the topics raised by Dr. El Saadawi, it was clear that they could’ve stayed the whole night listening to her.