Feminist Characters In Old Arab Stories

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More than Genies and Spirits: The presence of Feminist Characters in old Arab Stories
In her book titled The Hidden Face of Eve, Naawal El Saadawi an Egyptian writer writes that “Woman is at her best and most powerful when she takes on the form of a genie or spirit in A Thousand and One Nights. Men fall victims to her beauty and her spells and go through suffering and even torture to gain her favour.” (, P. 162) In this passage, El Saadawi expresses an opinion that is very popular within the literary world especially with orientalists. Many believe that in books such as A Thousand and One Night, women are portrayed as manipulative creatures who use their beauty to gain what they want. This is an example of what Edward Said describes in Orientalism
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However in oriental stories such as the Tales of Seraglio: Turkey and Persia we see women depicted as deceitful and creatures who use their beauty to manipulate men. Meanwhile, through looking at figures in A Thousand and One Night such as Shahrazad, Tawaddud, and Princess Budur, we find that there are many feminist characters present in A Thousand and One Night.. Could this presence of feminists in old Arab stories and the subjugation of women in oriental tales destroy the argument formed by orientalists to criticize the orient men for subjugating the oriental women? Unlike the belief that only Arab stories subjugate women, in the Tales of Seraglio: Turkey and Persia, we see examples of subjugation of women. Furthermore, we find the presence of feminist characters in A Thousand and One Night who are educated, and become king. The presence of these feminist figures suggests that women are not always subjugated into genie or spirit characters like El Saadawi suggests.
As a feminist, El Saadawi writes against the subjugation of women in her texts. In The Hidden Face of Eve, she makes several arguments against the portrayal of women in literature and also the unequal treatment of women in
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Another example of a woman who displays her intelligence to benefit her is in the tales of the slave girl of Tawaddud. Tawaddud is a slave of a wealthy and respected man from Baghdad, who eventually becomes impoverished. To help him, Tawaddud asks him to present her to a caliph for sale. Tawaddud tells the caliph that she knows o grammar, poetry, jurisprudence, the precepts of Islam, philosophy, ancient legends, arithmetic, medicine, and logic, as well as music, dance, chess, and backgammon. Amazed by her claims, the caliph calls on to several experts to test her. After they each test her, they acknowledge that she knows the subjects. For example her test with the

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