Woman at Point Zero

Regaining Independence and Power Through Prostitution

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

In her essay “From the Women’s Prison: Third World Women’s Narratives of Prison,” Barbara Harlow argues that the solidarity that transcends race, gender, class, and other social categories is a vital component in the fight against oppressive forces. She also claims that Firdaus’s affiliation with the psychiatrist in Nawal El Saadawi’s novel Woman at Point Zero ultimately allows Firdaus to share her story and become part of the collective struggle against “the authoritarian political structures and patriarchal hierarchies of Egyptian society” (Harlow, 512). However, throughout the novel, Firdaus continually turns to prostitution as a way of life, and it’s her decision to become a prostitute that poses the question as to whether or not Firdaus can truly defy the social order of her society. For example, Harlow argues that Firdaus objectifies her body and sells it in a way that places her in a role subordinate to men. On the contrary, one may argue that as a prostitute, Firdaus gains more power and independence than other women in her society. Ultimately, Firdaus does obtain some degree of power and independence by proving to herself that she “owns” her own body and that she is the one who determines her own destiny. Therefore, Woman at Point Zero challenges “the social order which has assigned women to a subordinate position under the control of her male partners” (Harlow, 512) in that Firdaus controls the ways in which she utilizes her body as a prostitute to gain power and independence.

The first time Firdaus becomes aware of her own power is when Sharifa introduces her to prostitution. Sharifa is the one who, through the skillful application of cosmetics, helps Firdaus to see her inner beauty and strength. Firdaus claims that Sharifa opens her eyes to unseen features of her face and body, making her more aware and understanding of them. And it’s with Sharifa’s help that Firdaus discovers that she has “black eyes with a sparkle that attract other eyes like a magnet” (Saadawi, 58). Beauty for Firdaus is one way she is able control her own body. For example, a man does not determine how Firdaus’s hair will be styled, what clothes she will wear, or how her make-up will be applied. Rather, it’s Firdaus herself who determines her appearance. Therefore, Firdaus uses her beauty as a way to lure and tease the men in her society. And while staying with Sharifa, Firdaus learns that she is the one who determines her own value. Instead of seeing her nose as big and round, Firdaus begins to see it with the “fullness of a strong passion that can turn to lust” (Saadawi, 58). She begins to embrace her appearance, which in return, raises her self-confidence, something she once lacked in childhood. By embracing her beauty and increasing her self-confidence, Firdaus is able to gain power and control, thus challenging the claim that men are in control of women.

Although Firdaus learns to appreciate her beauty under the guidance of Sharifa, Firdaus decides to leave because she realizes that she needs to make her own money if she wants to obtain her own power and independence. And it’s not long after leaving Sharifa that Firdaus sleeps with a man who gives her a ten-pound note. This is the first time that Firdaus realizes that in order to obtain power, independence, and respect, she must acquire a lot of money. When Firdaus goes to the restaurant and gives the waiter the ten-pound note, she is treated with respect, and she realizes it’s the first time in her life that she eats “without being watched by two eyes gazing into [her] plate to see how much food [she] took” (Saadawi, 71). The waiter even bows over the table with a movement of “respectful humility” (Saadawi, 71) as he collects Firdaus’s money. This shows Firdaus’s control over him, which in return gives her a feeling of power and superiority that she has never felt before. The encounter with the waiter also helps Firdaus to understand how she can utilize her body in such a way that will allow her to acquire enough money to live independently. Firdaus’s apparent control also supports the claim that Woman at Point Zero challenges the social order that traditionally places men above women.

After leaving the restaurant, Firdaus begins to believe in herself: she ceases to bend her head down or to look away. Instead, she walks the streets with her head held high and her eyes looking straight ahead. She even exclaims, “My footsteps struck the ground with force, with a new elation” (Saadawi, 73). As men pass her on the streets, Firdaus utilizes her control by declining the men’s invitations. She repeatedly mutters no, which puzzles them. One such male persistently asks Firdaus, “Well, why not?” and Firdaus confidently responds: “Because there are plenty of men and I want to choose with whom to go” (Saadawi, 73). As an independent prostitute, Firdaus begins to choose which men she will and will not sleep with. She also decides on the food she eats and the house she lives in. Because of this, Firdaus begins to believe in her own independence. In prostitution, Firdaus’s body becomes her own, to do with as she wishes. Firdaus even has free time to go to the movies and read books. She utilizes her free will, which once again challenges the statement that men are in control of women.

Despite Firdaus’s accomplishments as an independent prostitute, her power is challenged when her friend Di’aa declares that Firdaus is not a “respectable woman” (Saadawi, 76). However, because Firdaus is so determined to be a respectable woman, she decides to look for work in an office instead of the streets. Firdaus gets a job but then she realizes that the men at the office think they can take advantage of her by raising her salary. Firdaus despises them for thinking such a thing, saying “the price of my body is much higher than the price that can be paid for it with a pay rise” (Saadawi, 81). She believes that as a prostitute she had been looked upon with much more respect and been valued higher than all of the female employees. Firdaus claims that she “feels sorry for the other girls who are guileless enough to offer their bodies and physical efforts every night in return for a meal, or a good yearly report” (Saadawi, 82). Unlike these women, Firdaus doesn’t let the men break her pride. For example, none of the officials are able to make Firdaus bow her head or lower her eyes to the ground. Although Firdaus is able to remain in control as an office worker, she decides that prostitution might be a surer path to dignity and self-determination than the “respectable” life of an office assistant.

Upon quitting her job, Firdaus returns to the life of an independent prostitute, where she continues to challenge the social order by acquiring even more power than she had before. She is soon paid the highest price, becoming so successful that she obtains the power to employ any servant to wash her clothes or clean her shoes. Firdaus even donates money to a charity and gets her picture printed in the newspaper, which says that she is a “citizen with a sense of civic responsibility” (Saadawi, 100). By utilizing her body as a prostitute again, Firdaus convinces herself that she has chosen prostitution with her own free will. She claims, “my insistence on remaining a prostitute proved to me this was my choice and that I had some freedom, at least the freedom to live in a situation better than that of other women” (Saadawi, 97). Firdaus further believes that having to be a wife is much worse than being a prostitute, for marriage in Firdaus’s eyes is the “cruelest suffering for women” (Saadawi, 96). As a wife, Firdaus had to passively watch her husband make choices, beat her incessantly, and force her to have sex with him. But as a prostitute, she is free to do what she wants. Firdaus experiences the rare pleasure of being “completely independent, of enjoying freedom from any subjection to a man, to marriage, or to love; of being divorced from all limitations” (Saadawi, 95). This power and independence that Firdaus achieves proves that the novel challenges the social order that places women in a subordinate position.

As mentioned above, Firdaus prefers prostitution to marriage as a way of life, for as a successful prostitute she is independent and self-supporting, free to choose the men with whom she will associate. Firdaus therefore utilizes her body as a prostitute to gain power and independence. And it’s this power and success that gives Firdaus the confidence to defy the social code and murder the pimp. Even though Firdaus is condemned to prison to die, she becomes part of a collective struggle against oppression when she agrees to share her story with El Saadawi. Ultimately, “Firdaus’s personal story ends with her execution, but the narrative of her life becomes part of a historical agenda” (Harlow, 512). In the end, it’s clear that Woman at Point Zero challenges the social code that places women in a position subordinate to men.

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Zero Fir: An Undiscovered Right For The Legal Protection Of Women

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

Introduction

In our country, the capital itself is known to be one of the most dangerous cities to live in. Many protests took place all over the country against the lame status of law and order. After that, the ruling body came up with provisions to set the motion of justice favoring the victim. Alas! the tragedy lies in unawareness of masses regarding their rights and on the part of government failing to spread awareness, as well. Zero FIR is one such provision, which might help the victim to appeal for investigation without wasting time. But, many times the victims are denied the right to file a FIR by police authorities because the areaof crimetook does not fall under their jurisdiction. This provision of law was introduced in the recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 after the horrific Delhi Rape case but only the movie ‘Pink’ has created many speculations in the minds of Indians especially women regarding the concept of Zero FIR.

There is a concept of “Zero-FIR”. It means that a FIR can be filed in any police station (i. e. : irrespective of place of incident/jurisdiction) and the same can be later transferred to the appropriate Police Station. However, policemen usually deny knowing about “Zero FIR” and direct the complainant to concerned Police Station.

Jurisdiction, not a bar anymore

Zero First Information Reports (FIR) can be registered at any police station irrespective of jurisdiction. This is a landmark move made by the Government. Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure governs F. I. R. It is the first information in point of time regarding the commission of a cognizable offense that is given to the police and is recorded as the provisions of Section 154. The entire territory is divided into various police stations that exercise jurisdiction over a particular country. Initially, F. I. R can be registered in the police station that has jurisdiction over the place where the offence has allegedly been committed. The jurisdiction of courts and alternative venues of the trial that have already been discussed are also relevant here because the jurisdiction of police stations is determined accordingly. Various police stations may fall within the territorial jurisdiction of a particular Magistrate’s Court. The officer-in-charge of a police station can investigate a cognizable case if the Court within whose local jurisdiction that police station lies has the jurisdiction to try that case. But the filing of F. I. R in the police station or the court with proper jurisdiction is not necessary because of the introduction of the concept of Zero F. I. R. If you are not sure about the police station for some reason, you can register the F. I. R. at the nearest police station. Such police station can forward the F. I. R. to the police station which has the jurisdiction to inspect the case. Similarly, further amendments has been made to S. 154 of Cr. P. C, If a woman victim of an acid attack, assaulted with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, disrobing, voyeurism, stalking, rape, or so-called “eve-teasing” reports such offence, the F. I. R has to be recorded by a woman police officer or any woman officer. If a victim of any of the above-mentioned offences i. e. , except acid attack, is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then the F. I. R. has to be recorded at her residence or a place of her choice, in the presence of an interpreter or special educator and the recording has to be video-graphed.

What is FIR?

First let us understand what does an FIR mean. A First Information Report (F. I. R. ) is the first information in point of time regarding the commission of a cognizable offence that is given to the police and is recorded in the manner provided under section 154 of Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Every information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence, if given orally to an officer in charge of a police station, shall be reduced to writing by him or under his direction, and be read Over to the informant; and every such information, whether given in writing or reduced to writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it, and the substance thereof shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer in such form as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf. A copy of the information as recorded under sub- section shall be given forthwith, free of cost, to the informant. Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record the information referred to in subsection may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offence.

The provision of Zero FIR came up as a recommendation in Justice Verma Committee Report in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 after the heinous Nirbhaya case of December 2012. The provision says: A FIR can be filed at any police station irrespective of place of crime and area of jurisdiction. This provision is for everyone. When in trouble Men and women will be benefited equally. In Zero FIR, any police station can register FIR irrespective of jurisdictional area but the investigation will be taken up the police in which place of occurrence reported in FIR. The police station registers the zero FIR marking it serial no. zero and transfer to the competent jurisdictional area which can carry out the investigation. The sanctity of legal process remains same in zero FIR. It is very helpful for people as it facilitate them by not allowing making rounds of different police station for lodging the FIR. A Zero FIR can be filed in any police station by the victim, irrespective of their residence or crime place. Even if you are away from the place of incident or are unaware of the right jurisdiction, you can successfully file an FIR in any police station. This type of FIR is termed as a Zero FIR.

As per the Sec 154 of Criminal procedure Code, every Police officer is law bound to register the First Information Report of any cognizable offence committed, irrespective of the jurisdiction in which the offence was committed. When a cognizable offence is reported, the police officer registering the case forthwith starts the investigation, if it is committed in his jurisdiction. If it is not committed in his jurisdiction, he registers the FIR under number 00 and sends it to the police station, where the offence was committed for further investigation. Such FIR is called as zero FIR. It is for the convenience of the victim that instead of making the victim run from pillar to post, the police officer, where the victim approaches as per his convenience, the case is recorded and police officer sends it to the concerned police station.

The concept of ZERO FIR is present in the movie “PINK”

The movie has played the scene as: Sir, a man hit me on the breast from his bike and then showed me his middle finger. I have the gaadi number. I’d like to register a complaint. Where did this happen, ma? What dress were you wearing? I was wearing exactly what I am now. It happened in Indiranagar earlier today. Amma, don’t you know you have to go to the Indiranagar police station to register that complaint? Go, go now. And you should wear a dupatta, then no one will hit you again. But there is one more aspect shown in the film that people should know about – Zero FIR and other FIR related laws. The film deals with young working women in Delhi who have never had a brush with the law, and therefore, know nothing about their legal rights.

In the film, Taapsee Pannu’s character Meenal goes to a police station to file a complaint against a group of boys threatening her and her friends, after she injured one of them in self-defense. However, after giving her moral gyaan, the police officer tells her that he can’t register a complaint because “lekin ghanta to Surajkund ki hai”. When she later goes to a senior officer, he tells her about Zero FIR – that irrespective of the jurisdiction in which the crime happened, an FIR can be filed anywhere and be later transferred to the concerned police station. In another scene, after Meenal is arrested right before the weekend and her friends are trying to get her bail, a lawyer tells them to come on Monday, as she can’t get bail on a weekend. That’s when Amitabh Bachchan’s character – Deepak Sehgal, a retired lawyer – comes to their rescue and tells them that women and minors can get bail on weekends and the bail proceedings can be heard at a judge’s residence on Saturday and Sunday. To make sure that people, and young women in particular, know about these laws, the central government is planning to use the film to spread awareness about legal procedures. Delhi Police officials tell us that they have been trying to spread awareness about law through their Parivartan Cell and the film might help them in the endeavour.

In this paper, the researcher has tried to explore the concept of zero FIR and provisions relating to it in depth.

Legality of Zero F. I. R.

The provision of Zero FIR was introduced in the recommendation in Justice Verma Committee Report in the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, devised after the December 2012 Delhi gang rape of a 23-year-old 0girl in the territory.

However, policemen by and large deny knowing about provisions of “Zero FIR” and direct the complainant to Police Station having jurisdiction but Clause (e) of Section 460 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) says that if any Magistrate not empowered by laws to call for cognizance of an offence positioned in section 190 (a) or (b) erroneously but in good faith does take cognizance, the proceeding minutes will not be set aside merely on the grounds of not being empowered for same. If at the time of initiation of FIR, it looks evident that the crime was committed outside the jurisdiction of the concerned police station, then the police must be appropriately ordered to register a Zero FIR, and ensure that the FIR is transferred to the jurisdictional police station. If there is a failure in compiling with the instruction of FIR registration on the acknowledgement of information about the offence, it will invite prosecution of the police officer under section 166A which provides a rigorous imprisonment of six months is extended to two years. This evasion of responsibility may invite the departmental action for the police officer.

The Centre has asked all the states to make amendments in the state laws with respect to the registration of the Zero FIR on receipt of complaint or information about a crime without getting into argument related to the jurisdiction. Central Government, keeping in mind, the influence of the Zero FIR has warned by invoking the amendment in the criminal law that if there is any refusal with regards to the registering of the Zero FIR, it will lead to imprisonment. This ordered amendment empowers the police to register the complaint acknowledged in police station other than the jurisdictional police station where crime has been committed. The concept of Zero FIR is a free jurisdiction FIR, brought up in order to avoid the delay in filing the crime and to avoid wastage of time that adversely impacts the victim and gives a free way to offenders getting an opportunity to escape from the clutches of the law.

Can Police refuse to register for zero F. I. R. ?

Prior to the introduction of the concept of zero F. I. R. , the police cannot refuse to register an F. I. R. on the ground that, if the information conveyed to the police related to a cognizable offence on the face of it and if it is ‘information’, that is, something in the nature of a complaint or an accusation or at least information about a crime. In the same way, a police officer cannot refuse to register an F. I. R. on the ground that he is not convinced about the reasonableness or credibility of the information. At present, after the introduction of zero F. I. R, Police cannot refuse the registration of such F. I. R. on the ground that the offense was not committed within their jurisdiction. A Police officer who refuses to register an F. I. R relating to certain offences is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. A police officer who does not register an F. I. R relating to an acid attack, assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty, disrobing of a woman, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of a trafficked person, rape, or so-called “eve-teasing” can be punished with imprisonment ranging from six months up to two years and fine. If a person, deliberately, lodge a false F. I. R, a person shall be punished. Likewise, if a police officer refuses to register the F. I. R. or deliberately registers a different or false version of what the informant states may also be punished.

The need of Zero F. I. R.

Incidents like accident, murder, and rape require immediate action from the concerned authorities and rush to take samples, getting information from eye witnesses and getting circumstantial details. A zero F. I. R. helps to take immediate actions regardless of the territory where the crime or offence has taken place. Impact:• As per the static report, there is a crime committed against women in every 1. 7 minutes, and rape is committed within every 16 minutes recorded in this country and domestic violence done in every 4. 4 minutes against every girl. Zero FIR is provided as a right to women which she can exercise as required. Zero FIR in cases of any such heinous crime done against her in any place or at any moment acts as a remedy in the hands of the women.

Zero FIR is also a great power to the passengers on rail journey for a direction in making the travel safe and hassles free for the millions of passengers on the frequent journey. So, as per the requirement, the victim can file the case against theft in the place that is nearest to their approach while traveling.

Certain grave crimes like an accident, murder, and rape that require immediate action from the concerned authorities and to collect evidentiary proof from the party and place like samples, deposition from the eye witnesses and circumstantial evidence. A Zero FIR helps take into sssaccount of this prelim action regardless of deciding the territorial limits of the crime. As is the well-settled rule when there is certainly good there is always something bad attached to it. And the biggest drawback is the basic concept of the Zero FIR provision i. e. , for say a crime occur in a place and reported in other jurisdiction and if there is certain collusion between the police staff of the station where the FIR instituted and the offender then the whole root of the provision collapses.

Exploitation of Zero F. I. R.

Provisions of Zero F. I. R can be exploited by many ways. The main reason that can lead to the undue advantage in case of Zero FIR is that outcome of criminal case mainly depends on the preliminary investigation carried out at the beginning of the case. Transferring the FIR at the later stage may adversely affect the case as the opposite party may file a FIR at the Police Station of its choice and by getting the investigation report made in their favor. A further drawback of filing a Zero FIR is that Police Station not having territorial jurisdiction over the case, may lodge the FIR for the satisfaction of the complainant, but may immediately transfer the FIR to the concerned Police Station without making any preliminary inquiry in the case.

Conclusion

The Zero F. I. R. looks like a great concept in seeking a way to ameliorate criminal justice in a preliminary stage and deciding on the gulp of truth. But s requires the third eye to monitor the procedure. For such purpose, a better option is if a committee simultaneously supervising the process that will include at least an ordinary citizen and scrutinizing the whole FIR instituting process is instituted. It is believed if you have to control a system you have to be inside the system because if you are outside, the concept of privity comes into the scene.

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Illusions of Respect: Tone and Techniques in Woman at Point Zero

July 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero portrays a cruel, patriarchal society and focuses on a neglected, pain-stricken prostitute who escapes a childhood full of submission to discover power in prostitution. Throughout her entire life, Firdaus is torn between possessing power and earning the respect of her society. At one point, she is so intent on becoming respectable that she trades prostitution for a typical office job. However, after only three years, she returns to being a prostitute, prioritizing power over respect. Saadawi depicts an inverse relationship between power and respect in order to comment on gender inequities in Egyptian society.

Saadawi utilizes tone in order to illustrate the power Firdaus gains when defying social norms. After leaving her unsatisfying office job, Firdaus believes “she is free to do what she wants, and free not to do it. She experiences the rare pleasure….of being completely independent….[and] enjoying freedom from any subjection to a man” (95). Saadawi includes “free,” “pleasure,” and “independent,” to represent the liberation she has been striving for her entire life. By using an exceptionally confident tone, Saadawi exhibits the power that Firdaus now possesses to obtain her desires. Similarly, the tone used to portray herself after leaving the office job contrasts greatly with the embedded, self-descriptive tone at the beginning of her employment. Firdaus originally obtains this socially-acceptable job in order to gain respect, but ironically is described by a male superior as a “poor, miserable employee, unworthy of esteem” (81). This man’s supercilious tone is evident as he obscenely describes Firdaus while subjectively implying that his self-image and lifestyle is superior to hers. In this position, “[Firdaus’] body was….hemmed in by other bodies in the bus, [and was] a prey to male organs pressing up against it from in front and behind” (81). By comparing herself to a prey, Firdaus is recognizing her submission and more importantly, her lack of power. Conventionally, one is thought to have more power in an office job than in prostitution, but Saadawi destroys this faulty presumption by displaying contrasting tones in different stages of Firdaus’ career.

Additionally, Saadawi uses an aloof tone to establish Firdaus’ growing respect resulting from a lack of effort put into her job. Not only does Firdaus stop searching for acceptance in the workplace, she loses the determination she had when she was so desperate for respect. Satirically, “the word went round that [she] was an honorable woman….in fact the most honorable, and the most highly considered of all the female officials in the company” (83). The phrase “in fact” particularly conveys a nonplussed and slightly sarcastic tone that Saadawi uses to illustrate her lack of self-empowerment. By losing this power in herself, she gains respect from her colleagues, thus demonstrating the inverse relationship between power and respect. On top of Firdaus’ newly defined honor, “It was also said that not a single high-ranking official had been able to make me bow my head” (83). Once again, the standoffish tone conveys the lack of devotion Firdaus has to receiving and maintaining her honor. More importantly, by including the phrase “it was said,” Saadawi conveys the detachment and indifference Firdaus has towards this respect received from her colleagues. This detachment can be translated into a lack of power in herself, which ironically results in an augmentation of respect. Overall, Saadawi’s usage of an haughty tone following gained respect shows the inverse relationship between power and respect.

Along with distinct tones, Saadawi uses oxymoron and paradox to comment on the inequities in Egyptian society. Traditionally, a wife is seen as superior to a prostitute. However, after leaving her job, Firdaus considers herself to be “a very successful prostitute” (97). This phrase is oxymoronic because a prostitute is seen as the least desirable job. Success is defined as achieving wealth, fame, or respect. None of these qualities are ever associated with prostitution, yet Firdaus dares to consider herself successful. To attach a highly desirable characteristic to a dire job is paradoxical. Furthermore, Firdaus prefers “to be a free prostitute, rather than an enslaved wife” (99). This oxymoron redefines the socially-accepted definition of freedom, because society assumes that a prostitute is bound to her job, and unable to escape the endless cycle of manipulative men and involuntary actions. As Firdaus considers herself “free,” she is commenting on the inequities in Egyptian society. In addition, Firdaus claims that “the more respectable the profession, the higher the salary, and a person’s price goes up as he climbs the social ladder” (99). As a prostitute, Firdaus charges the highest price for her body, and lives a life full of wealth and prosperity. By saying “a person’s price goes up as he climbs the social ladder,” it can be inferred that Firdaus considers herself to be at the top of Cairo’s social ladder, which is a paradox. Society perceives those at the top of the social ladder to be successful, and more importantly, respected. By placing prostitutes, whom society equates with the Untouchables, at the top of the social ladder, Saadawi is illustrating the different perceptions of success and respect, thus criticizing the profound inequities in Egyptian society.

Saadawi uses metaphors, along with contradiction, to reveal the the prevalence of the inverse relationship between power and respect in the workplace. While Firdaus was still in the corporate world, “the building….had two doors: one for the more important higher level employees which remained unguarded, and another for the lesser officials which was guarded by one of the employees, very much like some kind of a doorkeeper” (80). The distinction of these two doors serves as a metaphor to show the unmistakable differences between high- and low-level employees, and further in high- and low-class members of society. A superior employee is portrayed to be respected and powerful simultaneously; yet this concept is spurious. When top executives would approach Firdaus, she “had no wish to humiliate [her] body at a low price” (82). By specifically using the word “humiliate,” a bold, audacious tone is created, displaying a compelling respect for herself. This tone contrasts with the other female employees “who were guileless enough to offer their bodies and their physical efforts every night….just to ensure that they would not be treated unfairly” (82). Describing these other employees as guileless further emphasizes the poor connotations associated with the word, and manipulates the women’s innocence into naiveness. Also, by including the word “just” it is evident that the assurance of their job is not worthy of their “physical efforts.” By offering their bodies at such a low price, they are losing any power that they previously had in themselves. However, this is necessary to gain an austere amount of respect from superior officials. This inverse relationship between power and respect is illustrated by Saadawi’s explicit use of metaphors.

Saadawi’s strategic use of various literary techniques depicts the inverse relationship between power and respect, while simultaneously commenting on the inequities in Egyptian society. Saadawi uses tone, oxymorons, paradoxes, and metaphors to display the illusion and different perceptions of the importance of power and respect. In the end, Firdaus prioritizes the power that she finds in prostitution, and subsequently gains self-respect.

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Prostitution as a Source of Power and Independence

May 22, 2019 by Essay Writer

In her essay “From the Women’s Prison: Third World Women’s Narratives of Prison,” Barbara Harlow argues that the solidarity that transcends race, gender, class, and other social categories is a vital component in the fight against oppressive forces. She also claims that Firdaus’s affiliation with the psychiatrist in Nawal El Saadawi’s novel Woman at Point Zero ultimately allows Firdaus to share her story and become part of the collective struggle against “the authoritarian political structures and patriarchal hierarchies of Egyptian society” (Harlow, 512). However, throughout the novel, Firdaus continually turns to prostitution as a way of life, and it’s her decision to become a prostitute that poses the question as to whether or not Firdaus can truly defy the social order of her society. For example, Harlow argues that Firdaus objectifies her body and sells it in a way that places her in a role subordinate to men. On the contrary, one may argue that as a prostitute, Firdaus gains more power and independence than other women in her society. Ultimately, Firdaus does obtain some degree of power and independence by proving to herself that she “owns” her own body and that she is the one who determines her own destiny. Therefore, Woman at Point Zero challenges “the social order which has assigned women to a subordinate position under the control of her male partners” (Harlow, 512) in that Firdaus controls the ways in which she utilizes her body as a prostitute to gain power and independence.The first time Firdaus becomes aware of her own power is when Sharifa introduces her to prostitution. Sharifa is the one who, through the skillful application of cosmetics, helps Firdaus to see her inner beauty and strength. Firdaus claims that Sharifa opens her eyes to unseen features of her face and body, making her more aware and understanding of them. And it’s with Sharifa’s help that Firdaus discovers that she has “black eyes with a sparkle that attract other eyes like a magnet” (Saadawi, 58). Beauty for Firdaus is one way she is able control her own body. For example, a man does not determine how Firdaus’s hair will be styled, what clothes she will wear, or how her make-up will be applied. Rather, it’s Firdaus herself who determines her appearance. Therefore, Firdaus uses her beauty as a way to lure and tease the men in her society. And while staying with Sharifa, Firdaus learns that she is the one who determines her own value. Instead of seeing her nose as big and round, Firdaus begins to see it with the “fullness of a strong passion that can turn to lust” (Saadawi, 58). She begins to embrace her appearance, which in return, raises her self-confidence, something she once lacked in childhood. By embracing her beauty and increasing her self-confidence, Firdaus is able to gain power and control, thus challenging the claim that men are in control of women. Although Firdaus learns to appreciate her beauty under the guidance of Sharifa, Firdaus decides to leave because she realizes that she needs to make her own money if she wants to obtain her own power and independence. And it’s not long after leaving Sharifa that Firdaus sleeps with a man who gives her a ten-pound note. This is the first time that Firdaus realizes that in order to obtain power, independence, and respect, she must acquire a lot of money. When Firdaus goes to the restaurant and gives the waiter the ten-pound note, she is treated with respect, and she realizes it’s the first time in her life that she eats “without being watched by two eyes gazing into [her] plate to see how much food [she] took” (Saadawi, 71). The waiter even bows over the table with a movement of “respectful humility” (Saadawi, 71) as he collects Firdaus’s money. This shows Firdaus’s control over him, which in return gives her a feeling of power and superiority that she has never felt before. The encounter with the waiter also helps Firdaus to understand how she can utilize her body in such a way that will allow her to acquire enough money to live independently. Firdaus’s apparent control also supports the claim that Woman at Point Zero challenges the social order that traditionally places men above women.After leaving the restaurant, Firdaus begins to believe in herself: she ceases to bend her head down or to look away. Instead, she walks the streets with her head held high and her eyes looking straight ahead. She even exclaims, “My footsteps struck the ground with force, with a new elation” (Saadawi, 73). As men pass her on the streets, Firdaus utilizes her control by declining the men’s invitations. She repeatedly mutters no, which puzzles them. One such male persistently asks Firdaus, “Well, why not?” and Firdaus confidently responds: “Because there are plenty of men and I want to choose with whom to go” (Saadawi, 73). As an independent prostitute, Firdaus begins to choose which men she will and will not sleep with. She also decides on the food she eats and the house she lives in. Because of this, Firdaus begins to believe in her own independence. In prostitution, Firdaus’s body becomes her own, to do with as she wishes. Firdaus even has free time to go to the movies and read books. She utilizes her free will, which once again challenges the statement that men are in control of women.Despite Firdaus’s accomplishments as an independent prostitute, her power is challenged when her friend Di’aa declares that Firdaus is not a “respectable woman” (Saadawi, 76). However, because Firdaus is so determined to be a respectable woman, she decides to look for work in an office instead of the streets. Firdaus gets a job but then she realizes that the men at the office think they can take advantage of her by raising her salary. Firdaus despises them for thinking such a thing, saying “the price of my body is much higher than the price that can be paid for it with a pay rise” (Saadawi, 81). She believes that as a prostitute she had been looked upon with much more respect and been valued higher than all of the female employees. Firdaus claims that she “feels sorry for the other girls who are guileless enough to offer their bodies and physical efforts every night in return for a meal, or a good yearly report” (Saadawi, 82). Unlike these women, Firdaus doesn’t let the men break her pride. For example, none of the officials are able to make Firdaus bow her head or lower her eyes to the ground. Although Firdaus is able to remain in control as an office worker, she decides that prostitution might be a surer path to dignity and self-determination than the “respectable” life of an office assistant.Upon quitting her job, Firdaus returns to the life of an independent prostitute, where she continues to challenge the social order by acquiring even more power than she had before. She is soon paid the highest price, becoming so successful that she obtains the power to employ any servant to wash her clothes or clean her shoes. Firdaus even donates money to a charity and gets her picture printed in the newspaper, which says that she is a “citizen with a sense of civic responsibility” (Saadawi, 100). By utilizing her body as a prostitute again, Firdaus convinces herself that she has chosen prostitution with her own free will. She claims, “my insistence on remaining a prostitute proved to me this was my choice and that I had some freedom, at least the freedom to live in a situation better than that of other women” (Saadawi, 97). Firdaus further believes that having to be a wife is much worse than being a prostitute, for marriage in Firdaus’s eyes is the “cruelest suffering for women” (Saadawi, 96). As a wife, Firdaus had to passively watch her husband make choices, beat her incessantly, and force her to have sex with him. But as a prostitute, she is free to do what she wants. Firdaus experiences the rare pleasure of being “completely independent, of enjoying freedom from any subjection to a man, to marriage, or to love; of being divorced from all limitations” (Saadawi, 95). This power and independence that Firdaus achieves proves that the novel challenges the social order that places women in a subordinate position.As mentioned above, Firdaus prefers prostitution to marriage as a way of life, for as a successful prostitute she is independent and self-supporting, free to choose the men with whom she will associate. Firdaus therefore utilizes her body as a prostitute to gain power and independence. And it’s this power and success that gives Firdaus the confidence to defy the social code and murder the pimp. Even though Firdaus is condemned to prison to die, she becomes part of a collective struggle against oppression when she agrees to share her story with El Saadawi. Ultimately, “Firdaus’s personal story ends with her execution, but the narrative of her life becomes part of a historical agenda” (Harlow, 512). In the end, it’s clear that Woman at Point Zero challenges the social code that places women in a position subordinate to men.

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The Symbolic Significance of Eyes

February 14, 2019 by Essay Writer

In a society where women are made to be invisible, the ability to see and be seen is exceptionally impactful. Eyes serve as the ultimate testament to experiences and as a vital means of social commentary in a particularly misogynistic culture. Firdaus emphasizes eyes to reveal the emotional depth they hold, indicate the significance of relationships within her life, and stress the gender disparity she experiences throughout her life. The imagery of eyes is developed throughout the novel from a symbol of comfort to a statement of possession and dominance. Nawal El Saadawi utilizes eyes as a symbol of the forms of captivity present in Firdaus’ life in Woman at Point Zero.

Originally, eyes serve as a symbol for the comfort and security that Firdaus’ mother provides for her. The attention and affection one receives from a mother cannot be replaced, however it is this genuine connection that Firdaus so desperately yearns for for the entirety of her life. Firdaus’ reliance on her mother is strongly enforced by her need for a female role model in a society influenced purely by men, and eventually she learns to overcome the barriers even her mother could not surpass. Firdaus’ dependence of this relationship is evident as she describes the “two eyes to which [she] clung to with all [her] might… two eyes that alone seemed to hold [her] up” (17). However, what was once a symbol of validation becomes a constant reminder of her vulnerability, a by-product of her attempts to prove her worth and find acceptance. The first time Firdaus experiences rejection in this form is by her step-mother, and a crucial indication of this is within her imagery of her eyes, stating that “they were not two rings of pure white surrounding two circles of intense black… no light seemed ever to touch the eyes of this woman” (17). This imagery initially compares her eyes to her mother’s, and then emphasizes the difference in their emotional connotations, indicating darkness and fear. Because of the new intimations that become associated with eyes after this point, this significance of this symbol is no longer straightforward and simple. Eyes progressed passed plainly being an indication of trust or strength, and the symbol became complex by providing a dynamic representation of her relationships. From this point on, the complexity of eyes causes internal turmoil within Firdaus as she continues to seek the comfort and acceptance that is redolent of her past. However, her attempts to assert her personal value are constantly overshadowed by the fact that she is a victim of a fiercely patriarchal society that refuses to acknowledge her merit.

The evident eye imagery throughout Firdaus’ youth illuminates her search for comfort and acceptance, and becomes addressed particularly in an interaction with her teacher, Miss Iqbal. She intervenes with Firdaus’ pensive state of mind, prompting her to comment “I could see her eyes looking at me… despite the darkness…they were after me…holding on to me… refusing to let me go” immediately providing warmth and concern (28). Miss Iqbal’s motherly nature makes her easily comparable to Firdaus’ mother, and the parallelism between the two characters becomes undeniable once she is described as having the same “two rings of pure white, surrounding two circles of intense black” in her eyes (29). Her desperation for this motherly comfort is noted as she describes how “[her] fingers held on to her hand with such violence that no force on earth, no matter how great, could tear it away from [her]” (30). However, this seemingly unbreakable bond proves to be in vain, as Miss Iqbal fails to acknowledge the interaction furthermore. This abandonment causes the feeling of solace Firdaus once found in the eyes of another to become that of uneasiness and possession. The initial development in this symbolism becomes apparent when Firdaus is picturing Miss Iqbal’s eyes and “opened [her] eyes wide in panic as if threatened with blindness,” signifying how this symbol henceforth becomes haunting and despairing. The pattern that is established by the symbolic use of eyesemphasizes her tendency to rekindle a long lost memory that inevitably leads to loss.

Despite these newly developed nuances Firdaus begins to associate with eyes, she continues to cling to the remnants of a warmer past once linked to the symbol. Because the basic human right of acceptance has been denied throughout her entire lifetime, her desire for it only becomes more intense and evident within each of her interactions. Still seeking comfort in the eyes of others, she begins a new relationship with a man named Ibrahim. As she falls in love with him, she describes his eyes with the repetitive imagery of black and white rings, signifying the intensity of the relationship. However, this relationship follows the path of each before it, and turns into one of deceit and abandonment. Firdaus learns of Ibrahim’s impending marriage to another woman, and in her grief, she describes her natural tendency to yearn for acceptance and love by stating: “I wanted nothing, nothing at all, except perhaps one thing. To be saved through love from it all… To become a human being who was not looked upon with scorn, or despised, but respected, and cherished and made to feel whole” (94). This self-realization is essential to the character development of Firdaus, because as she finally acknowledges her own vulnerabilities, she can become stronger and more independent. Soon after this, Firdaus continues her revelations, understanding the truth of the discrimination and disparity in society. The parallelism drawn between Ibrahim and Miss Iqbal is uncanny, both including nearly identical scenes of Firdaus awakening from a frightened dreamlike state while imagining the eyes, then engaging in a conversation with a friend, stating both times that the love between Firdaus and the other is impossible. The blatant similarity between the two situations serves to equate the two, while also subtly emphasizing the difference in Firdaus’ reaction to each doomed relationship. She suffered after coming to realize that she would never again see Miss Iqbal, and though she did the same at the end of her relationship with Ibrahim, she finally used the experience to gain virtue and move forward with her life. This becomes clear when she notes how the greatest achievement is “being completely independent” and “enjoying freedom from any subjection to a man, to marriage or to love” (95). From this point on, she realized the atrocities that result from men, the uselessness of love, and the importance of independence. Losing her love with Ibrahim led to her finally grasping self-love and asserting her feminism, and accordingly, she never again mentions eyes as a symbol.

Throughout Woman at Point Zero, Firdaus has difficulty discerning the forms of captivity that are developed through the symbolism of eyes. She relishes the safety and comfort that can result from captivity out of love, because her desperate need for acceptance and affection cannot be fulfilled. Yet without fail, this captivity becomes one of fear, and Firdaus fully experiences the trauma of rejection and abandonment. Though eyes are symbolically utilized with both positive and negative connotations, ultimately, they represent others’ perceptions, something Firdaus learns to dismiss, after an incessant series of disappointment and loss.

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