Nawal El Saadawi’s In Camera
Nawal El Saadawi’s In Camera
Nawal El Saadawi tells the story of a young girl living in a paternalistic society. It is a story of justice, inequality, and oppression. Saadawi tells the story of Leila, who is facing trial for calling her country’s leader stupid. This individual aspect shows that the justice system does not believe in freedom of expression since it restricts verbal speech. The girl is in trial because she expressed her personal beliefs. She is raped and tortured while in prison. This does not happen once, but it continues for about 126 days. What she goes through while in prison torments her. It causes her mental anguish and physical pain and suffering. Leila lives in a world where women do not seem to have any voice at all. Men are supposed to be the spokespersons of the society. Leadership is dictatorial, and even the male judge faces criticisms for his utterances. Women face many challenges all over the world. Some of the challenges and trials they go through are similar in nature. However, they come from different cultures and societies that uphold different traditions and beliefs. This forces them to find alternative ways of solving their problems. Hence, women in different cultures will end up solving similar challenges differently. The diversity of cultures makes it impossible for effective western intervention as it pertains to women’s issues.
Western cultures have different ideals and beliefs from the women represented in Saadawi’s story. In the story, there is the firm belief in family and society. The family turns out to support Leila. However, the parents have mixed emotions and feelings concerning their daughter’s situation. In this case, the father experiences both a sense of shame and pride because of her daughter. He feels proud when the people applaud and cheer for Leila for calling the leader stupid. This means that he believes in her right to express herself, and to speak about the ills in her country. However, he feels a sense of shame when he hears that his daughter was raped. Instead of imagining the trauma and the pain that his daughter experienced under the hands of the men, the father feels that his name has been tarnished. This is not to show that Leila’s father is not saddened by what happened to her. In fact, he refers to the men who raped her as dogs. This society has a high regard for the family name. The name is important to the people. The father feels that his dignity and honor were violated when his daughter was raped. The parents expect the children to uphold the name by not doing anything that can put the family to shame.
Women in Leila’s culture were not expected to participate in political affairs. People expected women to marry and start having children when they reached a certain age. Leila remembers how her mother always used to say that politics were a man’s affair and women should not be involved. Her father also remembers the words he used to tell her often. He remembers telling her that politics were not for women and girls, but she did not listen. Her father reasons that Leila would not be in the situation she is in if she had been a man. This shows several beliefs in the society. It shows that some women such as Leila are daring enough to go against societal norms. They are willing to go against the demands and wishes of their parents and fight for their beliefs. Conversely, it shows that parents are also willing to protect their children. They give them advice on what they are supposed to do and how they should live. They realize that even though they are willing to support their children, they cannot change the society.
Leila is resilient and courageous, and she shows this in the midst of her suffering and turmoil. She speaks her mind even when others do not consider it wise for her to do so. She is willing to face the consequences of her actions. The men raping her seem to think that they have stolen and destroyed the most important thing to her. They think that her body, especially her sexuality, is the most valuable thing to her. Even in the midst of such crisis and turmoil, she calls her attackers fools, and tells them that the most important thing to her is not between her legs. Leila has lost all feeling, and she does not seem concerned about what happens to her. She stands by her conviction as she tells the men raping her that they are stupid.
Western intervention would not be applicable in Leila’s case. It would not be possible to change the entire society overnight. Although many people applaud Leila, they still think that she has various restrictions as a woman. Women in the western world have been able to realize certain objectives related to equality because they have had support from the society, which includes both women and men. In Leila’s society, many men are not willing to show their support for the women, even though they agree with their actions. Some of them, such as Leila’s father, consider it better to die than to face the coming wrath. The people do not protest when the trial has to continue in camera. This will mean injustice for Leila because the public will not have a chance to participate.
Nawal El Saadawi. “In Camera.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature: Volume F 2999. Ed. Lawall, Sarah. New York: Norton, 2004. 2999-3008. Print
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