I re-read one of my favorite books recently, Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El-Saadawi, and it is better than I remember it being the first time.
The novel’s narrator, Firdaus, is on death-row in Eygpt and her execution is set in one week. For the rest of the week, Firdaus recounts her life and how she ended-up on death row. She starts with her childhood; she was born to parents who didn’t love her and was given off to her uncle who married her off to an awful man who abused her.
After a particularly rough night with her husband, which ended in him raping her, Firdaus left her husband promptly. Suddenly Firdaus had to provide for herself in a culture that did not value women’s independence and most jobs were not open to women. So Firdaus decided a career in one of the very few jobs open to women – prostitution.
It proved to be a very luxurious job – FIrdaus owned her own body, something few women could say. She was able to use a word she wasn’t able to, even in her marriage: “no.” She denied men she wanted to, even men who were not accustomed to being denied by women, and got great satisfaction from it. She made good money from being a prostitute, and owned her own apartment and lived very comfortably.
After a few years, Firdaus decided to work at a factory, doing a conventional job. Oddly enough, Firdaus thought the factory was oppressive, not prostitution. She said, “These women are more afraid of losing their job than a prostitute is of losing her life.”
This book changed my perception of prostitution – for better or worse. It’s a slim novel, about 130 pages, and well worth the read. The author, Nawal El-Saadawi is a rad woman, and her biography on Wikipedia is worth a look.
two weddings and some feminism
7 years ago