المرأة العربية في مواجهة العصر: أفق ورؤية / Arab Women and the Age: Horizons and Visions



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الجيوسي, سلمى الخضراء; Jayyusi, Salma Khadra

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Publication Date





[In this essay, the distinguished Palestinian poet, critic, editor and translator expresses her view about Arab women, their accomplishments, and what role she expects them to play. These are excerpts from her testimonial essay: * The Arab woman stands strong, confidant and capable in her encounter with our time. I sense that I am facing the twenty-first century without fear about her future, for the world, as I feel it, has started its new turn so that the Arab woman carries greater weight in the balance of human power that will enter the next century. * Perhaps the most important thing that we can seize from this century, that is laden with torments, is the face of the Arab woman who has discovered herself. She is the promise that I hope will not be thwarted for the knowledge that has been granted cannot be turned into ignorance, and nothing can take from her the strength, intelligence, confidence, diligence, patience, and love of labour that she has discovered in herself. * Great struggles and real conflicts await the Arab woman, but, at the same time, she confronts the opportunity to achieve the renaissance that the Arab man began in the nineteenth century without her. The continuous efforts that the Arab man exerted were not insignificant. So were his bold thought and the conflict that he took up towards achieving an Arab situation that accords with the progress, unity, power and knowledge that the world had attained. The Arab man made considerable sacrifices, especially in this century; he was tortured, exiled, imprisoned and murdered for the sake of the achievement of a noble life for the Arab people, but his efforts were frustrated in his conflict for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important reason was that he had entered the battle alone, without the Arab woman, that is, independent of half the society. * In truth, woman has spared humanity across the centuries a terrible burden. Her gift is not only a continuous effort that some have compared to the rock of Sisyphus, because it is renewed as soon as it is completed, but she has also given humanity her lost talents, her restrained genius and much creativity in thought, art and sciences that she had never discovered in herself. * A new light that has appeared everywhere in the Arab world promises to redress this situation. It stems from the the modern Arab woman's movement and her deep longing for knowledge and noble work, from her abundant energy that unstable political manoeuvres have not depleted, from the innocence of her background and the purity of her history full of patience and giving. * The Arab woman will remain a guardian of the domestic framework, for in the composition of Arab civilization there is a kind of chemistry of friendship, love and motherhood that will preserve the balance of life. When she enters public life, the Arab woman will carry this ability to it. She is able to emphasize her existence in this world and to achieve-with her diligence, efforts and concern with the future of her children and the world-not an insignificant amount of balance and responsibility that she has inherited from her long past. * Perhaps the most important thing that has happened to woman in the world is that she has been freed or that she has become able to be free from the biological burden that has condemned her to continuous child-bearing and birth-this has liberated her so that her other capabilities could gush out. What enabled her liberation was that education had become open to her everywhere in the world. From the accumulation of injustice, insult, degradation, marginalization, exploitation and enslavement, a great social revolution, perhaps the greatest one in the history of humanity, erupted in the world-it was less tumultuous than other revolutions and took place at a slower pace, and its victims numbered less-but it is a comprehensive revolution that changed the demography of the world and overturned its balance and concepts. * I believe that the discourse of liberation from now onwards must include both man and woman, and man more than woman. For the loss of the old gains that he had made, and the pleasure of domination over woman that satisfied his egoism, will be difficult for some men, although all gains in life must be accompanied by a certain loss. * The fear of man from the rise of woman as an equal in the sphere that he had historically withheld was a real fear that continued until it became obvious that it was a lost battle. Afterwards the association of public culture with the feminine began to wane until it faded completely. Generalizations about the feminizing of public culture used to rely upon a strong custom that excluded woman from the structure of high culture and distanced her from its institutions and centres, but Western woman was able to find herself a strong solid place in the world of writing, criticism, literature, poetry and all forms of development and knowledge. Before that man had no alternative but to capitulate, and the battle has now become history. * I am very curious about new literature, for I have become deeply weary of the literature of former periods in this century, and, for this reason, despite my inability to contribute to these new talents as I would have wished had I been able, I observe new creativity with overflowing joy. It is a new culture that attests to the unity of origins, perspectives and pursuits and that these nations, afflicted with their endeavours, are incomparably rich with their creative artists, women and men who mutually help one another to rebuild bridges, palaces and fortresses that the disasters of the twentieth century have demolished.]

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