March 02, 2006

Eberhardt "On Women"

I am still reading Isabelle Eberhardt's last book, In the warm shade of Islam, and although I wish I could reprint the whole book right here on my blog, I shall have to be content with publishing a few quotes that really strike a cord, somewhere inside for whatever reason.

In her chapter, Reflections in a courtyard, Eberhardt talks about the ever so contemporary issue of women. I was surprised at her ideas and thoughts, though 100 years old, it seems we still ask the same questions, regardless of emancipation and equality. In the following quote, keep in mind Eberhardt is disguised as a man and just entered a courtyard in Bechar, Morocco.

"I entered into their midst and sat down in a corner of the courtyard. They didn't even notice me. Of course, there's nothing remarkable about me. I'm able to pass everywhere completely unobserved, an excellent position to be in for observing. If women are not good at this, it's because their costume attracts attention. Women have always been made to be looked at, and they aren't yet much bothered by the fact. This attitude, I think, gives far too much advantage to men."

So what do some Arabic proverbs say on observance?

Absar min Zarqaa Al Yamama, which means, more observant than Zarqaa Al Yamama, who apparently was a woman famous for her good eye sight.

Absar min al watwaat, which means more observant than a bat.

The question is, do women face the same predicament today? Are they made to be looked at and if so, by whom? Do they themselves contribute to it whilst being, like Eberhardt said "not yet much bothered by the fact", or is it imposed on them unawarely?

9 comments:

farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Of course, women were made to be not just looked at but loved, admired and appreciated. But then, that is the poet and photographer in me speaking.

I think God has given women a keener observation as part of their survival kit.

They don't care about the attention they get? Now this is a little hard for me to digest but if you know someone like that, I'd love to meet her.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Naturally they were not just made to be looked at... but I think speaking of love and admiration is not the issue here.

I think the intersting part in what she says, and does (dressing up as a man in order to study the world she lives in), is what makes one think about her statement. She is not talking abt the nature of women, as in their inner aspects, because ven if she dresses as a man, she is still a woman. She argues that because of a womans "dress or outer form", it would hinder her from access to places she normally coudl not go to had she not been dressed as a man. I think the challenge in her statement lies there.

Lol, I don't know someone like that. Still I think she means more that, they are not bothered with the fact that they are "made to be looked at", and not that "they are looked at". She is definately being hard on her sex.

BuJ said...

someone once told me that men dress up only when they have to, but women dress up to be noticed (often by other women).
I think there is some truth in that.

as for your quote, definitely women have always been observed and looked at .. I guess it comes with the job description.. not that it's good.

farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

I read about this young adventurous lady who got into one of UK's largest military bases, dressed up as an officer, and ordered the soldiers around. And the men, they obeyed! It was hilarious I think - till they found out they had been had.

It's all in the "dress or outer form" sometimes, a uniform in this case.

But if a lady is working as an undercover agent, she'd probably be somewhat safer dressed up as a man. Plus, as a shabby-looking man, she can avoid all the undue attention a beautiful woman would normally attract.

There are some cultural undertones too, but then that is anothet discussion altogether.

Destitute Rebel said...

This is a very tough question, I got a lot of heat from readers on one of my postings about women although I meant well.

http://pakistani-abysmal-ramblings.blogspot.com/2006/01/poem-women.html

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Farrukh: That is exactly one of the points I think is made by Eberhardt.

D. Rebel: I wonder when you will reveal the identity of the poet :)

Buj: Comes with the job description? Are we hearing a sexist remark? lol

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