Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent: Some Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival Saba Mahmood
Close Reading Analysis
Mahmood looks to tackle the issue of not the cultures behind feminism but to understand the underpinnings behind feminism. She suggests that quite often the narrative is focused on feminism as a response to some sort of societal construct which allows the subordination of women. Her assertion is that we have to look at how feminism is defined in society. She brings up pertinent questions such as is feminism simply an expression of the desire for free will or is it merely a breaking from the societal constraints? And further more, is desire even relevant? She goes on to contend that it is, in fact, relevant and that it should be the basis of our focus when discussing feminist movements. To simply indicate that feminist movements arrive out of an opposition to another force minimalizes the role of the agents acting to bring about change and instead gives an inordinate amount of due to the oppressors. To reinforce this, she brings about many ideas. One is the “universality of desire” and how that is something we can all relate to and is in fact the basis of most liberal movements but in this case if often discounted. Another is the identity and purpose of the veil in Islam and the Arab world, which has had an increased prevalence in Egypt today. Some argue that the basis for this is functional. Others argue that it is a silent protest to the Western-liberal ideals that occupy much of the discourse in society today. However, the actual participants motivations – or as Mahmood suggests, the “real motivations” -are hardly ever mentioned. These “instruments of oppression” are also seen in other pieces we’ve studied. One where the veil also is utilized and its motivations are questioned is in “The Battle of Algiers” where women militants used the veil, a symbol of their national identity, as a front to hide the bombs and guns...
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