The (Unforeseen) Female Hero

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Scheherazade is one of the unsung heros in the Islam world. What strikes me every time when I think about her story is that fact that she used words to free not only herself, but many other women as well. The power of words is a mighty force that we often overlook. In turn, we can overlook the person behind that voice as well. Scheherazade’s beginnings were doomed and her father thought for sure she would die if she married Shahryar, but she was determined to end his pattern of killing. Scheherazade utilized the only known weapon that she could think of: her words, intellect, and will. The use of Scheherazade’s mind was a pivotal in the sexual power play that would ensue. Because of that move, she was able to always stay one step ahead of Shahryar and keep him wanting more, subsequently sparing her life one more night. 

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What truly took me by surprise, however, is the fact that Scheherazade, a woman, was even allowed to be the hero in this narrative. The Western mindset, in my experience, has always portrayed the man as the hero and saviour of stories. Scheherazade was the unexpected powerhouse in the story, and it was allowed. But even more interesting is the fact that when this story travelled West, Scheherazade was highly eroticized and her intellect taken away. Why is it that whenever a large female character comes onto the scene, they are almost always diluted down to their sexuality and anatomy? Does this gender not have anymore to offer than their genitalia? What Scheherazade proves it so contradictory to this view though; that when sex is paired with intellect, it reaches another level of power entirely. The pattern of eroticizing the Eastern Islam female is not only applicable to Scheherazade and the Thousand and One Nights, this is seen with the perception of the Harem.

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In the East, the harem is a place of solitude and dark emotions. But when viewed from a Western perspective, it is yet again another component of the Islam culture that becomes subjected to the objectification and self-gratification by the West. When I travel to Morocco specifically, I hope that I will be able to break these molds and appreciate the culture for its true and natural beauty; both superficially and intellectually.

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