Breaking down barriers


After finishing the book Scheherazade Goes West by Fatema Mernissi, I was left perplexed. Not only had my outlook on Western Culture changed, but my thoughts about the gender roles in society were skewed as well. By reading this book I realized that I have been kept hidden from reality and have been blinded by superficial materialism ever since I can remember. Fatema tells stories that have been passed down from her grandmother and displays a different world, one that we seem to have been concealed from, and by doing this breaks down barriers which separate the West from the East.

My favorite quote from this book is one that I believe to be true, “To travel is the best way to learn and empower yourself” (Mernissi, 1). Throughout the story that is exactly what Mernissi does. She expands her knowledge by meeting new people and encountering all different kinds of settings, some that even make her distressed. She seeks to make the uncomfortable, comfortable and by doing finds the answer that she had been seeking for all along. The East and the West, although very different do have things in common, and Mernissi is sure to address this. “Framing youth as beauty and condemning maturity is the weapon used against women in the West just as limiting access to public space is the weapon used in the East. The objective remains identical in both cultures: to make women feel unwelcome, inadequate, and ugly” (Mernissi, 216). This comes as a shock to many people, and it was an eye-opener to me as well. The realization that people from other countries aren’t the only ones that are oppressed, but so are we and we are probably worse off then they are. Us women are bound to fashion codes, weight watching, and the harsh judgement of one another. A majority of us abide by these “laws” and find ourselves guilty of trying to make others happy, but not ourselves. Trying to fit into a certain size jean, curling or straightening our hair, matching an outfit perfectly, all things that we do without noticing, to impress people we don’t even know, most of which we will never talk to. We see people from other countries and assume that just because they are covered, they are oppressed, when in actuality it is us who are the exploited.

Another thing that stood out to me was this, “Femininity is the beautiful, masculinity is the sublime… A woman who dares to be intelligent is punished on the spot: She is ugly.” (Mernissi, 91) Kant’s message was one that disgusted me. To think that a woman cannot be beautiful due to having a mind of her own saddened me. I don’t think it’s right that a woman should have to hide or dim her brilliance simply to please a man, and thanks to many women who paved the way, that isn’t how it works today. Like Mernissi, while growing up I was taught that learning and educating myself will get me where I want to be, wherever that may be. This has held true, by acquiring knowledge I have been enlightened and thus brought happiness to myself.

Gender roles are something that I haven’t looked much into, which led me to not have much of an opinion about the issue. But Scheherazade Goes West has strengthened my awareness and given me the opportunity to think these things over. I realize that it is important that I have a mind of my own, and this book has intensified my will to determine what I do and don’t believe in. I feel as though I have been empowered byisthis boo book, it has given me a wider perspective on the view of other cultures, including my own. By seeing things from a different prospect I no longer have the narrow-minded, uneducated outlook that many others typically have.


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