A discussion on how Men are Portrayed in the two texts Woman at Point Zero by El Saadawi and Lysistrata by Aristophanes
El Sadaawi and Aristophanes convey their perspectives of men from two different times and societies, however both share their view on men that whilst they enforce their dominance on society, they become weak and powerless to their sexual appetites - A discussion on how Men are Portrayed in the two texts Woman at Point Zero by El Saadawi and Lysistrata by Aristophanes introduction. Men are portrayed by both authors as being at the mercy of their sexual desires, driven by their lust to dominate and abuse society for control. Aristophanes employs the use of raw sexual connotation and metaphor within the dialogue to powerfully provide the male characters with the freedom to convey their explicitly depicted emotion and sexual frustration.
El Saadawi takes a different approach to Aristophanes, utilizing a first person perspective to add inclusive and intimate details to the story, such that the reader is given a greater insight into the feelings and emotions of a woman dominated by a male society. The narrative perspectives of both texts powerfully convey the authors’ intentions. In Woman at Point Zero, El Saadawi writes from the account of Firdaus in a first-person perspective; a woman facing execution who has endured the hardships and brutality of an Egyptian society established upon male domination and oppression.
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In Lysistrata, Aristophanes yields to a wider range of perspectives to portray his story. However, the central focus is on the coalition formed by Lysistrata and the other women, who swear an oath to refrain from sex until the male militarism ceases. There is an omnipresent narration that depicts the viewpoints of all the major characters and groups; Lysistrata and her force, the Men, the Male Chorus and the Female Chorus. This is effective in that the issues submerge and are dealt with in conflicting dialogue, “(Stratyllis)
If you do such a thing, we tell you plain, your mum won’t recognize your face again! to Men’s Leader)1”. The first person perspective that El Saadawi employs effectively incorporates a personalized sense to the series of events in her life, such that it influences and persuades the reader to feel sympathetic to the horrendous mistreatment inflicted upon her by the male component of society. Whilst Aristophanes and El Saadawi write from two different times and societies, they express a similar message that whilst men yearn for domination and control, they can easily be manipulated when sex becomes an issue.
In the case of Woman At Point Zero, Firdaus found that sex was a tool she could use to take control of her life and survive, although she fell victim to male lust. Sex is similarly portrayed as a tool in Lysistrata; the women learn that men are at their mercy when sex is denied. This is exploited to manipulate their will by enticing them with the proposition that their sexual desires will be fulfilled should the wars cease “(Myrrhine) No I won’t. Not until you men reach a settlement and stop the war”
2. Firdaus also found that when she was a self-employed prostitute, she was granted with an extreme amount of power, as she found that all men would pay for her services, “A man cannot stand being rejected by a woman, because deep down inside he feels a rejection of himself). “3 This is re-enforced when she refuses the Prince; a man who symbolizes the heir to the male rulership of a society bounded by domination and hypocrisy, “I have triumphed over both life and death because I no longer desire to live, nor do I any longer fear to die. I want nothing.
I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. Therefore I am free” 4. In denying the epitome of the male essence Firdaus so boldly loathed, she symbolizes her escape from the male grasp by tearing up the Prince’s money on page 98. In this, she sets herself free from the imprisonment set upon her by men; finally severing the chains that bound her to a world where sex was her only safe passage beyond leading a life confined to a pointless existence, as she states earlier in the novel “.. in that case I want to be one of the masters and not one of the slaves”5. The authors explore the behaviour and reactions of the men when refused sexual services similarly; they experience sexual frustration when denied these services and as such often resort to abuse and force.
Aristophanes exercises a different approach to express the attitude of men by powerfully describing their sexual status with metaphors and connotations, “And what might you be? A man, or a walking phallus? ” (Cinesias)6. Particular detail is given to the erectile status of the men, “(Cinesias).. ou’ve got a spear hidden in your clothes.. “7 As “the crisis is getting more inflamed than ever! (Leader)8” the description of this status is revealed more thoroughly throughout the play as they experience uncontrollable erections; the First Athenian states on Page 186 as “.. dying of erectile hyperfunction! “. The frustration within the male sector of society in Woman At Point Zero is dealt with differently; Firdaus stands a lone fight against men, as revolutionary as the sex strike in Lysistrata.
She discovered in her experiences that “the law punishes women, but turns a blind eye to what men do. “9 Initially in Lysistrata, the men resort to violence to overthrow the women and take control once again, however their efforts are proven futile, whereas Firdaus is raped several times by several men in her life and draws the conclusion that death is her ultimate passage to freedom, “I have triumphed over both life and death because I no longer desire to live, nor do I any longer fear to die. I want nothing.
I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. Therefore I am free10 “. Firdaus was often a victim to sexual abuse, from her Uncle to Bayoumi, who abused her when she sought to seek employment “How dare you raise your voice to me, you street walker, you low woman”, slapping her. It is evident that as several male figures interfered with her life sexually, her perception of the male sex was dramatically influenced such that she came to the pinnacle in her life where she had “no trust in men anymore (to Police Officer)
11”. Both texts portray the male sex as weak and powerless to their lust; Aristophanes conveys men’s weakness through the sexual deprivation and overwhelming desire that ultimately consumes their will power, leading them to accept any outcome so long as they are rescued from sexual frustration. This is depicted by Cenesias who was willing to throw down his weapons for a moment with his wife “On my own head be it. Forget about that oath.. 12”. El Saadawi expresses this differently, as the men resort to manipulation through the abuse of their power, primarily through physical abuse to conform Firdaus to their ideals of a woman, “A virtuous woman was not supposed to complain about her husband. Her duty was perfect obedience. (Uncle’s Wife)13”. El Saadawi and Aristophanes portray men in their texts as oppressors of society, dominating and forcing control, however when sex becomes an issue they are powerless and the roles are reversed where women obtain the power and can bring the men to satisfy any fulfilment.
Using different narrative approaches, they convey their messages from two different times and societies. Aristophanes writes from a male perspective, ironically conveying a similar view of men in society as Firdaus, a woman. He demonstrates the imperfections in societies undermined by male authority, where a coalition of women meet in solemn conclave; Lysistrata expounds her scheme, the rigorous application to husbands and lovers of a self-denying ordinance – “(Lysistrata) We must renounce – sex. ”
14. The story is successful in that initially the men seek to intimidate the women into abandoning their deals and stand down, however when this comes to be a false realization they eventually falter as a group and accept the women’s wishes. El Saadawi reveals the life of a woman victimized by male oppression in a society also governed by males, as she describes on Page 88 “Men imposed deception on women and punish them for being deceived, force them down to the lowest level and punish them for falling so low, bind them in marriage or chastise them with menial services for life, or insults, or blows”.
She illustrates the flaws in such a society; the male dictatorship and double standards that caused unprecedented corruption. Both texts convey the power of sex as an ultimate tool; it brought an ancient Greek society into order, and brought a modern day Egyptian society into chaos and destruction. Through brilliant depiction both authors portray men as both masters and slaves to sex. They found that their sexual hunger was often one they could not satisfy without force, where quite often it was they who became the slaves to this desire.