Restrictions Upon Women Short Summary

Table of Content

The article “Size 6: The Western Women’s Harem” by Fatema Mernissi discusses the damaging effects of Western beauty standards on women, comparing it to the control inflicted on women in extremist nations through the veil. Mernissi highlights how Eastern countries have a more flexible beauty standard, where men are not involved in fashion, unlike the West where fashion is used by men to exert control over women’s clothing choices. Drawing from her personal experiences in a western chain store and her home country of Morocco, she emphasizes the parallels between men’s control over women through fashion and through the veil, expressing a preference for the latter as it is less risky and more visible.

According to the author, the veil reduces women’s ability to protest for their rights and turns them into mindless individuals who only desire fashionable clothing. While some of her points are valid, I am hesitant to agree entirely. One of her main arguments is that veils harm women, but she failed to provide supporting evidence for this claim, assuming it to be self-evident. Consequently, she misjudges her readers and fails to target a broader audience. Her thesis argues that the veil can cause harm and humiliation when enforced by state police in extremist nations like Iran, Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia. However, her choice of words isn’t entirely accurate since women in these societies are not harmed by the veil itself but rather by the oppressive patriarchal systems prevalent in these societies. For instance, Afghanis adhere to an unwritten code called the ‘Pashtunwali’ which prioritizes family honor over any state or Islamic laws and perpetuates abusive male attitudes towards women (F. Shirazi, p56).

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

In Iran, there is a use of literal images for propaganda that promotes the idea of the ideal Iranian woman. This propaganda is enforced upon the women in Iran, compelling them to conform to this constructed notion of the ‘ideal’ woman. (F.Shirazi, p116). Some argue that the hijab contributes to such behaviors, but examining Muslim women in the West and countries like U.A.E. that have more freedom, it becomes evident that the hijab is not what restricts women. Blogger and writer Sara Yasin declares that “It’s absurd to believe that oppression is tied to how covered or uncovered someone’s body is.” Instead, what these women truly require are education, political rights, and opportunities for expressing dissent.

The text emphasizes the importance of empowering individuals to challenge established institutions. However, it criticizes the tendency to judge others based on their clothing choices, which deflects attention from deeper, less visible issues. According to the author, oppression entails disregarding someone’s opinion, making it clear that the patriarchal system, rather than the veil itself, oppresses women. Additionally, the author’s perspective seems limited as they fail to provide a comprehensive analysis of the issue. Their viewpoint relies heavily on personal experiences in Morocco and a single visit to a western chain store, leading them to erroneously generalize these instances to represent the entire West.

The author states that the logical fallacy lies in the fact that the person did not provide any evidence to support their claim about stores across America having a similar effect on people. The author, on the other hand, has personally visited chain stores in both America and Canada and found that most of them offer clothing in sizes up to fourteen or sixteen. The exception is a few niche market boutiques that only cater to sizes six or smaller, or stores specifically for teens that offer clothing up to size twelve.

Therefore, it is baseless to believe that all chain stores in America do not serve customers above a size six, as they do. Additionally, there are hardly any objections from salesladies concerning losing customers due to unconventional sizes, considering that the average size of women in America is approximately twelve to fourteen. However, this does not imply that there is no societal pressure on physical appearance in America, as anorexia affects one to two percent of American women. (Wolf, N. (2002). Pg 5)

The author’s failure to connect her anecdote with her thesis weakens the argument’s focus, causing the reader to lose track of the original point. She recounts an extensive anecdote that spans one and a half pages and details every conversation. Following each dialogue, she expresses astonishment at the store’s practices and compares them to her experiences in Morocco. However, she fails to link these observations effectively to her argument. In a realization, she states, “Her words sounded so simple, but the threat they implied was so cruel that I realized for the first time that maybe ‘size 6’ is a more violent restriction imposed on women than is the Muslim veil.” After this realization, she leaves the store and forms her conclusions. Although this conversation illustrates the cultural contrast between two worlds, it does not effectively prove a point as the author becomes offended and generalizes all American stores based on her experience at this one particular establishment.

The author’s explanation of personal experience but lack of connection with the thesis leaves the reader confused as to what is being proven here. However, when she explains the psychology of women later in the essay, she reconnects with the reader and presents convincing arguments. Nevertheless, basing her argument of the Western man’s control over women solely on a single personal experience is too irrational. This issue is more complex than the author suggests since it involves factors beyond the Western man’s contribution to this control. Thus, her anecdote becomes distracting from the main argument and confusing, as most of her points later in the essay do not mention the anecdote at all.

The essay’s tone is both ironic and outraged, implying that the writer composed it passionately. This passion, however, leads to a logical fallacy as she presents only one perspective to support her argument and oversimplifies the issue by solely blaming western men for women’s obsession with fashion.

Furthermore, the text includes a lengthy anecdote in which the author expresses her sense of being marginalized as a typical woman, highlighting the utter absurdity she experienced. On the whole, I find it difficult to fully support her arguments as they lack substantial evidence regarding the current state of affairs in America, largely due to her narrow perspective. Nevertheless, I cannot entirely dismiss her arguments as the issue does indeed exist, albeit to a lesser extent.

Western women have the ability to make their own choices and can overcome psychological attacks if they assert themselves and believe in their own identity. Unlike women in extremist nations in the East, they are not constrained by physical barriers, facing only psychological challenges. Although Western women enjoy greater physical freedom, they have less psychological liberty than their counterparts.


  1. Mernissi, F. (2002). The Western women’s harem. In A. Abusalem (Ed), Where I stand: the center and the periphery. (1st ed.) (pp 422-427)
  2. London: Pearson. Shirazi,F. (2010). Muslim Women in War and Crisis: Representation and Reality. (1st ed.) Austin: University of Texas Press. Yasin,S. (2013).
  3. On Both Sides: A Weak Vision of Feminism. Retrieved from on 4/15/2013. Wolf,N.

Cite this page

Restrictions Upon Women Short Summary. (2016, May 16). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront