The Need for Power in the Naked Citadel by Susan Faludi

Table of Content

The need for power is just as strong as the need for love or belonging in human beings. In Susan Faludi’s The Naked Citadel, the students derive their power by dominating women or even fellow students. By stripping themselves down to nothing, they believe that regaining power is only possible through the violent control of the opposite gender or their own gender. Similarly, in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, the oppressive male government and male figures in the lives of women force them to find solace in a literature class that challenges and dismantles gender barriers.

Both articles examine the ongoing search for the true identity of a degraded individual, prompting an exploration of a crucial form of authority, whether positive or negative. The presence of a female cadet at The Citadel was seen as a direct challenge to the institution’s established customs. One cadet expressed concern, stating that her inclusion would undermine a longstanding and respected tradition (Faludi 82). The administration and cadets at The Citadel simply followed their long-standing practices and rejected her. They firmly believed that strength and bravery were exclusive to men. Their goal was to educate men about the importance of protecting women, as they saw women as needing protection from the outside world.

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Contrary to their claims, in reality, they were instructing them on how to exert control over women, even resorting to violence and reacting excessively if these women did not comply with their demands. One of the cadets admits that “most of the guys here are highly misogynistic… all they do is discuss how girls are repulsive and promiscuous” (Faludi 82). This reveals their longing for power and inclination to dominate anything they perceive as inferior. Additionally, their egos are also being challenged. The President of the Citadel acknowledges that admitting women would result in “a different kind of intimidation – not wanting to be embarrassed in front of a girl” (Faludi 83).

Introducing women into the cadet program will exacerbate the latent insecurities of the cadets, and it is perceived as a challenge to the authority held by men. A significant number of cadets feel the necessity to assert control. If their ability to control women is taken away, they will seek out the next most susceptible group to exert dominance over: underclassmen. These inexperienced individuals are subjected to various forms of torment. According to Faludi (84), a considerable amount of violence was targeted at freshman athletes who were considered a threat by upperclassmen.

Despite having talent and power, the upperclassmen felt the need to strip the underclassmen of their abilities. In addition to exerting control over their fellow students, they also targeted Black men, treating them as inferior. One instance involved a cadet who left a burnt paper cross in the room of a black cadet, resembling Klan-like costumes. These acts of abuse within the academy can be attributed to the societal pressures placed upon them. Despite facing these challenges, many of these men end up defending the very system that caused them harm.

The lack of self-confidence leads these men to seek power. They are unaware of the true circumstances and are instead focused on their perceived preparation. In reality, as stated in Faludi’s work, “The Citadel has no connection with the United States Armed Forces” (82). Their training focuses on discipline and wartime mentality, without adequately preparing them for the real world. Consequently, they emerge with the expectation of receiving universal respect and authority. However, the reality is that upon graduating, they may find themselves working menial jobs such as busing tables at Wendy’s (85).

In Reading Lolita In Tehran, the women face numerous imposed limitations that leave them feeling powerless. The university depicted in the book demonstrates clear bias against female students, as they faced penalties for trivial actions such as running up the stairs late for classes, laughing in the hallways, or conversing with members of the opposite sex (Nafisi 252). This oppressive treatment by both the Iranian government and society further reinforces the notion of male dominance and female submissiveness.

According to Nafisi (255), one of her students was imprisoned for five years because she belonged to a dissident religious group. These women suffered severe consequences for bravely expressing their beliefs. Additionally, the clothing they wore became a visible representation of the authority that controlled them. As mandated by law, these women had to wear black robes and headscarves which covered their entire bodies except for their faces and hands (Nafisi 248).

The nation’s aim is to demonstrate male dominance in an extreme manner by purposely degrading women. Although women were given the opportunity to receive an education, their personal identities and histories were dismissed by the ruling regime. They were constantly defined by the regime as Muslim women and were unable to break free from this limitation (Nafisi 265). This is a typical example of the abuse of power, where men in society exploit their power to exercise control over those considered inferior. Nevertheless, the women whom Nafisi teaches manage to reclaim some of this power in their own way.

Nafisi initiates this process by permitting the women to remove their robes and don more casual attire. She elucidates, “gradually each one obtained a distinct form, becoming her own unique self” (450). By divesting the women of their oppressive garments, she unveils a realm of individuality and self-determination, enabling them to explore unexplored facets of their lives. They discover this agency within the books they read and discuss. Nafisi carefully selects books that directly resonate with the women’s current circumstances.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Nafisi reflects on the tragedy and absurdity of the cruelty endured by the citizens. Despite this, she believes that by opening her home and creating an intimate environment, the women were able to experience something they had never had before. Nafisi recognizes that their class was structured to evade the scrutiny of a censor, enabling them to rediscover their humanity and regain a sense of empowerment for a few hours each week.

The pursuit of personal identity can result in a difficult struggle to maintain individuality. The relentless suppression of women by the opposite gender compelled them to engage in a ceaseless fight for equal rights. Similarly, the men in the Citadel were driven by a profound desire for identity, which led them to exert unwarranted authority over those they considered inferior. Both articles acknowledge the existence of this power, albeit temporarily and not always in a just manner. Nevertheless, neither group finds a permanent solution, opting instead to derive a sense of identity through fleeting displays of power.

Works Cited

Faludi, Susan. “The Naked Citadel.” The New Humanities Reader. 4th ed. Bost: Wadsworth, 2012. 77-109. Print.
Nafisi, Azar. “Selections From Reading Lolita in Tehran.” The New Humanities Reader. 4th ed. Bost: Wadsworth, 2012. 247-267. Print.

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The Need for Power in the Naked Citadel by Susan Faludi. (2016, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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