El Saadawi claims that certain Islamic practices tend to sanctify the functions of motherhood. Identify such practices, and how do they relate to your own idea about the duties associated with...

El Saadawi claims that certain Islamic practices tend to sanctify the functions of motherhood. Identify such practices, and how do they relate to your own idea about the duties associated with motherhood.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When El Saadawi writes of certain Islamic practices that sanctify the functions of motherhood, she is suggesting that many women's identities in much of the Islamic world tend to deify the presence of being a mother over all else. The social construction of women internalizes the idea of being a mother above all.  They do this as a result of a social structure that indicates dishonor for moving in a direction that is in opposition to the strict social construction of being a woman.  For El Saadawi, this is where the power lies in the social structure in limiting women's identities and notions of self:

The exploitation to which a wife and a mother is exposed is evident from the fact she carries out a number of vital functions without being paid.  She is cook, sweeper, cleaner, washerwoman, domestic servant, nurse, governess, teacher to the children, and in addition to being an instrument of sexual satisfaction and pleasure to her husband.  All this she does free of charge, except for the expenses of her upkeep, in the form of food, clothing, and shelter.  She is therefore the lowest paid laborer in existence.

El Saadawi makes the argument that Islamic culture deifies women who do not question their function as mother. The function of motherhood is sanctified in a way that covers or obscures all of what women have to do.  It refuses them the ability to ask questions about their being in the world and their function.  It is a condition in which all that a woman does in the domestic realm is lumped into "motherhood."  She is not in a position to raise questions. Doing so makes her "dishonorable."  It is because of this that she is a laborer.  Such an idea helps to transform how we see the duties associated with motherhood. What El Saadawi wants us to do is to ask questions and seek to find a realm in which such a condition is not so readily embraced without thought and reflection.  In the end, doing so helps individuals see what is and transform it into what can be.  It is this basic idea that drives El Saadawi's writing and thought in a way that women begin to reflect on this notion of self, as well.

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