Margaret Atwood Questions and Answers

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How can one compare the essays "My Body is My Own Business" and "The Female Body"? "My Body is My Own Business" is by Naheed Mustafa and "The Female Body" is by Margaret Atwood.

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While both of these essays touch on feminist issues, they certainly have their distinct differences that make for some interesting comparison possibilities!

"My Body is My Own Business" is a very straightforward, traditionally organized, persuasive opinion essay. Mustafa makes a clear, specific point--that she is part of a group of Muslim woman who are "reclaiming the hijab, reinterpreting it in light of its original purpose to give back to women ultimate control of their own bodies." She then supports this claim with specific points, including the assertion that the wearing of a hijab prevents the objectification and self-objectification of women based on physical appearance. Her discussion is tight and focused, and is built around this primary argument. She invokes a call to action for women everywhere to abandon the slavery to physical beautification that is created by society's impossible standards: "Narrow hips? Great. Narrow hips? Too bad." There is also a linked theme of cultural tolerance/education in Mustafa's essay, particularly when she alludes to the assumptions about her based on her Middle Eastern dress and appearance.

"The Female Body" by Atwood is an altogether different type of writing. It drops any type of cultural focus, and broadens to span a full spectrum of feminist issues.This is a common topic for Atwood, an extremely well known Canadian author. According to the eNotes author profile on Atwood, "Two concerns remained foremost in her work: the self-realization of women and the cultural independence of Canada." Atwood's style of writing is far different from Mustafa's. It is fragmented (each of those numbered sections has a different focus, and a different story behind it). Also, rather than a first person narrative--with, perhaps, the exception of the first vignette--Atwood"s writing is fictional and contains implied messages. She doesn't have the logical, precise argument that Mustafa does, but uses story to reveal truth. For example, the fourth vignette addresses the difficulty of deciding which approach will foster positive body image in a child, speaks to the danger of media messages, and also celebrates the power of young women to define their own standards of beauty. This type of veiled, loosely implied, non-traditional, fragmented but powerful message is very typical of Atwood's style. See her essay "Happy Endings" for another example.

Touch on differences in both style and scope, and you'll have a successful comparison!

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