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Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems Paperback – March 1, 2002
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The contrasts Mernissi discovered between East and West were not as simple as one might imagine. In Berlin, for example, she leafed through pornographic German photo books of "harem women," produced for an eager audience of Western men, and in Paris, she accompanied a male friend on a walking tour of his favorite odalisques, from Ingres to Matisse, while he explained how comforting an insecure man found these nude, silent women. While the medieval caliphs tended to prize intelligence and erudition among the women of their harems, Western writers have lauded beauty over every other quality; as Kant put it, a learned woman "might as well even have a beard." In deceptively light prose, Mernissi introduces the sexual politics of Islam to a Western audience, while pointing out the inconsistencies and illogic in the Western tradition. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I think that her observations have quite a bit of truth behind them, even with regards to her ideas of the Western world. A few critics of the book mentioned how if Fatema had truly observed women in the U.S. she would see that we came in all sizes. That is true! But still, don't we all feel the pressure put on us to be a size 6? To wear makeup? To look like a supermodel? Why are eating disorders more prevalent? A friend of mine told me she was anorexic in high school, but that having an eating disorder was "normal", since it appeared almost every girl in her high school had some sort of eating disorder. How sad! In high school I took sanctuary in athletics---and most athletic women could never fit into the American standard ideals of beauty. So we pride ourselves in being fit and strong.
When are we going to learn to appreciate ourselves for what we are worth?
Mernissi's book is one that makes you think. I think it is magnificent. Read it with an open mind, and use her observations to challenge and question what you know. I also enjoyed having some sort of insight into the Islamic world. I feel we really misunderstand Islam. We base most of our views on the actions and beliefs of the extremists. I hope that because of the events in our world today, us westerners and non-muslims will try to educated ourselves and learn about Islam with an open mind and an un-biased heart.
In a patrarchial society (whether Christian or Muslim) male erotic needs,and their need for control and "safty" in male-female relationships dictates how women are taught to think about themselves. "Travel (mentally widening your horizons) helps you figure out who you are and how your own culture controls you."
This book is about claiming freedom, the freedom for women to think about who they are and about the courage it takes to push through the unexamined female prisons of Western insularity (just as Muslim women push through the insularity of the Harem and the veil) to view ourselves in a wider place and choose who we will be and who our daughters will be. As the book says, "then who are we if we don't control our own images?" The author is delightful, feminine and funny and wonderfully astute.
It is witty and delightfull book but more important, it touches upon some fundemental questions about the meeting of East and West, in art, fiction, as well as in every day life, questions that have never been addressed like this before.
Mernissi does something which is both rare and refreshing: she dares ask questions and her quest for answers takes her (and the reader) to a journey which ultimatly touches upon the universal questions concerninig not only the complicated, mystifaying relations between East and West, but also, and far more intersting, between Men and Women, and how they see each other from both sides of the geographical, cultural distance.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As I write this on Sunday, January 11, 2015, there is a massive demonstration in Paris, attended by numerous world leaders, in support of certain essential human rights and as a... Read morePublished 13 months ago by John P. Jones III
Mernisse is a free thinker who gathered information from both sides of the coin : East and West. Higjly recommended to those who have interest in different culturesPublished on October 25, 2013 by Marcia Dias da Silva
Fascinating glimpse of the Eastern and Western mindset. Clothing, feminism, masculinity, seduction and how they are played out in both cultures.Published on September 2, 2013 by Pamela Allen
This book does not really discuss feminism or Islam. It's just a white woman's version of what Islamic feminism should be.Published on August 31, 2013 by Umm
Author Fatema Mernissi is particularly personable in how she approaches the subject of beauty, women, and male desire through the concept of harem. Read morePublished on February 5, 2011 by Christine Novak
A great book that gave me a new way to look at feminism. [close] A great book that gave me a new way to look at feminism.Published on July 16, 2010 by Christy Leigh Stewart
This book would have been much better if Mernissi had stuck with witty vignettes about her culture shock and humorous malentendus during her westward sojourn. Read morePublished on August 8, 2007 by Amazon Customer
If Mernissi is, as her publisher claims, the greatest living Moslem sociologist, there can not be much competition. Read morePublished on April 18, 2006 by Elizabeth A. Root
I am neither American nor Arab but this book is a must-read for every woman in the twenty-first century, a true teaching text. Read morePublished on February 27, 2005 by reader_77