What are they Jailed for? Unromantic Depictions of Women’s “Criminal” Resistance in Egypt
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In this paper I aim to analyze two mediums, one is a literary non-fiction text by Nawal El Saadawi titled Memoirs of Women’s Prison and the other is a television series Segn El Nessa (Women’s Prison) by the screen-writer Mariam Naom. The rationale behind my thesis is to provide literary evidence, written/presented decades apart, of a violent pattern of oppression which I name “invisible shackles”. The term “invisible shackles” is inspired by El Saadawi’s former quote. The difficulty of defining the invisible shackles inspires me to present stories and interpretations of litereture to articulate an understanding of how invisible shackles might take form in Egyptian society. To be more specific, invisible shackles are the unfavorable socio-economic patriarchal circumstances which lead women to imprisonment. I want to avoid reading these shackles as a specific quantifiable set of factors or circumstances that would seek to explain why such women go to prison, for fear that such a reading would be reductive. Rather, I aim to use literature and media to explore the lived experience of these shackles: how individuals register and respond to the force of gendered power relations that seem to lead them inevitably towards prison.