For far too long have young girls experienced oppression before they could even fathom the concept of equality. Whether it be United States or the Middle East, these girls enter a culture of a dominating patriarchy, and are subject to it whether they like it or not. In the most extreme cases, young women are sexually abused by men and must carry that burden with them throughout the rest of their life. In El Saadawi’s “Woman at Point Zero” and Wall’s “The Glass Castle,” both authors narrate the journey as a young girl as they are confronted with such of a patriarchal society.
In El Saadawi’s “Woman at Point Zero,” readers learn about the responsibility and concepts that young Firdaus was exposed to as a young child. When discussing about Islam and the men’s prayer, Firdaus also mentions that her “breasts were not yet rounded” (21). The juxtaposition of these sexualised body parts shows that Firdaus, in all her innocence, associates such religion with sexual acts, seeing no issue or vulgar connotation. It is the patriarchy that sets these standards within Firdaus’ society that young children learn to stay quiet about such oppression of women. This ‘predatory’ nature of men is further expressed in Firdaus’ description of the men in prayer, depicting them with “doubting, stealthy eyes, eyes ready to pounce, full of an aggressiveness that seemed strangely servile” (21) as if they were a hunter stalking its prey. The fact that Firdaus is able to understand the malicious intent of these men with indifferent commentary shows that, again, despite being confronted with these horrible concepts of sexual abuse, her child-like innocence allows her to accept them and conform towards the patriarchal society.
In Wall’s “The Glass Castle,” Jeanette expresses a more violent, yet also equally as shocking experience as a young girl that shows that even women are subject to the patriarchy in the developed western countries. In a brief confrontation with a young boy, Jeanette reveals that she was molested by him and that she had accidentally “touched it… even though [she] had never touched one before” (54). Looking at Jeanette’s choice of diction, it is quite obvious that she chooses to not mention any word representing a ‘penis’. From this, readers can assume that Jeanette is not mature enough to discuss such topics without being flustered, emphasising her innocence. Even when Billy, the young boy, declares that he raped her, she responds with “Big deal” (55), as she was still too young to understand the true weight of what rape or molestation was. Looking at the concept of Billy being proud of his molestation of Jeanette, readers can also see another side of the spectrum, where young boys and men grow up to see rape and molestation as acceptable within society.
In conclusion, El Saadawi and Walls express their stories as a statement and representation of young women grappling with the harrowing reality of a patriarchal society. Perhaps by expressing these issues and exposing the horrific issues that young girls must face, both authors declare that change must be present worldwide in order to reach true equality between genders.
How does Satrapi present and reflect on the issue of false maturity in her graphic novel Persepolis?
During Marjane Satrapi’s childhood, her country of Iran underwent a cultural shift known as the Islamic Revolution. As a result, Satrapi met countless atrocities in her war-torn country, forcing her to cope with such conflicts as a young child. However, as shown in her childhood memoir Persepolis, children try to come to terms with their environment, but are held back by their childish naivety. Thus, children, including Satrapi herself, attempt to be adult-like and voice their own opinions, when in reality, regurgitate propaganda and other’s opinions.
Focusing on the characterisation and language spoken by Marjane in pages 82-83, it is clear that Marjane’s facade of maturity is exposed by her childish behavior. In the top left panel of page 82, Marjane expresses her ‘own’ political beliefs while placing her feet upon the table. Her mother responds to this act by telling Marjane that “it’s impolite,” implying that Marjane still is the child of the household, and that she has no real bearing on society’s troubles. This narrow scope politics is further emphasised in Marjane’s expressions on the disappearance of her friend’s father. Coming to the realisation that Pardisse’s father was arrested, she remembers that Pardisse “didn’t come to school for a whole month”. The focus of the quotation suggests that Marjane has no consideration on the wellbeing of Pardisse and her family, but rather on why Pardisse was skipping school. This shows that despite voicing opinions on national issues, Marjane is still a young girl that worries about her own environment and what affects her directly. The eventual culmination of Marjane’s naivety is laid bare in the bottom left panel of page 83, where Marjane asserts her opinion against her parents by pointing to the TV as evidence. However, similar to how her mother had dismissed her in an earlier panel, her father suggests that Marjane should not believe the national news, as it filled with propaganda. This shows that despite Marjane’s passionate stance on the bigger global picture, she still fails to form her own opinion and instead blindly follow the words of the state. Even in the next paragraph, Marjane insists that her father doesn’t “believe anything,” implying that she herself sees no issue or bias in the information that she consumes, a characteristic of an immature figure.
Throughout Satrapi’s graphic novel, the development of her own figure progresses from a young innocent child to a patriotic adolescent. As a product of her time, Marjane must cope with mature concepts at a very young age, which she undoubtedly struggled with. Satrapi expresses her story through the form of a graphic novel to show that despite the children’s shortcomings, it is only natural and that their social environment is ultimately to be blamed for such issues.