Fatima Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass Tales of a Harem Girlhood is a book, which gives the reader an insight on the limited effects of women’s individual resistance to the institution of the harem. This idea is reinforced throughout the book. The reoccurring theme of the women’s struggle for equal treatment and how that struggle was viewed, allows the reader to see the unequal and unfair treatment of women in the harem.
What is a Harem?
First, there must be made, a clear distinction between the harems in this book. All harems follow the same ground rules. These basic ground rules are the building blocks of the city. The women are separated from the men in almost every aspect. The men are allowed to have several wives. Women must not walk out in the city square and if they do they must cover their body completely from head to toe. The men have special privileges while the women only have privileges if and when the men decide they do.
Mernissi’s father’s harem respects the rules of his society but does not necessarily limit him to them. Though he is allowed to have several wives if he so chooses, he has one wife. Mernissi’s father has his relatives live with him and does not allow the women to step outside of his gates unless he so chooses. His gatekeeper Ahmed enforces this rule.
Though he puts such restrictions on his wife he allows her leniency. Throughout chapter twenty-two (22), Mernissi’s father continuously stresses to his wife the fact that he does not approve of her hammam rituals; in fact he even encouraged her to try French beauty products. Despite her husband’s wishes she still goes about her ritual. Not only does she do this but she also then cha...
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..., and he was always there up until the hamman. It was at this point when his male interests in women started to take over and he had to being accompanying the men. Shortly after his change between spending time with the women to spending time with the men he became apart of the males of that culture in every aspect. When Mernissi tried to talk to him, he interrupted her and didn’t even pay attention to what she had to say, nor did he care about her opinion, much like what the older men were doing to the older women. In that short time the men washed everything that he heard from the women out of his head. This gave hint to the idea that nothing was going to change for the better for Mernissi like her other relatives have been telling her. This idea is later reinforced by Mernissi’s Mina who told her to prepare for a ruthless world. (Mernissi 240-242)
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