From centuries to centuries the role of women has been predominantly subordinate to the role of men. Men have been known to be superior in both physical and mental levels. They are also most likely to have an “upper hand” in situations based on their gender. An example of such situation is taken place in “The Answer Is No”, written by Naguib Mahfouz. This story has a considerable amount of sexual politics. On one side you have a women who is powerless and feels trapped because of her position. Yet on the other hand her weakness becomes her strength, which leads her to her “happiness.” The feminism in the story is implicit.
The main character is a woman who has suffered through a sexual encounter that has scarred her for life. More so, she feels that she has nowhere to go and is forced to be silent in her own misery. Badran Badwi, is the man who takes advantage of the girls innocence and nobility. He not only inflicts harm on her, but knowing that she is vulnerable he continues to terrorize her and comes back into her life without having any sense of remorse for doing what he did. “The Answer Is No” demonstrates the consequences that a woman has to suffer due to a man’s ego and dominative character trait. It also represents woman as being week and vulnerable in the eyes of a man. Essentially one cannot argue that it is impossible to imagine reversing the male-female roles in this story.
This story for the most part does not challenge the traditional ideas about women. The woman in the story is automatically portrayed to be a scared submissive girl. She is scared to face reality. For example when she was about to shake hands with her perpetrator, “she advanced with her eyes fixed on his chest. Avoiding his gaze, she stretched out her hand.” That indicates that she cannot face her fear and Badran still has a sense of control over her. The mother is also portrayed to be traditional women with old-fashioned ideas. She doesn’t speak her mind, and doesn’t even show any type of objection to what happened to her daughter. She as well feels like there’s nothing left to do but for her daughter to marry him. When the girl told her mother about what happened, she was “taken aback by the forwardness”¦” of his nature. So instead of encouraging her daughter not to be afraid she simply just tells her that it’s her choice. It is as if the mother is ashamed and disappointed at her daughter even though it wasn’t her fault.
This sort of thinking is common in society. Even though the man is at fault the woman is looked down upon because she is considered to be “un-pure.” In contrast there is a traditional idea about women that was challenged in the story. Despite what has happened to the girl she insist on not getting married. And for a woman to be of old age and still not be married is also looked down upon. For then she is considered to be an “old maid” who no guy will ever want to marry. Now there is a point in the story where she either had to accept what had happened or to ignore it and move on with her life. If you think about it that really isn’t giving the women the choice to make her own decision. In this situation the author uses his own desire rather then using a women’s desire to make her own decision. “It was the sort of situation that could force her into something she detested.” In any case the woman chooses not to marry, because for her having self-respect was not loneliness.
By now it is obvious to see that the relationship between the man and woman in the story is not equal. Because of this social disparity there are a lot of conflicts between both sexes. There are two main conflicts that take place. First, man vs. man, which would be the conflict between Badran, and the girl he sexually assaults. And the second one would be man vs. himself, which is an internal conflict that the girl goes through with her own feelings. When Badran becomes the new headmaster at the school the woman knew that it would be trouble for her. “To have abused her innocence was one thing, but for him to have the upper hand now that she was fully in possession of her faculties was something else.” She now had to be confronted by a man who violated her rights, and by him being in a higher authority position only made matters worse.
This also goes to show that in reality men usually do have higher authority over the women. This contributes to the sexual politics that goes on in everyday life. And in many cases women do go unheard of. They are silenced and frightened by what could happen to them if they were to speak up. On the contrary when Badran proposes marriage to her she does not care of the outcome and speaks up by saying, “for me any outcome is preferable to being married to you.”
The second type of conflict was the one she had with her own self. She had to debate on whether or not she could accept what had happened. And with the mother pressuring her to get married made it even harder for her to come upon a conclusion on what she should do. She is a beautiful rich girl with a noble character, “and now here she was struggling helplessly in a well-sprung trap”¦” She knows that he strength and hated that very much, but yet she hated her own weakness as well. Thus putting her in a situation where she has to battle her own inner feelings.
One cannot imagine this story in reverse-that is a women assaulting a man in sexual conduct manner and getting away with it. Instead it demonstrates how a poor defenseless woman is being put in a such a situation where she is trapped and hopes that her “life will pass calmly, peacefully, rather then happily.” This story ignores the significance of women’s rights. Instead it portrays how woman are weak and overly dominated by men. “The Answer Is no” provides sufficient evidence of the sexual politics in society, where sexual assault committed by a man is labeled as love.