Women Warriors and Female Community in the Prison Writings of Fatima Meer and Nawal El Saadawi

Keywords: Fatima Meer; El Saadawi; warrior woman; homicide; prison writings; memoirs


The aim of this article is to analyse how the violence of a patriarchal system forces women into situations where they feel violence is the only option, either as a mode of resistance or an expression of agency. The article foregrounds how systems of oppression, such as patriarchy, perpetuate violence. The killing of men committed by Fatima Meer’s prison associate, Lydia, and by Nawal El Saadawi’s prison friend, Fathiyya, parallel manifestations of female agency such as that evinced in 2017 by the “warrior woman” in Qumbu in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Homicide, in the context of a woman taking the law into her own hands when driven into a corner by male supremacy, may simply denote spilling the blood of an abusive male. But, the term “homicide” may connote any one of many acts of female resistance which signal the desire to kill or annihilate structures of male privilege, sexual control and legal supremacy set up by a patriarchal society to benefit men. Fatima Meer’s Prison Diary: One Hundred and Thirteen Days 1976 (2001) forms the underpinning text for reading homicide in its literal and metaphorical senses and is supported by El Saadawi’s Memoirs from the Women’s Prison (1986). The article debates the ethical and legal implications of male hegemony versus the legitimacy of women’s reactive protest against humiliation and abuse. A phenomenological approach is used to portray the lived experiences and actions of courageous women who were at first outlawed by a male-law society but are vindicated when taking into account the tyrannous and intolerant circumstances of oppression and patriarchy.