The Perils of Writing as a
Woman on Women in Algeria
At the heart of the feminist project, East and West, is a desire to dismantle the existing order of things and reconstruct it to fit one's own needs. This desire is best expressed in Omar Khayyam's cry:
"Ah love! Could you and I with Him conspire To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire Would not we shatter it to bits—and then Remould it to the heart's desire!" 1
However, feminists, East and West, differ in the grasp they have on this "sorry scheme of things" and the tools they use to "shatter it to bits." They also differ as to whether the process of remolding things can take place at all. Indeed, Western academic feminists can rediscover their womanhood, attempt to redefine it, and produce their own knowledge of themselves hampered only by what many perceive as male domination. 2 Ultimately, Western feminists operate on their own social and intellectual ground and under the unstated assumption that their societies are perfectible. In this respect, feminist critical practice takes on an air of normalcy. It appears as part of a reasonable (even if difficult) project for greater gender equality.
By contrast, the Algerian and Middle Eastern feminist project unfolds within an external frame of reference and according to equally external standards. Under these circumstances the consciousness of one's womanhood coincides with the realization that it has already been appropriated in one form or another by outsiders, women as well as men, experts in things Middle Eastern. In this sense, the feminist project is warped and