Don't Retract Pack

Winter Solstice: A Time for Rest, Reflection, Rebirth

Artwork by Jessica Boehman, Illustrator 

Life is being drawn into the earth, painlessly descending down into the very heart of herself. And we, as natural human animals, are being called to do the same -- the pull to descend into our bodies, into sleep, darkness, and the depths of our own inner caves continually tugging at our marrow. But many find the descent into their own body a scary thing indeed; fearing the unmet emotions and past events that they have stored in the dark caves inside themselves, not wanting to face what they have so carefully and unkindly avoided.

This winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this period of descent into our own darkness was so necessary in order to find our light. That true freedom comes from accepting with forgiveness and love what we have been through, and vanquishing the hold it has on us, bringing the golden treasure back from the cave of our darker depths.

This is a time of rest and deep reflection, a time to wipe the slate clean as it were and clear out the old so you can walk into spring feeling ready to grow and skip without a dusty mountain on your back and chains around your ankles tied to the caves in your soul. A time for the medicine of story, of fire, of nourishment and love. A period of reconnecting, relearning and reclaiming of what this time means brings winter back to a time of kindness, love, rebirth, peace and unburdening instead of a time of dread, fear, depression and avoidance.

This modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, bad food, and consumerism. And yet the natural tug to go inward, as nearly all creatures are doing, is strong, and people are left feeling as if there is something wrong with them --  that winter is cruel and leaves them feeling abandoned and afraid.

Whereas in actual fact winter is so kind. Yes, she points us in her quiet soft way toward our inner self, toward the darkness and potential death of what we were, but this journey, if held with care, is essential.

She is like a strong teacher that asks you to awaken your inner loving elder or therapist, holding yourself with awareness of forgiveness, and allowing yourself to grieve, to cry, rage, laugh, and face what we need to face in order to be freed from the jagged bonds we wrapped around our hearts, in order to reach a place of healing and light without going into overwhelm.

Winter takes away the distractions, the noise, and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb-like love, bringing fire and light to our hearth.

-Brigit Anna McNeill

Read more from McNeill:

Mabel, age 12, creates her fantastic rendition of Jessica Boehman's original.
Note the extra books - little lamb must be making a run to the library for more!
Follow more of Boehman's work on Facebook:

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12 Breastfeeding Days of Christmas

Not too many better ways to ring in the "12 days of Christmas" than with the Best for Babes Foundation's 12 Breastfeeding Days of Christmas (composed in 2009 and slightly updated this holiday season). Please take a moment to visit the Best for Babes site for a detailed explanation of each of these twelve life-changing gifts and take a look into how they can help "rebuild our shattered breastfeeding infrastructure."

12 Breastfeeding Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas 
There stood before me,
A mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the second day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the third day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the fourth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the fifth day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the sixth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the seventh day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the eighth day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the ninth day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the tenth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Ten nursing nooks, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs,
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the eleventh day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Eleven strangers cheering, 
Ten nursing nooks, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four FABM MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Twelve supportive employers, 
Eleven strangers cheering, 
Ten nursing nooks, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

 Mary nurses Baby Jesus in this 16th century oil painting by Andrea Solario
for similar images see: Breastfeeding Baby Jesus

Nursing mothers are welcome to join the Breastfeeding Group. Note that this group is pro-baby, pro-natural weaning, pro-nursing-in-public, and WHO compliant in guidelines (i.e. no advertising of artificial baby feeds).


Don't Force Your Child to Sit on Santa's Lap

By Brianne Collecchio
Originally at

Your Christmas tree is decorated, the lights are up, and you’ve started to tackle your list of Christmas gifts. It’s time to take the children to the mall to see Santa. In your mind you’ve envisioned adorable photos of a smiling child posing happily with Old Saint Nick. You’ve thought about how many copies you’ll need to send out to proud grandparents. Your child is excited to see the man in red, already compiling a huge catalogue of toys to ask for. But when your child gets to the front of the line and comes face to face with Santa, he’s terrified! There’s no way he’s going to get anywhere near the man, let alone sit on his lap.

A child can develop a fear of Santa or other costumed characters at any point in childhood. Maybe your daughter loved Santa for the first three years of her life, and all of a sudden just the mention of his name has her running to her room. Children have extremely short memories, so each year when Christmas rolls around it’s like they are discovering Santa for the first time.

There are many reasons why children might be afraid of Santa. He has a big white beard that covers most of his face, and when a young child sits on his lap sometimes all they can see is that great white beard. It can be pretty intimidating not to be able to see his face.

A lot of children experience separation anxiety. When a parent sees Santa, they think of a jolly old man who brings children presents. When a toddler sees Santa, they’re experiencing mom and dad putting them on a stranger’s lap and walking away. That’s terrifying!

A toddler’s mind is also growing and developing so quickly—especially their imaginations. They are learning so much about the world so fast, but they still do not have the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. To that child Santa is a large stranger with a booming voice, and they are being left with him. That’s pretty intense.

Don’t force your child to take a picture with Santa or meet him if he or she is too afraid—just wait until next year. It’s not fair to subject your child to that level of anxiety just for a picture—and it won’t even be a good picture. Forcing your child to meet Santa can cause your child to associate that panic, fear, or discomfort with all things holiday related, and the last thing you want is a child who has a panic attack every time they hear Jingle Bells.

Telling your child not to be afraid of Santa can make him or her feel bad about themselves. Instead, be supportive. Let your child know that nothing bad will happen to him or her and that you will be right there with them. Offer to go see Santa first or have your picture taken with him to show your child that they will be fine.

Try to recognize if your child is truly afraid, or is just shy. Stay out of the line and watch some of the other children go first and hear their interactions. It’s very possible that they will see the other children enjoying themselves and change their mind.

If your child will absolutely not go anywhere near Santa, try to look at the bright side—it means that your child has an inner stranger-danger awareness. Value that alarm! There are far worse things in life than a child who is afraid to sit on Santa’s lap. Maybe you won’t get that adorable photo to send the grandparents, but you won’t get one of your child screaming either. Take it slow. There’s always next year.

Brianne Collecchio is a registered early childhood educator and runs Busy Bees Home Childcare in Guelph.

Christmas To Do List

This Christmas... 

 Be present. 
 Wrap someone in a hug.
Send peace. 
 Donate food. 
 Be the light. 


Momma's Night Before Christmas

Mother's Love painting by Kolongi. Art work available here.

Twas' the night before Christmas,
when all through the abode

Only one creature was stirring -
and she was cleaning the commode.

The children were finally sleeping,
all snug in their beds,

While visions of presents,
flipped through their heads.

Daddy was snoring in front of the TV,

With a half-constructed bicycle up on his knee.

So only Momma heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
Which made her sigh, "NOW what's the matter?"

With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,

She descended the stairs, and saw the old man.

He was covered in ashes, which fell with a shrug.

"Oh great..." muttered Mom, now cleaning the rug.

"Ho-Ho-Ho!!" bellowed Santa, "I'm glad you're awake.

Your gift was especially hard to make."

"Thank you Santa, but all I want's time alone."

"Exactly!!" he chuckled, "And I've made you a clone."

"A clone?" Mom asked, "What good is that?

Run along now, Santa. I've no time for a chat."

But it was Momma's twin!
Same hair, same eyes - same double chin.

"She'll cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.
You'll relax, take it easy, and get some good rest."
"Fantastic!!" Mom cheered. "My dream come true!
I'll read. I'll write. I'll sleep a whole night through!"

From the room above, the youngest began to fret.
"Momma?! I need you. I'm scared and I'm wet."
The clone replied, "I'm coming, sweetheart."

"Hey," Mom smiled, "She knows her part."

The clone changed the small one, and hummed a sweet tune,

As she bundled the child, in a blanket cocoon.

"You're the best momma ever. I really love you."

The clone smiled and sighed, "And I love you, too."

Mom frowned and said, "Sorry, Santa, no deal.

my child's love that she's trying to steal."
Smiling wisely Santa said, "To me it is clear,

Only one loving mother is needed 'round here."

Mom kissed her child, and tucked her into bed.

"Thank you, dear Santa, for clearing my head.

I sometimes forget it won't be very long,

When they'll be too old, for my sweet mothering song."

The clock on the mantle began to chime.

Santa whispered to the clone, "It works every time."

And with the clone clung close to his side,
Santa said, "Goodnight.
Merry Christmas, Momma! You'll be alright."

~Original Author ("The Night Before Christmas for Moms") Unknown; 
  Revised Poem (2009) by Danelle Day

Soleil Life Photography


Baby It's Cold Outside Lyrics Rewritten

Couple rewrites 'Baby It's Cold Outside' to emphasize importance of consent 
As shared at CNN by Alexandra King | Read more from King

A couple from Minnesota has re-imagined the classic Christmas song "Baby It's Cold Outside" for a 21st-century audience, changing the song's lyrics to emphasize the importance of consent. Singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, both from Minneapolis, said they were inspired to rework the song after bonding over a mutual dislike of the original's lyrics, which were penned in 1944 by Frank Loesser.

The duet features a man trying to dissuade a woman from leaving a party despite her repeated protestations that she has to go home. "What's in this drink?" is one of the female lines. "What's the sense in hurtin' my pride?" implores the male voice. The song's seeming disregard for the woman's desire to leave never sat well with Lemanski or Liza. "I've always had a big problem with the song. It's so aggressive and inappropriate," said Lemanski, 25.

Liza, 22, said she felt the same way as her boyfriend. "We started thinking of the open-ended questions that song has," she said. "You never figure out if she gets to go home. You never figure out if there was something in her drink. It just leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth."

So Wednesday night, the couple decided to write a complete set of new lyrics. "We wrote the whole thing in an hour and then we went back and used my little demo-recording microphone and did that in 15 minutes," Liza recalled. And though the melody is still the same, the lyrics strike an entirely new chord.

"I really can't stay/Baby I'm fine with that" opens the song, as the lyrics recall the original's format of a woman leaving a party. Except in Liza and Lemanski's version, she does so without protest, the man helps her get home safely and the fictional couple makes a date the next day at The Cheesecake Factory. "I ought to say no, no, no," sings Liza. "You reserve the right to say no," croons Lemanski. And as for that dubious "What's in this drink?" line. It's still there. Except, in the new version, the question is actually answered -- by Lemanski, who responds with the oh-so-now ""Pomegranate La Croix" (obviously). "I thought we were just doing like a really good, cool, funny thing and it just felt right," Liza said. "And emphasizing consent is one of the causes that I've always really been behind because I don't think I can think of one friend of mine who's a woman who hasn't been in dangerous situations with men. I've always cared about this so much," she added.

After the duo uploaded the song to SoundCloud, the couple found that what started out as a shared gripe between a boyfriend and girlfriend also resonated with the public at large. "We've heard a lot of people say, 'Wow, we never actually paid attention to the lyrics before -- this is awful!'" said Liza. The couple also said they hoped the song would raise awareness of the need for consent, given the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. "It's not just a rare thing -- it happens all the time, everywhere. Every day. And I'm afraid for my sister. And I'm afraid for my friends. And I hope that this song gets people thinking about it," Lemanski said.

Liza added that she hoped that the song would inspire others to take action to help prevent violence against women. "I hope it will be on people's minds and that people will donate to charity or do some volunteer work at shelters or sexual assault centers. Like, if you think about this and you think it's a problem, definitely step out of your comfort zone and do something and help someone," she said.

And having successfully designated their re-imagined "Baby It's Cold Outside" as an unofficial anthem for the importance of consent, the couple joked that there were some other candidates for the Liza and Lemanski treatment. "A lot of people have suggested a bunch of songs, like Ella Fitzgerald's 'She Didn't Say Yes, She Didn't Say No' and Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines,'" said Liza. "We'll just do a whole album," she laughed.

Lydia and Josiah perform 'Baby It's Cold Outside' - with updated lyrics: 

Baby It's Cold Outside - New Lyrics 

I really can't stay/Baby I'm fine with that

I've got to go away/Baby I'm cool with that

This evening has been/Been hoping you get home safe

So very nice/I'm glad you had a real good time

My mother will start to worry/Call her so she knows that you're coming

Father will be pacing the floor/Better get your car a-humming

So really I'd better scurry/Take your time

Should I use the front or back door?/Which one are you pulling towards more?

The neighbors might think/That you're a real nice girl

Say, what is this drink?/Pomegranate La Croix

I wish I knew how/Maybe I'll help you out

To break this spell/I don't know what you're talking about

I ought to say no, no, no/you reserve the right to say no

At least I'm gonna say that I tried/you reserve the right to say no

I really can't stay/...Well you don't have to

Ah, but it's cold outside...

I've got to get home/Do you know how to get there from here?

Say, where is my coat/I'll go and grab it my dear.

You've really been grand/We'll have to do this again

Yes, I agree/How 'bout the Cheesecake Factory?

We're bound to be talking tomorrow/Text me at your earliest convenience

At least I have been getting that vibe/Unless I catch pneumonia and die

I'll be on my way/Thanks for the great night!

Bye/Bye--Drive Safe Please.
Don't watch that episode of 'Breaking Bad' without me/I won't, I'll save that for you!

Lydia and Josiah discuss their rendition of "Baby It's Cold Outside" further:


Nursing to Sleep: What we hear vs. what we should hear

Nursing to sleep

What we hear: 

Your baby is using you as a pacifier.
This is going to become a 'bad habit.'
It's wrong.
You're going to be the only one who can put your baby to sleep forever.
Nursing is a negative sleep association. 
This is going to become a sleep crutch.

What we should hear: 

This is biologically normal.
All carry mammals nurse to sleep in infancy.
Countless moms have done this before, and are nursing to sleep right now.
This is calming.
Your oxytocin is flowing well. 
This is beautiful.
This is nourishing. 
Nursing to sleep will fade away on its own when the time is right for my baby. 
This builds trust. 
Nursing to sleep encourages a hearty supply.
Sleep hormones from nursing to sleep allow my baby to fall asleep naturally. 
This will not last forever and be over before I know it... 


Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

By Darcia F. Narvaez Ph.D. 

Did you know that putting people in solitary confinement is the worst punishment we can mete out (and the USA puts more of its citizens in solitary confinement than any country in history)?

)? Spend much alone and you can become mad. The psyche breaks down.

Why is this? Thomas Lewis and colleagues point out that mammals, like us, need others to regulate our brains and bodies. We need others to feel right.  This is especially true for young children.

Remember Rene Spitz? He showed that young children left in hospitals for months on their own (except for food and diaper change) failed to thrive (he called it “hospitalism”). The children’s relationships with their parents were permanently impaired and the brain damage was done. You can see some disturbing film here.

No surprise, isolation leads to craziness in adults and physiological breakdown in kids. Not so sure?

Here is some evidence about what happens when a young offspring loses touch with a caregiver.

  • In babies, maternal touch regulates temperature and well being. For example, Luddington and colleagues (Ludington, 1980; Ludington-Hoe, Hadeed, & Anderson, 1991) have shown that a mother’s body temperature will automatically rise in skin-to-skin contact with an infant whose temperature is too low, going back to normal once the baby’s temperature is at a normal level.
  • When rat pups are taken away from their mothers for even a brief time, their physiological state changes to a ‘survival mode’ (summarized by Schanberg, 1995) which includes decrease in factors related to growth such as growth hormone release and DNA synthesis. Maternal touch stimulates normal growth through the mediation of Beta-endorphin.  All sorts of physiological functions break down and can become dangerously chaotic (respiratory, cardiac, endocrine, digestive, etc.). SIDS is a risk factor for babies who sleep alone (see this).
  • Schanberg and colleagues (Evoniuk, Kuhn, & Schanberg, 1979; Pauk, Kuhn, Field, & Shanberg, 1986) found that deep touch is important for growth (which they have mimicked with paint brushes) not movement, like rocking in a swing (although that is good too).

So there is a lot of data about the importance of touch, but what does that have to do with how parents might be treating babies like prisoners? Using playpens? Yes. Using carriers outside the car? Yes.

But mostly because they leave them alone at night. This is solitary confinement for babies. And can be destructive to the child’s developing brain.

Humans are the only mammals that separate their young from the mother. Not a good idea when you are born with only 25% of your brain and many miles of growing to go before you can adequately sleep on your own.  Americans are one of the few societies that have separate bedrooms for a child. It is considered cruel by many other cultures.

Depriving your child of you is like depriving them of love. It makes them ill.  It probably makes you ill too. Why cause all that illness? Sleep together in safe ways.

Atul Gawande, who wrote about prisoner solitary confinement, calls it torture. I think I agree with him. How can we do that to our children?

Peaceful Parenting Community 

CoSleeping Community

Related Reading by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting: 

An 'On Demand' Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies

5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

12 Ways to Nurture Babies at Conception, Birth, and Beyond

Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

Are you or your child on a touch starvation diet?

Conspiracy Thinking: Understanding Attachment and Its Consequences

Psychology Today: Circumcision Series

Learn More from Narvaez:

The Evolved Nest Institute

Kindred Media

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

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💗 Peaceful Parenting on Telegram

Nawal El Saadawi, Doctor and Warrior Who Devoted Her Life to Ending FGM and MGM, Passed Away at Age 89

"Male circumcision is a problem too. I am against that as well, as a doctor." -Nawal El Saadawi
"Male circumcision is a problem too. I am against that as well, as a doctor." -Nawal El Saadawi 

Nawal El Saadawi, who has been a lifetime warrior to end FGM, passed away today at age 89. Eleven years ago she specifically addressed the topic of ending MGM as well in an interview (below), and repeatedly through her life's work, she expressed that she wholeheartedly believed that the genital cutting of all children was equally as horrific, dangerous, and in need of being stopped. Nawal was a champion for the genital autonomy and protection of all babies and children, regardless of sex or age. 

Related Reading:  

The CUT (FGM Brief Documentary)

FGM Bill of the United States

Homologous Organs: The Clitoris and the Penis

Intact: Healthy, Happy, Whole community learning group

Peaceful Parenting Community

Nawal was a champion for the genital autonomy and protection of all babies and children, regardless of sex or age.

News Excerpts

Egypt’s trailblazing writer Nawal El Saadawi died on Sunday at the age of 89, after a lifetime spent fighting for women’s rights and equality. The feminist author of more than 55 books first spotlighted the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) with The Hidden Face of Eve in 1980. 

A trained doctor, El Saadawi also campaigned against women wearing the veil, polygamy and inequality in Islamic inheritance rights between men and women. She died in a Cairo hospital after a long battle against illness. 

Born in October 1931 in a village in the Nile delta, north of Cairo, El Saadawi studied medicine at Cairo University and New York’s Columbia University. The novelist, who wrote regularly for Egyptian newspapers, also worked as a psychiatrist and university lecturer. One of the leading feminists of her generation, El Saadawi’s 1972 book Women and Sex unleashed a backlash of criticism and condemnation from Egypt’s political and religious establishment, resulting in the activist losing her job at the health ministry. 

She was jailed for two months in 1981 by the late president Anwar Sadat during a wide political crackdown in which several intellectuals were detained. While imprisoned, El Saadawi wrote about her experience in Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, writing on a roll of toilet paper using an eyebrow pencil smuggled in by a fellow prisoner. The writer became a target of Islamist militants, with her name on death lists that included Egyptian Nobel literature laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who in 1994 was stabbed in an attempt on his life. “This refusal to criticise religion … This is not liberalism. This is censorship,” she said. 

Speaking to the Guardian in 2009, she said: “I regret none of my 47 books. If I started my life again I would write the same books. They are all very relevant even today: the issues of gender, class, colonialism (although of course that was British and is now American), female genital mutilation, male genital mutilation, capitalism, sexual rape and economic rape.” 

After undergoing female genital mutilation at the age of six, and seeing the damage it could do during her work as a village doctor, she campaigned against the practice. “Since I was a child that deep wound left in my body has never healed,” she wrote in an autobiography. 

El Saadawi also established and led the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, as well as co-founding the Arab Association for Human Rights. El Saadawi moved to North Carolina’s Duke University in 1993 due to death threats. After returning to Egypt, she ran for president in 2005 but abandoned her campaign after accusing security forces of not allowing her to hold rallies. In 2007, she was condemned by Egypt’s highest Sunni Muslim authority, Al-Azhar, for her play God Resigns at the Summit Meeting – in which God is questioned by Jewish, Muslim and Christian prophets and finally quits. Her views resulted in her facing several legal challenges, including allegations of apostasy from Islamists. 

Despite challenges from authorities, the writer said in 2010 that she was motivated to keep going by the daily letters she received from people who say their lives have been changed by her writing. “A young man came to me in Cairo with his new bride. He said, I want to introduce my wife to you and thank you. Your books have made me a better man. Because of them I wanted to marry not a slave, but a free woman.” 

In 2005, El Saadawi was awarded the Inana International Prize in Belgium, a year after she received the North-South prize from the Council of Europe. In 2020, Time Magazine named her on their 100 Women of the Year list. Egypt’s culture minister, Inas Abdel-Dayem, mourned El Saadawi’s passing, saying her writings had given rise to a great intellectual movement. 

El Saadawi married three times, and is survived by a daughter and a son.

The Global Dispatches (2010 Interview):

What are you working on at the moment? 

I write an article every Tuesday for an independent daily in Cairo called Al Masry Al Youm, it is an opposition paper. I also wrote a novel while I was in Atlanta in Georgia, called “My life across the Ocean”. This is about my experiences in America and should be published in Arabic towards the end of this year. I am also starting a new novel which is working away in my brain! Last year I published a book entitled “Zeina” which is already being widely translated. 

I have heard that your grandmother had a strong influence on your life, is this true? 

It is true. My grandmother was a strong influence on my life, she was the mother of my father, a peasant woman with a strong personality. She had very strong ideas about life, religion, God and colonialism. She used to tell me that God is justice, he is not a text or a book. My grandmother was illiterate but she knew that God was justice. She took on everyone, the Mayor, King Farouk. She was a great influence on me. She had a very strong character. 

You have recently been living in the United States 

In 1993, I went to Duke University to teach. This was because my life was threatened and my house in Cairo had been surrounded by security guards. I had been put on a death list and the Muslim fundamentalists in Egypt (and elsewhere) had vowed to kill me. So I became a professor at Duke University. When I went to the South of the United States I did not realize that this was the Bible Belt, the “fundamentalist” area of America. The Southern fundamentalists are even more fanatical than the Muslim fundamentalists! They are very right wing, pro-Israel, they adore the Republicans, and they are very reactionary. They use Christianity for political ends too. I wrote the play “God resigns at the Summit Meeting” while I was teaching at Duke University in the USA. I wrote it in Arabic but nobody wanted to publish it, and then my publisher in Cairo took it because he was publishing my collected works for an international book fair so he published everything including “God Resigns” but he did not know what he was publishing because he was illiterate. My publisher burnt the manuscript because he received a visit from the police who told him to destroy it. They also threatened to destroy his publishing house if he went ahead with publication. My publisher died soon afterwards as he lost a lot of money in this affair and it destroyed him. It was very sad. 

The authorities have tried to isolate and censor you before have they not? 

Oh yes! I wrote my book “Women and Sex” in the 50s but I could not find anyone to publish the book until the 60s, but it was banned in Egypt so I had to publish it in Lebanon in 1970. As a result of publishing this book and some other articles, I lost my job at the Ministry of Health. At the time I had also set up a magazine called “Health” which I edited and the Minister of Health closed this magazine as I was dealing with issues like female circumcision, women’s problems and the issue of virginity. 

Do you see yourself as a doctor, an author, or a feminist, or all of the above? 

The unifying force in all my work is a mixture of feminism and a strong sense of social justice – a mixture of many things. I am a doctor but I do not separate medicine from politics and economics, they are all connected. I do not separate poverty from sickness, or mental illnesses from physical illnesses. Poverty, politics and neo-colonialism cannot be separated either. Patriarchal systems, multinationals and the oppression of women are all inter-connected too. I teach that they are all connected. I teach creativity and dissidence. Dissidence itself is a creative act. When a law is unjust you have to break it. For this reason I see feminism as humanism. 

Is Female Genital Mutilation still an issue in Egypt? 

It certainly is! Female genital mutilation is still a serious problem in Egypt, despite the fact that a law was passed to ban this practice, the number of circumcisions has not decreased. The rate of circumcisions amongst young girls is 97%. The government is not serious about banning this practice, nor is the media, they don’t care about the health of young women or girls. It is a corrupt government – they don’t care. They only passed the law to avoid a scandal after a film was shown of a young girl being circumcised and bleeding to death. They are not serious about it. I am still censored on Egyptian television when I speak about this issue in Egypt. Male circumcision is a problem too, I am against that as well, as a doctor. There has been no progress on this front. 

How do you explain the decline in interest in feminism worldwide? 

There are differences between feminism in Muslim countries and feminism in Western countries. Western feminists are more concerned with class, race and gender oppression but they have a different outlook for one important reason: they were never colonized. They do not link feminism to colonialism. There has been a backlash against feminism over recent years as a result of the rise of right-wing politics. There is a direct connection. The defeat of socialism is also responsible but so is the connection between right-wing groups and religious fundamentalists. 

Certain countries in Europe are trying to legislate against the burqa and the use of the veil in public places. How do you feel about that? 

I agree the veil should be banned. And there should be no religious separation in schools. There should be no veils and no nakedness either. The veiling and the nakedness of women are two sides of the same coin. It is the same oppression at work. When I see naked bodies of women being used for advertisements and to make profit I am horrified. They try and sell make-up to women who are poor. I disagree with this. Men are always fully clothed and go unveiled, Why?! 

There have been some recent political developments in Egypt with the extension of the state of emergency for another two years. 

This is something I am against, clearly, as I am part of the opposition. We need democracy, we do not need emergency laws – we are not living in a state of emergency. The government uses these laws to protect itself. There is a great deal of corruption in the government so they need these laws to protect themselves. These laws are dangerous and anti-democratic. 

How do the younger generation in Egypt react to your work? 

It depends on who they are. If a woman is veiled she will see me differently but I judge my popularity through my books. I sell a lot of books throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. I have had 47 books republished and I have a lot of readers, so that is why I feel secure. The government and the fundamentalists want to isolate me and neo-colonial powers in the USA are against me, but the people who support me are the huge number of my readers throughout the world. I have been translated into 30 languages. My readers protect me!

Nawal El Saadawi believed male circumcision was equally as wrong as female circumcision, and that coming together in solidarity for the genital autonomy of ALL would benefit both women and men across the board.
Nawal El Saadawi believed male circumcision was equally as wrong as female circumcision, and that coming together in solidarity for the genital autonomy of ALL would benefit both women and men across the board.

Archived Biography of Nawal El Saadawi

Nawal El Saadawi is a world renowned writer. She is a novelist, a psychiatrist, and author of more than forty books of fiction and non fiction. Her novels and her books on the situation of women have had a deep effect on successive generations of young women and men over the last five decades. 

As a result of her literary and scientific writings she has had to face numerous difficulties and even dangers in her life. In 1972, she lost her job in the Egyptian Ministry of Health because of her book “Women and Sex” published in Arabic in Cairo (1969) and banned by the political and religious authorities, because in some chapters of the book in which she wrote against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and linked sexual problems to political and economic oppression. The magazine Health, which she founded and had edited for more than three years, was closed down in 1973. In September 1981 President Sadat put her in prison. She was released at the end of November 1981, two months after his assassination. She wrote her book “Memoirs” from the Women’s Prison on a roll of toilet paper and an eyebrow pencil smuggled to her cell by an imprisoned young woman in the prostitutes ward. From 1988 to 1993 her name figured on death lists issued by fanatical religious political organizations. 

On 15 June, 1991, the government issued a decree which closed down the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association over which she presides and handed over its funds to the association called Women in Islam. Six months before this decree the government closed down the magazine Noon, published by the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association. She was editor-in-chief of the magazine. 

During the summer of 2001, three of her books were banned at Cairo International Book Fair. She was accused of apostasy in 2002 by a fundamentalist lawyer who raised a court case against her to be forcibly divorced from her husband, Dr. Sherif Hetata. She won the case due to Egyptian, Arab and international solidarity. On 28 January, 2007, Nawal El Saadawi and her daughter Mona Helmy, a poet and writer, were accused of apostasy and interrogated by the General Prosecutor in Cairo because of their writings to honor the name of the mother. 

They won the case in 2008. Their efforts led to a new law of the child in Egypt in 2008, giving children born outside marriage the right to carry the name of the mother. Also FGM is banned in Egypt by this law in 2008. Nawal El Saadawi was writing and fighting against FGM for more than fifty years. Her play “God Resigns At the Summit Meeting” was banned in Egypt during November 2006 and she faced a new trial in Cairo court raised against her by Al Azhar in February 2007, accusing her of apostasy and heresy because of her new play. She won the case on 13 May 2008. 

Nawal El Saadawi had been awarded several national and international literary prizes, lectured in many universities, and participated in many international and national conferences.

All babies are born perfect. Say NO to circumcision