In Beduin Stories, the world described is split in two. The Beduin women and men lead almost separate lives. For the author to explain how good a hostess Gateefa, the first wife was, she related that when some Egyptian friends of her husband had arrived, she “[suspended] her own morals to converse with them” (117). Near the end of the chapter, the author describes a visit to the mansion of a rich couple. Since the man was from Sudan and the woman from Egypt, they had different customs than the visiting family. All the men and women sat in the same room together and Gateefa and her children were very uncomfortable by the mixed-sex situation. When her husband’s brother and a guest arrived, they had to sit on their own behind a curtain, since Gateefa could not mix with a nonkinsman Beduin. At the end Gateefa could not take it anymore and moved to a different room with her daughters. There is also much talk of how the Egyptian hostess was considered improper because she openly conversed with Gateefa’s husband in a relaxed and familiar way (119).
The family the author is staying with used to live in the Beduin camp but now live in a house of their own. Gateefa admits to the author that before they moved she had never spent her evenings with her husband since he spent them with his brothers (122). Then, when the author notices how important Gateefa is to her husband, she doesn’t know if the Haj is as important to Gateefa as she could not show openly her affection in public. Even though the author knows very well that Gateefa is a good singer and poet, her husband doesn’t. We are also told that when women gave birth, the men had nothing to do with it and were supposed to not see them for forty days (122). The Haj broke tradition and visited Gateefa the morning after she gave birth, but while she was giving birth, the person that took care of her was her co-wife. The two women shared an emotional moment after the birth of the baby, and the co-wife cried as she related the difficulties of the birth (90). The author writes:
There was between them a closeness and dependency, perhaps as women who give birth (indeed, other women remarked that day, “Men experience nothing compared to women – do they think giving birth is easy? It is hard as war”), perhaps as women bound together by sharing a household, daily life, and a history.
My question is: can we relate this article to the swapping article, or to Rich’s lesbian continuum or are the men too prevalent even in the women’s world?