Narmin Kamal: Animals, plants and women

Animal and woman. How would you kill a bear? An animal that is much stronger than man falls down when a bullet is put through its head. The bleeding wound leaves red stains on its white fur, and without understanding anything a bear closes its eyes. They take it to the cold dark shop located in A. Street and plunge the knife in the back of its head to peel off the skin. In a month Zeyneb, a woman from our neighborhood, wears this skin. She minces down the stairs, gets in her car and drives off to see her friends. They talk about her new fur coat. The woman boasts that it’s natural leather because she would never wear anything artificial. That same evening her friends make calls to contract the murder of an hare and a seal. Zeyneb’s bag is seal leather. It is the skin of a seal mother brutally killed with a metal rod last year in the North. Her baby seals have already forgotten her.

Zeyneb thinks she is beautiful and elegant. She often checks the size of her waist to be sure that her elegance and grace are not in danger. This woman makes fine facial expressions and tries to speak with a tender voice.  When Zeyneb hears doleful songs she becomes sad. Sometimes when watching a movie she cannot hold back her tears. While crying she puts her head on the shoulder of a man, who never says “no” to any of her wishes.

If you were told nice fairy tales in your childhood, you would know that Zeyneb is the bear of an artificial and coarse society. There is no bear which wears a coat made of human skin and there is no seal which carries a bag made of the skin of Zeyneb. She is the woman that peels off the skins of hares, pandas, crocodiles, and wraps herself in them. She is proud of this like a savage in a primitive tribe.

In Western countries demand for this kind of fur and leather is gradually decreasing. Famous actresses are proud to own coats and bags made of artificial leather. However, other women, like Zeyneb organize culinary contests on TV and award a fur coat to the winner. Behind the prize are heartache, suffering and death. The winner of this skin of fox, tiger or hare, leaps up and cries out with joy: “Wowww!”

In a couple of years Zeyneb lies in a dark corner of a hospital ward located in A. Street. She has an abortion because she expecting a girl for the third time. The name of the second girl is Qiztamam (Girl Over). The possibility to give such widely spread Azerbaijani names as Qıztamam and Qızyetə, Qızbəs or Bəsti (Enough) did not help this woman, she was again expecting a girl. Zeyneb’s heart aches, she cries and moans. Rude nurses say to her: “Do not groan like a bear.”

Plant and woman

Dr. Narmin Kamal is a scholar, writer, and researcher from Azerbajan. She may be reached through her Facebook profile or through comments to the website where she originally posted this article:




There is a belief in most regions of Azerbaijan that a bride may bring anything as a dowry, except a flower in a pot. A young family should not keep potted flowers because the bride is the flower. A real plant can be perceived as a rival to a woman. People believe that: “If a flower will reproduce a woman will not.” In principle if we compare women to flowers our society will not be offended.

Fatma received a bouquet of brightly colored natural chrysanthemums. When she was putting the flowers into a vase, she noticed that the stalks were braided with wire, which kept them straight. A month passed and Fatma’s chrysanthemums did not fade but there was a persistent smell of formalin. Formalin is a drug, which people use to cover a corpse in order to prevent it from rotting. They do that in order to keep the dead in proper condition until relatives who live far away arrive for its interment. So there was mechanical as well as chemical interference with these flowers.

From then on, Fatma started paying attention to the plants around her. She noticed that trees in the park are regulary clipped to grow in the shape of a square or circle. Often new leaves have to be cut off in the process. At a university lecture on Erix Fromm’s work “To have or to be” (the original work is in German – “Haben oder Sein’’) Fatma heard the lecturer on philosophy explain: “Assume that there is a flower in the garden. People who live “to have” will pick this flower because they like it and want to own it. Others who live “to be” enjoy this flower blossoming in the ground. They think that a flower grows with great difficulty. It buds, grows, starts blossoming and then one day you pick it? After all, it lives only five-ten days in total.”

In order to increase the price of flowers vendors use wires, cut leaves, make chemical injections, etc. In order to survive in a women’s competitive world, Fatma tries to meet its beauty standards. She gets plastic surgery and silicone implants to acquire the forms that will be attractive to men. She wears 17cm heels and causes herself extreme physical pain to appear taller and more attractive than other women. She wears indecent clothes.

Somebody might think that this is freedom. Fatma is free because she can wear whatever she wants. But in the center of Baku we see many women dressed this way. Does this mean that none of them have men’s supervision? I used to think so until I realized later that a woman wearing very open clothes has problems. Man is the root of her problems because she always competes to catch his attention. As writers often say, when a woman meets another woman, both of them think about who is more beautiful: “Her or me?”

One of them bares one part of her body, while the other chooses to bare her body more than the first. The purpose is to catch men’s attention as a fisherman catches fish into the net. Morally and financially independent women as a rule do not wear indecent clothes. A woman bares her body and goes to the streets, only when she suffers from her dependence on a man. Therefore, women bare themselves not because they are free but out of necessity.

In these two analogies we see, that destroying nature and destroying a woman are similar things.

Woman and woman

Historically women were equal with nature as men were equal with civilization.  Hundreds of years of religion, law, media, economy and politics were in the hands of men. That is probably why when people say “history” they mean “his story.” The civilization created by men stands face to face with nature. Over hundreds of years women and nature lived the same fate; the civilization created by men exploited nature as well as women. In capitalist times this exploitation intensified. Nature was considered inferior to culture, and a man was considered superior to a woman.  Just as forests and animals are controlled by people, women are supervised by men, and our feelings are controlled by our minds.

Control over a woman is similar to control over nature. Eco-feminists used to say that the salvation of nature and women are interdependent and therefore women should play an important role in supporting green movements. And they do. Women are the leaders of green movements in Europe. The women of India promoted the action called “Coca-Cola, get out of India!” because the company grabbed water reserves which were already scarce in the country. Their action reached its goal and Coca-Cola closed down its operations in India. Nowadays, only a limited number of women can handle this type of activism, while leaving aside their daily problems. It is not realistic to expect Azerbaijani women to plant trees, organize meetings, or join green movements. But they can put a small plate of soup for a street cat, while cooking their own dinner.

Azerbaijani women are extremely satisfied with themselves and the culture they represent. On TV when many different women get together we can hear such statements as: “Azerbaijani women are the most beautiful women.” “Azerbaijani women are the women of high moral standards.” What do they mean by this? Simply this – that they are not unfaithful to their husbands. The concept of morality is linked to sexual relations. If you keep your virginity until marriage and after marriage you do not have sexual relations with other men, you are considered to be a woman of high moral standards. But this is only a small part of it. The notion of morality has wider meaning for developed nations. For example, not to bribe and not to look away when children cut the tail of a cat or kick the kitties in the street.

There are two women in the term “Mother Nature.” Women’s anger towards nature, what drives women to wear fur coats – is very similar to the struggle between two women set up to compete against each other.