A cloistered woman has no voice, but a cloistered people provide the key to the jailed woman’s cell. And what better veil than colonialism?
Colonialism, and especially French colonialism, is a system undoubtedly made for oppression. From mass murder, to the degradation of the colonized people’s race to a status akin to children or animals (known as dehumanization), to the usurpation of resources, rights, and privileges of the colonized by the colonizer, colonization is one of the most psychologically convoluted and atrocious outcomes of an empire. However, through its silencing of a nation’s heritage, it allows for the voices of the silenced to be heard across the world. And more than just the immediately silenced are heard… the subaltern silenced, the women of the colonized people, are given a venue for crying out, for rejoicing, for sharing their stories which previously would not, could not, be shared.
Though conquered, the colonized have the chance to take on a radical bilingualism. When their native tongue is deemed crude and barbaric by the colonizer, they may choose to take on the tongue of their conquerors. Awkward, foreign, and above all ironic, this tongue presents its speakers with a difficult dilemma, and a rare opportunity… hide among their thoughts, or fight their oppressors with a colonizer’s mouth and a colonized’s mind. The radicals chose the latter. The pen may not always be mightier than the sword, but it is far more lasting.
A social group that is dominated by another is known to be a subaltern group, and a colonized woman is doubly subaltern. Dominated first by the colonizer, she is further subdued by her own people. A prisoner among the imprisoned, she is afforded no way out by the system… except through one small, off-handed gift from the colonizer- his words. Sent by fathers to learn the language of the oppressor at schools made by the oppressor, the woman gains the tools for her escape. She is given a bilingualism that will serve as her radical emancipation.