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Harem

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Ian Dunn
616286.  Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:21 am Reply with quote

"Harem" is a genre of Japanese anime and manga. It typically features one male character and lots of female ones, most of which are in some way romantically interested in the main male character.

 
CB27
616335.  Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:15 pm Reply with quote

Interesting to see that Harem is used for this style as opposed to Hougong or a Japanese equivalent.

The irony being that harems weren't actually places for the wives and concubines of Arab men, but were the secluded areas for females, so they could include other female relatives as well. The word harem itself would mean forbidden or secluded, and even today the Hebrew equivalent for what Christians call excommunication is Cherem or Herem.

The nearest we have to the Western idea of what a harem is would be the Chinese word "Hougong" (後宮) which meant the palaces behind. When translated to English this often became Harem.

 
Flash
616453.  Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:41 pm Reply with quote

That's Quite Interesting, CB - if you're saying that the typical denizen of a harem is your maiden aunt (rather than a ravishing junior concubine) then that ought to be a notion we could play with on the show.

Ian, I like your use of the (presumably) euphemistic expression "romantically interested".

 
Ian Dunn
616469.  Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:51 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Ian, I like your use of the (presumably) euphemistic expression "romantically interested".


It wasn't meant to be euphemistic actually, but then again there are some harem anime and manga which are more "adult" shall we say.

Here is a list of harem anime and manga.

 
CB27
616485.  Tue Sep 22, 2009 5:13 pm Reply with quote

Talking to someone I know from a theological college I was able to confirm that Cherem is the proper word I was thinking of for Jewish "excommunication", so a slight sigh of relief there cos I wasn't sure if I got it right.

It seems to me that perhaps the western idea that women in a harem were wives or concubines may have been through mixing up an Arab word with a Chinese meaning.

 
exnihilo
616522.  Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:46 pm Reply with quote

Haram (as distinct from harem) is the Arabic for forbidden and is most commonly used in English to refer to something which is not Halal. Harem is derived from the same HRM triliteral.

In Constantinople, the women's quarters of the Great Palace was known as the gynaeceum, indeed the women's quarters of any great house. The term harem seems to have been adopted by the Turks and Turkomen from the Arabic at some point after their appearance in Asia Minor but before their settling down and forming the Sultanate of Rum. The Persian equivalent was the saray which gives us the word seraglio.

The purpose of all three was not, as CB27 has rightly pointed out and as much of the western world appears to think, to act as a kind of brothel but to provide a place for women away from men (though male children would be allowed) to receive an appropriate royal/noble education and to ensure the inviolability of the line. It was not, in conception, a form of oppression for women - shutting them away - but rather a form of respect, granting to them their own things and the royal gynaeceum, at least, had significant incomes and responsibilities for many public duties, requiring appropriately trained persons to discharge them.

Interestingly, the word "herem" in Hebrew means both sacred and forbidden - which tells us quite a bit about early Jewish mystical thought.



As an aside, if we have this many manga references for H, God help us when we get to M.

 
Jenny
616633.  Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:29 am Reply with quote

exnihilo wrote:
It was not, in conception, a form of oppression for women - shutting them away - but rather a form of respect, granting to them their own things .


It's amazing how many centuries men managed to get away with that line.

Put it in a South African context and substitute white and black for men and women and it becomes a little clearer.

 
exnihilo
616652.  Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:59 am Reply with quote

Tosh. Sorry, but that's just not a historically fair assessment, nor a fair comparison. Neither the gynaeceum nor the harem were prisons, women were free to come and go from both - originally in the case of the harem, and throughout its existence in the case of the gynaeceum. Women were not removed from society, they were very much part of it, and often a very important part of it, with areas of life which were their special charge.

 
CB27
616673.  Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:40 am Reply with quote

I wouldn't tosh it as much as exnihilo because chauvinists existed throughout history, but the current trend of Muslims turning to "traditional sharia" life and making it look as if women were very much suppressed as part of this life, as well as education and freedom of thought, etc, is nothing like how the original Muslim traditions were, it's all to do with their own interpretation.

 
Posital
617003.  Thu Sep 24, 2009 1:31 am Reply with quote

exnihilo wrote:
granting to them their own things
How generous - obviously no oppression here...

 
Jenny
617374.  Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:16 pm Reply with quote

exnihilo wrote:
Neither the gynaeceum nor the harem were prisons, women were free to come and go from both - originally in the case of the harem, and throughout its existence in the case of the gynaeceum. Women were not removed from society, they were very much part of it, and often a very important part of it, with areas of life which were their special charge.


It is certainly true that many Muslim women regard hijab as a liberating thing. It is also true that Islam gives women rights that many European women often did not have until the 20th century.

However, what evidence do you have that suggests women in a harem had freedom of movement historically? Were they more free in Arabic culture historically than they are now? Levels of freedom nowadays for women often still depend on the husband. In traditional households, women often cannot even talk to an unrelated man unless she is accompanied by male relatives of her own. Under Saudi law a woman cannot drive a vehicle or ride a bike. The ideology of public space for men and private space for women still seems extremely common to me.

It seems to me that women in Arabic countries are often still fighting for basic rights of freedom of choice that women in the west take totally for granted.

Various links that seem to support my contention:

http://www.wrmea.com/backissues/1295/9512068.html

http://www.merip.org/mer/mer246/milani.html

A good, balanced link (but rather long) that looks at a lot of interesting historical aspects:

http://tinyurl.com/ye29zjy

 
exnihilo
617564.  Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:28 am Reply with quote

I think we're conflating issues here: the oppression of women now, in Saudi and elsewhere, is of course deplorable, but there's no sense in which it invalidates comments about the historical harem.

 
Jenny
617617.  Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:05 am Reply with quote

exnihilo - so your contention is that women in a harem were more free historically than Saudi women are now? That they could come and go as they liked, and interact with whom they liked?

That seems counter to the normal representation of harem life, though I recognise that that plays on stereotypes, so I'd like to see some evidence of it.

 
CB27
617645.  Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:28 am Reply with quote

I can only give personal experiences of living in the Middle East in the 70s and 80s, though I've read quite a lot of books about Persian, Moghul and Ottoman leaders from history as they fascinate me.

From my personal experiences which are only a quarter of a century ago, I can definitely tell you that attitudes of Arab and Muslim people have changed tremendously - it's actually quite frightening how much in such a short span of time.

And reading from history the attitudes of people from past Arab and Muslim empires seem completely different from today as well (you'll always find exceptions of course).

I honestly think the greatest obstacles for Islam in the world today are not from external forces like the West, or Israel, etc, but the corrupted so-called "traditional" view which is taking it over from within.

 
Ion Zone
617852.  Fri Sep 25, 2009 4:15 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
"Harem" is a genre of Japanese anime and manga.


Tenchi is a good example, there is another, but I can't remember the name of it, pitty because it was the funnest one I have seen, because the guy is an uncaring lech.

 

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