Over the last decade even as Salman Rushdie has been receiving accolades from the literary world, there has been a simultaneous stream of criticism about his representations of South Asian women. Charu Verma complains about ‘'Midnight’s Children's sexist bias against Padma [the protagonist Saleem Sinai's companion] ... who is projected as a pathetic victim' (60), while Sukeshi Kamra writes that ‘Rasheed [Haroun and the Sea of Stories] is the victim of three female forces [the moon, his wife, and an allegorical Mother India], all of whom he desires and all of whom castrate him’ (243). Inderpal Grewal observes that the women presented in Shame are ‘passive, ineffectual or mediators of male power' (30) and Aijaz Ahmad adds that in Shame ‘We find ... a gallery of women who are frigid and desexualised ... demented and moronic ... dulled into nullity ... driven to despair ... or suicide ... or [who] embody sheer surreal incoherence and loss of individual identity' (1992b 144). All four of these critics clearly demonstrate that within Rushdie's allegorical scheme of the postcolonial nation, women are only allowed to be victims of the excesses of the nation or victimisers who, like Sufiya Zenobia in Shame, have suffered so much at the hands of the patriarchal nation-state that they become corrupted oppressors themselves.
Sen, Asha, Allegories of Woman, Nation, and Empire in Salman Rushdie’s East, West Stories, Kunapipi, 23(2), 2001.