Sunday, December 16, 2007

Boots and Iran’s Social Calamity

A new distraction arose this week with the Sardar Radan’s new dress code on the Islamic way for women to wear boots: They must not be worn over the pants! Well, nothing surprises one anymore. It is the police’s job to secure the city from such evils as women, their hair, their flesh, their curves.

Not a single day goes by in our country when we are not involved in some massive political, economical and social problem, domestic or international, and yet the government and the parliament and the Friday Imams are constantly distracted by the issue of women menace. Who are we that we cause such trouble? Is it all because Islam finds us so important? How does Islam define us? Sardar Radan is trying to define us as nothing but a bunch of curves! Is that all there is to us? Just curves? Then straighten them as much as possible! Sardar Radan and other sardars are there to maintain order and security, and little more, they are doing what God was not able and or not wise enough to do, to flatten women. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m just furious, as furious as I was some thirty-five or forty years ago when anybody and everybody was trying to define us and tell us “what a woman should be.” Fellini, Sartre, Lina Wertmüller, Hushang Golshiri, `Ali Shariati, Saadi, Al-e Ahmad, and any and every Azizi and Pazizi, and who knows who else. We should be beautiful, we should be light-skinned, we should be natural, we should be strong, we should be educated, we should be good cooks, we should be sexy, we should be modest, we should be tough, we should be submissive, we should be opinionated, we should be critical, we should be receptive, we should be young, we should be mature, we should be kind, we should not spoil, we should be pretty, we should not be vain, we should be motherly, we should be wise, we should be flexible, we should be authoritative. There was an expression then, mard-e-toye kucheh, zan-e-toye khuneh, Like a man outdoor, like a women at home. I do recall once in New York City how in a political meeting a member of the audience, the husband of one of the participants, said, “We should not underestimate women, such as yourself, who have been in prison, as a criterion.” I was about to scream. That is all we need on top of everything, a trip to prison, and perhaps a little bit of torture. Why not? No thank you! All we have is enough. Where did we all get this idea of womanhood? We are just a creature like men, like dogs, like cats, like elephants. Why we are not left alone to be what we are? Why do we need so many prescriptions and instructions, so much of carpentry and so much masonry, to fit into the image of those who are confused by us? Why should everybody feel free to tell us what we should do? Who are these people? What did they do in their lives? Who gave them that much of authority?

The chief of the Tehran’s police is incapable of even finding a murderer among all the murders which is happening in the city. Traffic police are not able to stop the cars that zigzag in the traffic of Tehran and endanger so many lives. They are not even able to implement the simple use of traffic signals. They lack the competence to bring about the slightest calm and order to the most peaceful demonstrations so they won’t use brutality. And, of course, who can ignore the variety of security gates, one after the other, and the security locks on each apartment door? In such a calamity, the chief of police is worried about the curves of our leg’s muscles, which are no bigger than a frankfurter, and its projection relative to the ankle, the smaller part of legs is not more that two inches, and when it is covered by stockings, pants, and leather boots…? Oh my God, please help us.

I do not know where this so-called Islamic respect and value for women lies. So far, whatever law governing us has been suitable only for half-witted creatures made of nothing but flesh. Really, what are we? Dolls? Do we have any other attributes which any human being has? Thinking? Feeling? Rationality? Wisdom or discretion? Are we all just bodies? This Sardar and other sardars do not see anything in us but the bodies. And, of course, these bodies are supposed to be as ugly as possible. Female beauty is dangerous.

As a matter of fact, the clerics and sardars are either ignorant or just pretend to be so. With all those talks about the value of women in Islam they do not see how they reveal themselves regarding the women. How ignorant are they that they think that attraction comes from the flesh which is covered by stockings and pants and heavy leather boots. How they reveal their true selves when they are fearful of the curve of leg muscles. How fragile their Islam is when the projection of a leg muscle threatens its virtue, particularly in the crowded traffic of Tehran! How ignorant they are who forget that it is the kind and intelligent eyes of the Iranian women, the warmth and glow of their souls, the virtue of their language and their voice, the aroma of love and compassion, their wisdom, their motherliness, and above all their poise coming from the self-confidence and the assuredness of knowing that they are loved, so interwoven into every shred of their being, which is so attractive and appealing. Hey Mr. Radan! beware that evil! How do you want to stop that?

Mohammad `Ali Abtahi in his blog wrote an article arguing with the radical clerics, posing as a friend fo the young. He expressed his disagreement with these arbitrary orders, simply stating that they cause aggravation and will cause more of a backlash. People now glare at those who voluntarily wear Islamic full coverage. That apparently opened a new phase in the Islamic Republic imposing laws. There were a few comments on his blog on this issue. One man complained that his fiancée is receiving insulting looks from women since she is covering herself modestly. Another women in Tehran University, of all places, expressed the same concerns, to which President Khatami replied, “No one has the right to insult people’s religious beliefs and practices,” as if people do have rights to insult non-religious beliefs and practices! I’m wondering what all these is about. What is the range of these insults? Probably an unfavorable glance or even hostile look? So what? What could be done? What is the point of these complaints? Did those ladies ever thought how insulting their ganging up with the suppressors and imposing such a weird notion as the chador over the body of a free human being and forcing her into following their style of piety and modesty was? Yes, these ladies betrayed others. Were it not for the sake of secularism, which in a short period of time spread and integrated itself so well into Iranian society, these ladies would not have any presence in universities, and indeed would have stayed back home in the kitchen and harem, and no one would look at them at all. In the early days of the Islamic revolution, were it not for the persistence of the professional, educated secular women, we would all have been pushed out of the work force and into the kitchens.

Khatami admits when he came to office that only 3% of the women where in managerial positions, which increased to only 16% during his administration.
Let us not delude ourselves and let set the record straight. Islam does not have such a brilliant record with the women. If here and there we see a little of what we call life, beyond motherhood, given to women, it is due to the local culture of the Islamic countries mixed with global demands. The current movement in Iran would have been much faster and more widespread, considering its historical record. The clerics’ daughters and wives in various academic, professional and political positions are not a testimony to the progressive attitude of Islam towards women. As a matter of fact, I do not know of any religion which separates women to such degree as to deal with them as half of the human. The best testimony to this claim is the clerics’ views and statements prior to the revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini, not yet the Imam, was a staunch critic of the Shah’s granting women the right to vote (as well as his land reform). Even last year, unsuccessful attempt to set the limit on women’s attending the universities confirm this.

Well, we do have a unique history. The most secular country in the region became the Islamic Republic. In the country with the fastest growing progressive feminism in the world, women have to fight for the basics. In the country with the most liberating and loving culture for women, women find themselves in a battle with misogyny. And now I would not be surprised if the country is becoming divided in a very unusual way. The suppressor is fighting our very being, fighting us for being women, and still claims that it is the victim!

The real victim is left with two weapons, its eyes and the movement of its neck. Oh yes, we look, we look and talk with them. We say things that we are not allowed to say, we say we are angry, we say we are betrayed, we say we do not like those who are not with us, we say, “You are either with us or against us,” we say we do not like you; yes we turn our neck, we turn our head and we walk away. With that we tell you, “I do not understand your piety.” We say, “What about the piety of standing for justice?” We say, “If you put that hejab around yourself to separate yourself from us, then do not expect kindness, you are not my kind. I walk away from you who had walked away from me, unless you find your piety in something else, at least temporarily.”


mac said...

Women are the social calamity because they're strong, so they can protest loud enough to distract the nation from the real problems (unemployment, economic downfall, petrol rationing, etc.)

Nice blog - keep on the good work, I'll be checking out

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you that the Iranian government since its birth day has been more focus on the apperance rather than the substance.

Having said that, the feamle knee high leather boots, are being considered as sexy and provocative everywhere in the world.

Many governments in the world, give the libraty ( but not 100%) to their citizens to wear whatever they want in the public places. Iranian government which is not a secular one, does not. Because, it believes that the individuals must not wear provacative dresses in the public places. Then, what is provacative and what is not, depends to the people who are in charge.

Drawing a boundary for individuals dressess, however, is not something only associated with Iranian government. For example it would be very hard for me to imagine that the corporations in USA or Europe allow their female employees to wear mini-skirt and boots in their working places. Why? They are neither muslim nor they know Sardar Radan.Hence,persumably they think that their employees'clothing must not be provacative in their working places.

Mina said...

Thanks for your comment. I did not know that leather boots are generally accepted as sexy and provocative. Could you lead me to any sources to verify it? All over the world people wear boots. As a matter of fact, its history goes way before the linguistic history of “sexy.” If you do not believe me, ask any Turkoman horseback rider if they wear it to be sexy, or look at medieval European paintings and illustrations, the early forms of foot wears were boots.
As for being “sexy” itself, all I can tell you is that it is highly subjective. What is sexy and provocative varies from one culture to another. Look at very pious Indian women in saris, for example; they do not think their bellies are provocative, or their hair for that matter.
As for your remark that you “can not imagine in any American corporation one wears mini skirts,” well, I’m old enough and have lived and worked in three continents to tell you with certainty you are misinformed. Yes, there are dress codes for various institutions and there is nothing wrong with that. However, most of what appears as a dress codes is nothing but the sense of propriety and the image that the corporation wants to project. If we do not see people wearing miniskirts in many (not all) corporations, it is because it does not suit their sense of professionalism, not because it is provocative. And indeed, even if there is a strict dress code, like in Catholic schools, it is limited within the boundary of the institutions and does not apply to the streets outside. And above all, all this comes with a great emphasis on education and discipline and logic governing the decision and the bottom line is that it relies tremendously on trust in our discretion and our willingness to choose whatever would best portray us to the public.
While I’m glad to see the younger people at peace with Islamic rules and regulations, still we should not delude ourselves that there is a big difference between “imposition” and “being taught the sense of propriety.” There is a big difference between suggesting how to dress in a three pieces suit to look professional and getting arrested for tucking your pants into your boots on your way to the park or shopping and being sent to jail.
Finally, as for Iran not to be a secular country, I do appreciate your reminder. That is one thing I have a tendency to forget or, better, not to accept. Iran is a very old country with a very long history. Twenty nine years of the Islamic Republic is too little to wipe that history from my mind and force me to accept it. For you young people who are born with Islamic Iran that is a different matter, though, I do not think I’m the only one.