The first scenes in the Persepolis graphic novel shows the Islamic Revolution taking place in Iran. Specific restrictions on the dress codes of citizens were introduced a year ago. Iranians will be forced to follow more and more strict Islamic laws sparked by this revolution in the coming years until the early twentieth century. This paper would address gender inequalities in Iran during the 1980s, when “Persepolis” was published, triggered by Islamic extremism.
It is important to elaborate the explanation for this paper’s use of the word “Islamic Extremism” before the actual discussion of the main topic.
Islamic extremism was described by the BBC News as “anything against democracy, the rule of law, individual freedoms, and tolerance of different religions and belief systems”. All Muslims who abide by Islamic fundamentals are considered extremists. This concept supports the idea that after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Islamic extremism was practiced in Iran. For example, in 1980 women were forced to wear strictly compliant velvets.
Bilingual schools in Iran have also been shut down, separating the boys and girls from each other. There have also been several incidents in which the police assault and arrest the protesters and protestors who criticize the Islamic state, many of whom have been executed. Young Marjane actually witnessed numerous acts of violence in a couple of scenes that presumably caused her rebellious nature to hate and resist the Islamic government in her own way. It is the obligation and duty of men to keep women under their protection and control.
The following are some “Persepolis definitions” that demonstrate gender inequalities created by Islamic Extremism.
First is the martyrdom term. It is clear that all the martyrs whose names in the novel include some streets are males, although in some scenes it has been shown that women are involved in demonstrations and have actually been killed. Secondly, there is leadership. Not a single woman ruled the country throughout the entire novel, maybe it’s the shah, prime minister or president. Maybe a reason for this may be that a mother and wife is the primary role of women in the household. This has always been consistent with Islam’s teachings, which encourage women to be good wives and to raise generations of good Muslims. Some racism against women was also shown in the book. Police call women very foul, demeaning in many scenes. Marjane was almost arrested for wearing makeup in the chapter called “The Makeup” if it wasn’t for her plan to redirect the attention of the police to the guy she claimed stared at her maliciously.
It can also be observed that with women’s dress codes the authorities are much stricter than men. Even the unsuitable wearing of the veil and putting the jacket is causing trouble for women. A quote from the chapter “The Convocation” that Marjane said was: “You don’t hesitate to comment on us, but our brothers present here have all shapes and sizes of haircut and clothes. Sometimes, they wear clothes so tight that we can see everything. Why is it that I, as a woman, am expected to feel nothing watching these men with their clothes sculpted on but they, as men, can get excited by two inches less of my head scarf?” (Satrapi 143). There were no laws for men that involved dress code of any kind they were free to wear what they wanted. Although there were women in Iran that wanted to wear the veil and other clothing, there were a number of other women that were enraged that they had no freedom to wear what they wanted. The veil renders a sex object for women that needs to be covered. Without the mask, in the context of the handful of extremist groups, women are seen as prostitutes. She mentions her encounter with the police when Marjane’s mother removes her veil. The mother of Marjane, Taji, says, “They insulted me. They said that women like me should be pushed up against a wall and then thrown in the garbage.” (Satrapi 74). This behavior reflects these particular policemen’s brutal rapist-like behavior in Iran. Such police officers oversexualize Taji to the extent that the only option is to continue to repress her by telling her to dress in a certain way. Although this is a rare case, the experience of Taji exemplifies how women’s mandate can lead to risk. Nonetheless, these radical police officers may always be violent, now they have a justification to show their hostility to women. Unveiling puts the women of Iran at risk.
According to Marjane, unlike the extremist woman, by showing a few strands of hair, the modern woman shows opposition to the regime. For women, like Marjane, the regime raises questions like “Is my veil in place?” Unlike “Where’s my freedom of speech?” (Satrapi 304). Marjane shows that the terror caused by the dress code fogs the capacity of the Iranian woman to represent and evaluate the violation of human rights. For compliance with the Iranian government’s laws is a matter of life or death. To die a martyr is the worst nightmare of a contemporary Iranian woman, so women have no choice but to adhere to their climate of repression. Nonetheless, Marjane does not discuss that freedom of choice requires individual rights. While many Iranian women before the revolution did not wear the veil, many Iranian women still chose to wear the veil as a way of expressing their personal belief in Islamic purity. Marjane’s definition of the veil will lead to reverse discrimination where women who choose religiously to cover their hair are shunned for being traditional or uneducated. The opinion of Marjane that unveiling determines modernity and the struggle for equality between men and women is not true. However, the right of the woman to choose the way she should dress, veil or reveal reflects the fulfillment in the feminine range of gender equality.
Marjane loses her inner desire to be a socially active after she flees to Europe in Persepolis. After the veiling of women in Iran, this is a second major cultural shock. This is the first time that Marjane witnesses women acting openly without any social repercussions in a liberated manner. At the European school, by matching the rebellious style and attitude of her clique, Marjane assimilates with the punk community. She cuts off her hair, wears eyeliner, and smokes, the disembodiment of an Iranian woman who is socially acceptable. While being desperate to have a social identity, Marjane never feels welcome in Europe. She reintroduces her former national pride as an educated Iranian woman free to behave, dress, and associate with whatever and whomever she pleases after her friends turn their back on Marjane and make a racist remark about her heritage. It embarks on the social isolation feeling of Marjane where she does not feel comfortable in either Europe or Iran. Marjane’s world view of a woman in Europe who supports gender equality is shifting. Instead of distancing herself from her Iranian heritage, she uses her freedom of choice as a form of social activism. Marjane previously viewed social activism as ideal for Western society.
While Marjane’s method of campaigning for gender equality reforms, she fails to describe gender equality. She sees sex as a social or cultural element. She perceives the veil that has been embraced by society as a major component of gender inequality. Marjane’s strive for justice against the harassment of the Iranian women was a heroic effort knowing the consequences of her actions could be fatal.