Googoosh was a bad role model
July 15, 2004
Most Iranians are often horrified to hear that I am not a big
fan of the Iranian Diva and do not think highly of her. Their jaws
drop open in disbelief when I say she was and is a bad role model
for Iranian females.
Personally, I am baffled at how she has been elevated to a God-like
figure by so many, including my own teen-age son. How could people
not recognize the negative role she played in keeping Iranian women "victims"?
Growing up in Iran I always looked for female role models to
inspire me to achieve goals and make a difference. My father was
my biggest influence because he often praised women who had dared
to be different, and whom society viewed as "rebels." My
father thought Googoosh was a singer with a beautiful voice that
let men run her life and did not do much to empower herself or
the women's movement.
I agreed with my dad and hated Googoosh's father for using
her and then hated her husband Mahmoud Ghorbnani even more becase
he made her sing at the clubs and stay up late. In 1977 as I walked
out of Miami Cabaret, his smile turned to horror when I spat on
the ground and said, "Here is a man that gets his ego boosted
by using girls, how disgusting!"
I often saw sadness and deep sorrow in the singer's eyes.
I also thought the pretty smile and dancing was just a facade.
I liked some of her songs but did not feel sorry for her because
I had no respect for her. To me she liked being a victim, although
her fame and fortune put her in a position to stop the abuse and
release herself from the unhappy marriage. I also thought if she
did leave her husband many women would find the courage to leave
My heroes were like the historical figure "Torkan Khatoon",
the woman who had caused so much havoc in the Saljoogh court by
manipulating the court to make sure her son would be the next king
and not the crown prince. Her magnificent attempts at outsmarting
Hasan Saba are great materials for espionage movies. My other heroes
were Ghamarolmolook Vaziri, the singer who had dared to sing without
a veil among men; Delkash, for coming from a village and daring
to dream big and become a legendary singer and even an actress;
and, of course, my grandmother, who defied my grandfather's
orders and went to work as a midwife outside the area where she
lived and who hid all her earnings!
What prompted me to bring the Diva up?
My son's fascination with her, which makes me wonder why
it is that everyone else cannot see the damage she is causing to
the image of Iranian women.
I never listened to Googoosh when he was growing up. He knew
most Iranian singers by name and could sing their songs, but the
Diva was not one of them. Then, in 1993, he saw one of her videos
while watching TV in San Francisco. He loved her and insisted that
I buy some of her CDs. He listened for a while and then forgot
about her, of which I was glad. Then he heard Googoosh is coming
to America and he called her the Iranian Icon!
That was not the end of it. He began going online to watch her
videos and told all his American friends to listen to her and would
put the phone next to the speakers so people on the other end could
hear her sing.
Then he began calling her "that is my girl" which
he got slapped on the head from me, saying "That is a sexist
I was okay with all this fascination as long as it was in his
room and his PC. I can even cope with him whistling "gole
beegoldoon" and playing the CD in the living room while I
am trying to practice my Santour. He wants me to dance "kee
meedone" and he shouts to be heard from the loud music "Mommy,
where is your Iranian pride? Aren't you proud of her?" I
want so badly to say, hell no. There is nothing about her to make
me proud but I bite my tongue and say, "I am just tired."
But now that he is a full-fledged driver and borrows my car to
go play pool with the boys, he has taken all his Googoosh CDs and
placed them in my car. When I turn the key to start the engine
her voice comes on. Annoyed, I remove the CD.
Well, that is not the worst part. It has become really annoying
these days because he stays up late to watch the basketball games
and as a result he is too tired to get up and go to school by bus.
So he comes in my room with a sad face and says "Mommy, meeshe
lotfan shoma mano bebareed school emrooz?"
Well, I do not mind, considering he is a senior and will leave
me next year to go to college and I will be alone after 18 years.
What annoys the hell out of me is that as soon as he gets in the
car he blasts Goosgoosh and I have to listen to some songs that
bring back memories I wish to forget. Never mind that he corrects
my translations if he asks me about one of the words. For example
when I translated "golkhooneh" as greenhouse, he corrected
me and said the exact translation in Farsi means flower house!
My luck, the very next song "domahi", or two fish,
is one of the ones that causes me so much pain yet my kid loves
it and I do not want to tell him the reason for my distress which
goes back to my high school days in Iran.
This song takes me back to when I was fourteen years old. At
that time I had pretty much determined that except for one person
the majority of my friends who had money were either total idiots
or total bores because they had no ambition in life and everything
was about material things. But I loved my dad so much that I would
settle for occasional get- together with their families and my
dad would make sure the visits were short so I would not get "antsy" and
lose my composure.
I was always looking to cultivate the friendship of smart boys
and girls. By my definition smart did not mean necessarily being
a good student. It meant the person had a spirit that wanted to
soar. He or she opposed the crown cannibal and his family, yet
was hopeful and believed that Iran would be rid of them someday.
They were also into reading books, especially the ones banned by
his "royal majesty's" Savak.
In my eyes I was the coolest because I owned original copies
of Basharafha or Graceful, a book about the Shah's brother
and his atrocities against women, Chesmhayash by Bozorge Aklavi,
and of course a book by Mohamad Massoud, who had mysteriously died.
I looked for friends who had read some of these books and with
whom I could discuss the content.
In this school year, I had become close friends with Nazi. She
was from a moderate-income family. Her dad was a truck driver,
mostly on the road. They lived in Shah Abad! Literally it means
a place worthy of kings because it is abundant and developed. Like
everything hypocritical about my culture, this place had dirt streets
and when it rained the street would become muddy and miserable.
She was bright, loved to be my accomplice in pulling pranks,
and stood by me when I placed gum on my teacher's chair and
he was furious (even if I was not the culprit, people always assumed
it was me who did it and that has not changed to this day). She
denied having seen me do it!
Nazi was also great in math and loved architecture and often
said she was going to become an architect someday. I encouraged
her and in one of my monthly trips to the bookstore with my dad
I bought her a book and my dad was pleased at my gesture.
In return, she gave me a beautiful deer figurine because she
knew the deer is my favorite animal.
A few times when we had no school I went to her house and we
looked at her drawings of buildings and landscapes. We talked about
her becoming an architect, and how that would help other girls
in her neighborhood. She would follow her heart and marry Reza,
who was in the last year of high school and her neighbor. They
loved each other and he wanted to go to college and when she finished
high school, he would marry her and let her finish college because
he believed in her intelligence and wanted her to recognize her
dream. I liked Reza and was secretly proud of him for believing
in women's abilities.
Their relationship was sweet and simple, not even a touch, but
smiles and the exchange of beautiful words.
Then one day she came to school and her eyes looked lifeless
as she tried to avoid my stare. At break she told me that a suitor
had asked for her hand in marriage and her dad had agreed. I was
mortified as I asked, "What about your school? What about
Her eyes filled with tears. She said, "The man owns a few
trucks and thinks I have enough education to be a good mother and
a wife and won't need any more education."
I swallowed my anger and said, "You are not going to fight
back?" She said, "Azam jaan, what would that accomplish?
My father, like all Iranian fathers, rules, and his words are God's
word." I swallowed my tears. It was a cool Thursday in winter
and I vividly remember hearing "domahi" being played
by Morteza, the very huge and fat candy vendor sitting in his little
booth waiting for customers as I passed by.
My dad came home and he immediately knew I was sad so he said, "Beautiful
lady, why don't we go to the bakery and have a chat and you
can tell "baaba" what is bothering you."
My sister Betty protested and said she wanted to go but my dad
said, "I will bring some pastries for everyone."
During the few minutes' ride he asked about school and
once we got there he even went ahead and ordered for me, which
caught my attention because I realized how observant he was despite
having tremendous responsibilities, two households housing 11 kids.
He said to the waiter, "Cream puffs for her but please
remove all the cream from the inside and just leave a very small
amount because she likes the pastry itself with hint of cream."
I told my dad about Nazi and her being forced to marry before
her time. My dad listened intently and his answer made me nearly
fall off my chair.
" Beautiful lady, one is only as hopeless as he or she
wants to be. I realize this is Iran and so many unjust rules have
been tolerated but one owes it to herself to at least try and fight
I was all ears as he continued.
" Look around you and in our own family. Your cousin Safi
had a rough childhood growing up being skinny and with pock marks
on her face in the shadow of her beautiful and graceful sister
Mahroo (moon face). She wanted to go to school.
" Those days it was unheard of because girls did not go
to school in the rural areas. She went on a hunger strike and of
course offered the solution that two of the employed farmers should
walk her to school all the way to the other village. She won her
battle and completed the required six years of elementary school,
which in her time was a major accomplishment. Then Sheikh Naser,
whom you always make fun of because despite his wealth he is not
very educated, asked for her hand in marriage. He wanted to have
an educated wife and did not care about her looks.
" Again she fought back and refused the proposal and declared
her love for a very quiet and, in a way, poor farmer."
Then my dad smiled and said, "I have heard you, sweetheart,
saying, ‘Uncle Hassan is so quiet I do not know how he has
managed to have 10 kids!'" I chuckled at my dad's
intuition to try and lighten up the situation.
" Look at your Auntie Ghamar, she was beautiful, funny
and head strong and had many suitors but again she chose a very
quiet illiterate poet and moved away to Isfahan.
" She made her husband apply for a permit to have a small
brick factory. The mayor refused to sign the permit that Uncle
Gholam, being sweet and peaceful, did not object.
" Do you know your aunt cornered the mayor and beat him
up? The gendarmes did not know what to do because nobody had ever
witnessed a woman beating a man in Isfahan of those days. Well,
she got the permit and you see how well off she is and all her
kids are smart and attending school."
I liked Auntie Ghamar because I was always told that I was in
many ways like her when she was young. She used to say whatever
was on her mind and always got her way.
My dad sipped his tea and said, "Look at Auntie Sedigh.
Everyone says with her big blue eyes and blonde hair she looks
like a movie star. Her dad wanted her to marry a rich merchant.
She ran away and hid in the house of a distant cousin for a month.
She wanted to marry her current husband, a mere civil servant,
and she got her way."
He looked at me and said, "You see, my beautiful daughter,
God has given you a brain and intelligence, but it takes courage
to use it. Nazi did not even try and accepted her fate. That is
the problem with many people.
" Most ladies let the men of the family make decisions
for them and the ones in marriages in which the man has money give
up their dignity to have the comforts."
I looked at him and said, "Are you talking about cousin
She was not our real cousin but her dad was my dad's best
friend and her mother called my dad "my brother." The
family was very religious but kind and I liked Uncle Heidar because
he was kind and always praised me for my accomplishments.
Aki was tall and loud but not very attractive and not a very
good student either. She finished ninth grade and being tall and
big she looked older. Many suitors who wanted to associate themselves
with her family began to ask Uncle Heidar for her hand in marriage.
He had favored a young man who seemed very sweet and pro-women
because my dad praised Asad as progressive-minded, one that could
be a good match, but she chose the man who had several night clubs
in Tehran despite the warning of the family that they came from
two different backgrounds and she would have difficulty.
She married him and they had two kids. I had gone to their new
house in Tehran with the exaggerated decor of expensive objects
as well as waterfalls inside, which was quite annoying, eating
lunch indoors with that huge thing trickling water.
As young as I was it was evident she was unhappy and a few times
they snapped at each other but she took me to her bedroom to show
me all her material possessions she had bought on her recent trips
My dad said later that Aki did have a choice if she wanted to
and would be welcomed back by her parents and taken care of, but
she remained married and miserable because she did not want to
be called divorced!
I honestly often marveled at how ahead of his time my father
was because I never heard my friend's fathers talk like him
and even several doctors educated in Europe had backward views
when it came to their daughters, yet my dad always stood for women's
rights. In my older years I would realize that I always compare
men to my dad and find very few are so pro-women like him.
My dad paid the bill and we walked out. I felt better as I always
did talking to my dad because he always had the best answers. I
was not angry but disappointed at Nazi's lack of courage
to fight back.
Throughout the years I looked for heroes and role models and
actually found some , which included my friend Afsar, who was a
beautiful only child with a lot of money but she married a poor
classmate and moved into a two-room small house in the poor part
of town. Her parents cried their eyes out to let them buy her at
least a decent house and car to drive, and she adamantly refused
to hurt her husband's pride as she said, "When my husband
and I can afford it on our own we will buy a house." She
could have married anyone but she married for love and told society
to screw it.
My friend Amireh comes from a very large, backward Arab tribe
that owned a large fleet of ships. She spent summers in Europe
and had her favorite "Mahi Sobour" a fish available
in the south cooked and flown to Tehran when vacationing there.
They had so many maids and servants nobody knew the exact number.
She ended up marrying a cab driver that she loved. She was denounced
and the family did not give her anything, hoping the spoiled girl
would not be able to tolerate the "poor life" and would
come back ashamed.
I cheered her as I had also arranged a few times for them to
meet, pretending she was with me, although it was too risky but
I did it for love. Years later I ran into her at the house of her
illiterate and ugly cousin that had her clothes made in Paris at
the Dior Couture, and the house was built by a famous architect
and had a bar, disco, and a place for musicians to sit and play
Amireh had on very ordinary clothes and a little girl of two,
and she smiled and said, "I love my life and my husband." I
winked and said, "Good for you!"
I told my son a few nights ago that Googoosh was a bad role model
and being my kid he insisted that I elaborate, for which I simply
answered, "She let men run her life and played along."
"Mommy, she had no choice, she lived in Iran and men in
Iran rule women so she did not have much choice."
I said, "Don't you ever say that women have no choice
because of Iranian men! That is a poor excuse. She was famous and
she could have left him and made her own decisions instead of playing
the ‘happy lady'."
I do not want to listen to Googoosh to be reminded of how many
talented girls ended up just being a housekeeper because they did
not have the courage to fight back. Perhaps I am worried that men
like "victims" and weak women.
There are such a tremendous number of unhappy women who are stuck
in marriages that make them miserable for being verbally abused
and demeaned but they cannot get out because they have no options.
My son argues that Iranian men are in charge and women have no
choice. Of course I remind him that my dad is Iranian and at 78
years of age tells me "The hell with Iranians, they do not
pay your bills, so live your life the way it makes you happy."
I also agree with my dad that there is always an option if one
values her self respect then would give up living in a nice gilded
jail and get a job that could provide her with basic necessities.
Then she can accomplish everything on her own and have everyone's
respect; the most important thing in the world I cherish is peace
of mind and self worth.
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