November 1, 2000
I know because he was my grandfather
Although Fereydoun Hovyeda's opinion piece titled "Curbing
men" makes a good point regarding the need for men to curb sexual
desire, he has distorted some facts in order to strengthen his point.
The International Herald Tribune article he cites about General
Hassan Akhavi's "order" to ban pretty secretaries was not an
attempt to deny work for attractive women, that is ludicrous. It was an
attempt to encourage these so-called lusty men to hire a woman on her abilities
and not solely on her looks.
The Ministry of Agriculture was actually ahead of its time in placing
productivity, skill, and performance ahead of shear attractiveness and
that is what the General had tried to implement.
As more women entered the workforce there was an increasingly important
emphasis being placed on physical beauty and the result was a bunch of
very attractive, yet incompetent secretaries. More educated women who may
not have been as attractive were being denied work, and that was what the
Department of Agriculture was trying to change.
As a reporter for the Associated Press, I went back and looked at the
notes of this time and came to understand the situation for what was really
In addition, the assertion that the General was "probably a practicing
Muslim...but could not impose the chador on female employees" is an
irresponsible assumption. Having the respect of the religious community
at the time does not imply that one is religious.
And if in fact he was a practicing Muslim, why is this made to have
such a negative connotation? A practicing Muslim is not synonymous with
misogyny and fundamentalism.
For the record, I know this General was not a provincial and chauvinistic
man obsessed with stymieing women's liberation and struggle for equality.
I know this because he was my grandfather.