In April 2010, Shadi Sadr, an Iranian feminist lawyer, made the most insightful statement any Iranian woman has ever made about male chauvinism and democracy.
“Democracy will begin the day that you, yes you gentlemen, learn, not just in front of the mirror, but also in public, instead of defending the rights of women as something external and abstract, speak of “your own” actual, inner and worldly experience as a “man” and draw criticism on the role you have had in the reproduction of existing discriminatory structures.”
Hossein Bagher Zadeh, a commentator who self-deludes himself that a man who is “for” women’s rights cannot possibly be chauvinistic, was wounded by Ms. Sadr’s insight. So, on May 2010, he published an ill-informed and superficial article against Shadi Sadr’s great article. He called her truthful statement “misandry” (fear and hatred of men) and refused to criticize his role “in the reproduction of the existing discriminatory structures”, such as the sexist division of labour at his own home.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that in Hossein’s traditional household, his wife is the one who has brought up their children while Hossein was busy studying and working outside the family residence. For the last several years, Hossein has also been busy writing many articles per month about issues that everybody already knows about, while his meals were, and still are, being prepared by his wife, his dishes washed, his laundry done, his residence swept and moped, and plenty of attention paid to him by the Mrs to make sure that he remains healthy. This is called the male-dominated division of labour in the private sphere of social life, the family.
Therefore, like the majority of Iranian men and men of the world, by practicing this division of labour, Hossein Bagher Zadeh has had a role “in the reproduction of existing discriminatory structures” as Shadi Sadr so eloquently put it. By attacking Ms. Sadr’s progressive opinion, by refusing to look at himself in the metaphoric mirror and acknowledge his sexist practices, and by trying to dominate and set limits to the members of the Iranian women’s rights movement, Hossein has proven sexist approach towards the Iranian women’s struggle and thus has lost all trust I could have had in him as a woman and a feminist.
Now, two years later, this same commentator who does not like the concept of change from within, is suggesting to the Iranians living outside of the country that it is time for the formation of an “Iranian exiled and immigrants Parliament”. A man of a frozen and unchanging mind who does not care about the change of mentalities (especially his) wishes to see the formation of an organization resembling all previous organizations Iranians have founded. Such organization will be a sexist, hierarchical and non-democratic one with empty slogans and pretentions about democracy. Its purpose, for Hossein, is to be a united front for 4-5 million Iranians outside Iran, to be an example of democratic process for Iranians inside the country and to “flare their fire of love for democracy!”
Unfortunately, Hossein either does not know or is forgetting that:
1) Iranians in Diaspora have multiple opinions and voices regarding the nature of the Islamic State of Iran and the way to change the present political system. They mostly live in democratic countries where they can express themselves against the Islamist rulers of Iran whenever and however they want. The great majority of Iranians in Diaspora does not wish to be represented by one single organization. Along with organized religions, most Iranians abroad have also lost faith in organized politics that is initiated by the older generation who helped bring the Islamists to power in the first place. We live in the times of Facebook, twitter and blog-spheres, and Iranians can easily and directly contact their compatriots inside the country and vice versa. An “Iranian exiled and immigrants Parliament” will be nothing but a meeting place for the old traditional Iranian men to exercise an imaginary power before their demise.
2) Iranians inside the country are the only ones who truly understand the country’s economic and socio-political realities. Many of them do know about democracy and freedoms, do wish to have them, or are already fighting for them. They do not need a bunch of condescending people with fossil minds who refuse to transform themselves from within and wish to control others, especially women and the extent of their feminist positions and demands, to become their beacon of hope! Most Iranians inside the country don’t even trust the Iranian expatriates, and for good reasons.
I believe that only the younger generation of the Iranians in Diaspora can be trusted with organizing a dynamic and progressive common front to support the Iranian people’s demands for secularism, democracy and freedoms. In addition, I suggest that anyone who wishes to “flare the fire of love for democracy” should pack up and go back to Iran and fight for democracy on the soil of the country. For those who are “known” by the ruling Islamists, there are so many ways of entering the country without a passport and disappearing within oppositional groups.
Subscribe to The Iranian newsletter
Sign up for our daily newsletter to get the top news stories delivered to your inbox.