Reading Men in Reading Lolita in Tehran

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Reading Men in Reading Lolita in Tehran
by Sanaz Fotouhi
27-May-2010
 

Over the past couple of years, I have been reading and following the debates that have surrounded Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran. I just finished reading Bahmani's blog Stop Reading Lolita in Tehran. Although I agree with Bahmani and all the other debates that have surrounded this book, particularly in relation to the representation of the Iranian women and the allegories that the book draws on the Iranian women and Lolita, I have to draw everyone's attention on the representation of the Iranian man in the book. I believe that this book--and all the other so called feminist books emerging from the Middle East that address the issues of women--are also in a way constructing and forming a specific image of the Iranian man and Iranian (and Middle Eastern) masculinities that is repeating and confirming a certain negative image of the Iranian man in the West, leaving very little room for the Iranian man to be identified as a human being with feelings.

RLT, at first glance, promises ‘us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran,’ offering us very little about the Iranian man. However, I believe that if this book is read contrapuntally, that is as Edward Said puts it ‘with an effort to draw out, extend, give emphasis and voice to what is silent or marginally present or ideologically represented,’ I believe that it is also a book that offers us a glimpse into the mannerisms and characteristics of the Iranian men. Here I wish to locate and extend the marginal presence of the Iranian men in RLT, in order to understand how that marginality has shaped much of our understanding of him. But, as Said reminds us, because ‘each cultural work is a vision of a moment,’ located and received within a specific socio-political and cultural setting, reading contrapuntally does mean reading the marginal in the vacuum of its marginality; rather when approaching the text we ‘must open it out both to what went into it and to what its author excluded.’ This means that in locating and contextualizing the marginality of the Iranian men in RLT, we must first have a clear understanding of what the text represents about the Iranian women, as well as the socio-political, historical and discursive framework into which it is received.

A quick glance of what RLT does represent, reveals a gloomy and strictly gender-dichotomous fundamentalist society. In this society, women, represented by the seven girls who attended Nafisi’s private book club, live under constant fear of their domineering brothers, fathers, or other male family members in private, and in public are ‘subservient to politics and subject to the arbitrary rules,’ of the society which dictates their every action, from who they interact with to what they wear. Nafisi sets up this position through the girls in the very first day of the book club, when she introduces each girl in relation to the difficulties she has had with her male family members to get herself to that first session. For instance, Sanaz is seen running into Nafisi’s house for the first session of the book club looking ‘harassed, as if she had been running from a stalker or a thief,’ after her younger brother ‘the darling of their parents,’ who had ‘taken to proving his masculinity by spying on her, listening to her phone conversations, driving her car around and monitoring her actions,’ had dropped her off with disapproval. Another girl, Nassrin, reveals in a conversation with Nafisi how she could finally make it to the book club: ‘I mentioned the idea [of attending this book club] very casually to my father, just to test his reaction, and he vehemently disapproved. How did you convince him to let you come? I asked. I lied, she said. You lied? What else can one do with a person who’s so dictatorial who won’t let his daughter at this age, go to an all-female literature class?’ A few weeks into the book club, Nafisi writes, ‘Sanaz’s brother was by now…one of a series of male villains who resurfaced from week to week.’ As the sessions proceed, in each session men are vilified in various accounts and each girl reveals more of her fear of her male family members. Nassrin, for instance, eventually reveals how ‘her youngest uncle, a very devout and pious man, had sexually abused her when she was barely eleven years old. She recounts ‘how he used to say that the he wanted to keep himself chaste and pure for his future wife and refused friendships with women on that count….He used to tutor Nassrin…three times a week for over a year. He helped her with Arabic and sometimes with mathematics. During those sessions as they sat side by side at her desk, his hands had wandered over her legs, her whole body, as she repeated the Arabic tenses.’

In Nafisi’s descriptions, it is not only in the private domain that these male villains pop up. In the public domain Iranian women are under religious and political domination and live in constant fear of being harassed by people on the street. As she puts it, ‘a stern Ayatollah, a self-proclaimed philosopher-king, had come to rule our land,’ and under his rule ‘[women] were never free of the regime’s definition of them as Muslim women.’ Although this is constantly a theme of discussion during the book club, in one particular situation, Nafisi portrays this condition of the Iranian women in public by drawing on one of the girls’ typical walks from her book club back home. She appeals to the readers to imagine one of her student as she leaves the privacy of the book club and heads home: “Let’s imagine one of the girls, say Sanaz, leaving my house…She puts on her black robe and scarf over her orange shirt and jeans, coiling her scarf around her neck…We follow Sanaz down the stairs, out the door and into the street. You might notice that her gait and her gestures have changed. It is in her best interest not to be seen, not to be hard to noticed. She doesn’t walk upright, but bends her head towards the ground and doesn’t look at passersby. She walks quickly and with a sense of determination. The streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities are patrolled by militia, who ride in white Toyota patrols, four gun-carrying men and women….They patrol the streets to make sure that women like Sanaz wear their veils properly, do not wear make up, do not walk in public with men who are not their fathers, brothers or husbands….If she gets on a bus, the seating is segregated. She must enter through the rear door and sit in the back seats, allocated to women. Yet in taxis, which accept as many as five passengers, men and women are squeezed together, like sardines….where so many of my students complain of being harassed by bearded and God-fearing men….”

This sort of description of the Iranian society as an insecure world filled with ‘goblins and witches,’ who are out to get the women, is repeated throughout the book and informs much of our understanding of the position of the Iranian woman in the public domain.

The above points, although painting us a supposed portrait of the condition of the Iranian women, do not give us much detailed description about the Iranian man. However, read contrapuntally, they are indeed directly feeding into the construction and maintenance of a certain image of the Iranian man that is hypervisible as a negative type in the West. Here, the position of the Iranian woman could be described in the context of what Foucault has called the “already-said,” or rather the repressed “never-said” of the obvious. By positioning the Iranian woman as the embodiment of oppressed womanhood, Nafisi is representing herself as the representative of the western woman, an epitome of modernity and progress that confirms the Iranian/Middle Eastern women’s oppression. Nafisi feeds on this position of privilege constantly, to demonstrate the Iranian women’s oppression. For example, after a lengthy conversation with one of the girls, Yassi, who has just revealed to Nafisi how her family had limited her every move, Nafisi writes, ‘Could she ever live the life of someone like me, live on her own, take long walks holding hands with someone she loved, even have a little dog? She did not know.’ These representations of the oppressed Iranian women, and the first hand affirmations of our narrators, signals towards the stereotypical character of the Iranian men as controlling, with absurd sexual deviance and fanatically religious beliefs. In most case we arrive at these character conclusions through the women’s descriptions, in the men’s invisibility, without having come across a single man who actually demonstrates these presumed characteristics first hand.

Although most of our information about the Iranian men in RLT comes through the women’s account, it would be untrue to say that men, as characters themselves are completely absent from the book. Men do appear as characters throughout the book. However, when they do pop up they are marginal cardboard types of characters of students, university officials or the revolutionary guards, of whom Nafisi does not have a high regard and to whom she does not give enough space to be developed as realistic characters. While Nafisi spends a considerable length in developing the characters of her female students, except in a few cases when she is describing her Western educated male friends who live in Tehran, when it comes to describing some of the male students she is reductive and her descriptions of them are as primitive people whose personality is reduced to their religious interests. For example, in describing one of the recurring male students, Mr. Bahri, in her class she writes, “Mr. Bahri, who was at first reluctant to talk in class, began after our meeting to make insightful remarks. He spoke slowly, as if forming his ideas in the process of expressing them, pausing between words and sentences. Sometimes he seemed to me like a child just beginning to walk, testing the ground and discovering unknown potentials within himself. He was also becoming increasingly immersed in politics. He become an active member of the student group supported by the government—the Muslim Students’ Association—and more and more often I would find him in the hallways immersed in arguments…..”

Such representations of the Iranian man, as one-dimensional beings, are extremely problematic in the context in which they are represented. Not only do they reductive of the identity of the Iranian man, they are also directly contributing to a further emphasis of the hypervisiblity of the Iranian as a specific type, particularly in a post-9/11 climate. The fact is that these representations, particularly when appearing in true accounts as memoirs, have been specially problematic and reductive of the individual character of the Iranian man, adding to the already complicated social problems that Iranian men face in diaspora.

Additionally, on global scale, such representations of the Iranian man could be seen as feeding into the post 9/11 discourse of War on Terror where the abuse of women and the denial of their rights has been used as a mark of barbarism and an indication of a social sickness, that requires intervention. When Nafisi constantly emphasizes the lives of Iranian women as ‘doomed’ in various ways, claiming that ‘the [Western] novels were an escape from the reality in the sense that we could marvel at their beauty and perfection, and leave aside our stories about the deans and the morality squads on the streets,’ her words could be read as feeding into the discourse that appeals for the salvation of the brown woman from the brown man by the white man.

In short, RLT paints a very unrealistic and one-dimensional picture of the Iranian man that can be potentially damaging to the identities and images of some of our wonderful Iranian men.

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Anonymouse

I posted a link to your blog in a collection of related items

by Anonymouse on

I posted a link to your blog in a collection of related items in  Chauvinists vs. Shadi Sadr: invitation to write

Everything is sacred.


Sanaz Fotouhi

one more thing...

by Sanaz Fotouhi on

One more thing that I forgot to say is that a lot of Iranian men are actually representing themselves beautifuly.  For instance Mahbod Seraji's new novel Rooftops of Tehran http://www.mahbodseraji.com is a wonderful portyral of the life of a young man in Iran.  Similarly, Manouchehr Parvin has written the most beautiful love-story book Avecina and I. I can name you many other books by Iranian man that deal with the subjects that affects the Iranian man and masculinity...but unfortuantely, none are as popular as the women's....

So, let us not forget that our men have been very active in representing themselves...


Sanaz Fotouhi

Thank you

by Sanaz Fotouhi on

Once again, I thank everyone for their comments and critics of my blog.  This site is open to personal opinions and beliefs and I guess that's the beauty of it.  As Iranians we all have different opinions about different topics.  However, I have to say that a critque of a piece of writing, or an essay of sorts, does not indicate a person's personal belief system.  Some of you out there seem determined to label me and my writing.  So, be it.  But when drawing your conclusions please also read my other blogs where I explain about the nature of my project.  I wrote a blog a while ago where to my surprise over 300 people had read it and no comments were received.   Please read my first post.I have also written numerous short stories about women in Iran and their oppression which have been published here and else where...see http://iranian.com/Fotouhi/2006/October/Choice...

and http://iranian.com/Arts/2003/January/Bandaids/...

In addition, I have to tell you that over the last eight years I have been researching and writing about the emerging issues in Iranian diasporic writing in English and what I shared with you in this blog was a snippet of some of the topics that I explore in my work. 

My other projects include charity work for the women of Afghanistan and
I was part of a film crew that did two films about the women of
Afghanistan and the oppression they face.  Read Burning Dream.

If whoever decides to label me as whatever, it seems that they are actually reflecting their predetermined political agenda and reading into my own work.

But thank you all for a thought provoking debate.

 


vildemose

Now this is what I call a

by vildemose on

Now this is what I call a critical book review:

http://iranian.com/Books/2004/September/Nafisi...

 

Not only Nafisi does not elaborate on the devastating impact of many Iranian misogynistic traditions (as distinct from religion) on women's lives, but also she fails to see that so many of the Islamic Republic's fascistic practices have their roots in these traditions.

When the author describes Sanaz and her friends' experience of being arrested by the morality squad and submitted to the virginity tests by a woman gynecologist, she writes as if the IRI has invented this practice.

In reality, this degrading custom has existed in Iran for many centuries. The majority of Iranian women would have to go either through the "virginity test" done by a midwife or a doctor on the eve of their nuptials or exhibit a bloody sheet as a sign of their virginity on their wedding night. It is important for an Iranian man to make sure that his wife-to-be has her hymen intact.

This manifestation of the "right" of an Iranian man to the ownership of his wife's body even before having known her, has been appropriated by the Islamic State as a self-appointed representative of the Iranian male and his "natural" rights vis-à-vis his female counterpart. The connivance between the Islamic Republic and the Iranian male regarding the latter's female relatives is evident in admonitions that Sanaz's younger brother displays. "How could they let six unruly girls go on a trip without male supervision?"

http://iranian.com/Books/2004/September/Nafisi/index.html


Darius Kadivar

What about the Men in Iradj Pezeshkzad's Uncle Napoleon ?

by Darius Kadivar on

Any Better ? ...

TIRANDAZI BE DOOST ALI :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nTVTzQ-Sz8&feature=player_embedded

LOL

Recommended Reading:

My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad, Dick Davis (Translator), Azar Nafisi (Introduction)


Azadeh Azad

Dear Sanaz

by Azadeh Azad on

Let me first tell you that I wrote a critique of RLT in 2004, where while admiring Nafisi’s literary style, I was critical of her politics as it appeared in the book - of course, not the same type of critique as yours.

http://iranian.com/Books/2004/September/Nafisi...

*) You say,

 “I do go on to argue that it would be untrue that men like the ones she does represent do not exist in the Iranian society--I have lived in Iran, grew up there, and go back often--so if anything I know that those kind of men do exist in Iran.”

Did I say that some type of men didn’t exist in Iran? I don’t think so. I said the concept of “The Iranian man” doesn’t exist in the sense that there are many types of Iranian men and none of them is THE Iranian man representing ALL Iranian men. I hope I am clear now.

*) You say,

“However, this kind of work which constantly complains about the oppression of women and does not highlight the great many achievements that women have done in Iran, is in fact actually feeding back to the whole idea that Iranian women are oppressed.”

I agree with you that RLT’s weak point is that it does not highlight the many achievements of the Iranian women, which makes the book one-sided. In other words, although Nafisi was only speaking of her own experiences and those eof her students, she could have included the women’s achievements. I was in Iran around the same period of time (1992-95) and was witnessing (and was involved with) the rise of women’s voices here and there – example: Zanan magazine, etc. Women were fighting to keep their jobs, were eager to enter universities and were writing about women’s rights in different alternative, non-Islamic magazines (such as Jaame’eye saalem.) Shirin Ebadi, Mehrangiz Kar and many others were quite active on behalf of the women. 

*) You say,

“She [Nafici] can never claim to represent the voice of the entire Iranian women. No one can. But she does. She makes general statements about the situation of women and her worries are as short sighted as things like can her student have a puppy one day? ….there are millions of women who do not even have food to put on their table and their worry is inherently different. Where are they represented in this bigger framework?”

I totally agree with you. But that doesn’t make her a “so-called feminist.” I think you can consider her a “bourgeois feminist” without being blamed even by herself!  We have different types of feminisms coming from women of different social classes and ethnicities, etc. As I have mentioned in my own critique (above link,) her condescending attitude towards a poor family (mother and children) who was sitting beside the wall of a nearby hospital, which she could watch from her upper window, was quite disturbing. Nafisi is a typical upper-class Iranian woman who is not concerned about the poor and the deprived women, and thus does not represent them.

*) I still don’t believe that having a bad image in the society – the image of the Iranian men in the West – prevents them from being identified as human beings. I think being stereotyped is more accurate.

Furthermore, it is not up to the Iranian feminists to transform this negative image of the Iranian men by not telling the truth to the Western world. It is the Iranian men’s responsibility to transform their negative image by transforming themselves so that women can write positively about them.

I am for telling the truth, because that is the first step towards freedom – individually and collectively.

*) About the marginality of men in RLT, you say

that you want to highlight “ that these marginal representations are telling of the representation of the Iranian men in current Iranian literature in English.” Well, you didn’t mention it this way in your article, did you? Let’s move on:

You correctly mention that books written by Iranian men (apparently as many as those by Iranian women) are not known. This is true. But these books authored by men, are they about male-female relationships or women’s condition in today’s Iran?. I don’t think so. Maybe there are many academic books by men about women, but there are also many academic books by women about women that are not known. What sells in all capitalist societies are books that can be understood by the masses and not sociological books. I hope I’m clear here.

*) I said:  Is telling the truth about your own male relatives’ behaviour vilifying them? Does the author of this article believe that Nafisi's students were lying to her?

You replied, "No, certainly not, but when she does mention that these men were a series of villain discussed each week, then isn't that vilifying? Won't the western reader think that all Iranian men are like that?"

Now you are accusing Nafisi of having chosen the wrong group of women, a group of women whose male relatives are abusive. Well, maybe the majority of the Iranian men ARE abusive towards their female relatives and girl-friends. What would you like to do about it? Hide it from the Westerners in order to keep up the appearances (a very Iranian way of being.) As far as I remember, Nafisi’s father was not abusive towards her, and her “Magician,” an adviser, was an Iranian man who was certainly not abusive.

I believe that in our patriarchal society, the majority of both men and women are trapped into sick, oppressive relationships and most of them are not even aware of it yet. I think being worried about the image of Iranians in the West as it is delivered by the Iranians themselves, might lead to the temptation of either hiding the truth or lying.

I believe that the determinant reason for the negative image of the Iranian men in the West is the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran that is run almost exclusively by men. Every other factor is really secondary.

*) I said, "Isn’t this a wrong and oppressive form of masculinity? Does the author want Nafisi to say that this is a good form of masculinity or does she expect Nafisi to simply lie and write the opposite of what Sanaz has told her? "

You replied, "Once again, I am not talking about wrong or right masculinity. I am just pointing out how things have been represented or how they have the potential of being read in certain frameworks."

Here, I have the strong impression that you are evading and don’t want to take responsibility for what you have said in your article.

*) You say,

“Let me clarify that I never claimed to be putting forth a 'truth' or 'lie'. Indeed, I never mentioned that the author was lying or telling the truth. Everything is relative. Nafisi's relative truth might be different to mine, to yours, to the girls who went into her class. But the problem is that Nafisi claims to speak on behalf of the Iranian 'women,' how could she claim that truth? no one can. I can't and you can't. It would be the biggest lie if anyone claimed they could represent the truth for an entire population...

I know that you didn’t talk about lying or telling the truth. It was I who said that, based on your complaint that describing the abuses by male relatives would tarnish the image of the Iranian men.

You say,

“the problem is that Nafisi claims to speak on behalf of the Iranian 'women,' how could she claim that truth? no one can.”

While everything is relative in one sense, everything is also the same in another sense. That is, while women of different social classes experience life under the IRI differently, they ALL suffer from the same SHARIA LAW.

Also, your statement has another limited value: A researcher who writes a comprehensive book about women’s condition in Iran, COULD SPEAK for all – maybe not at the level of all the women’s lived experiences, but at the level of their social realities. That’s why many academic books on Iranian women could speak of all the Iranian women when they are well-researched and comprehensive. That’s the difference between best-seller memoirs like RLT and an academic work.

Your reply to my statement that Western women are more free than the Middle-Eastern women is weak. You believe that my assertion that Western women are more free (I never said more enlightened) is our problem. Why? You say because “by believing this, then we take on the role as oppressed women and we are actually digging our women a hole....”  What kind of statement is this, my friend? I knew that I was not free when I was 6 years old! I knew that my mother was more intelligent than my father, yet it was my father who had power over her, when I was 7 years old. These were my first sociological discoveries long before I knew that there was something called the Western world.

Iranian women say that they are oppressed because they are experiencing this condition with their flesh and bones, and not because they think less of themselves than Western women.

Then you criticise the equality of women in the West:

“equality in the West does not amount to much either. Look at the job market, men get paid more, and it wasn't until long ago that they couldn't vote either. “

Again, what kind of weak argument is that? Men are paid more and that means that there is not really equality in the West?!! Please remember that the struggle for equality continues in the West, that more and more women are taking high-ranking positions in politics. The inequality of pay does not mean that female doctors are paid less than male doctors or male bus drivers are paid more than female bus drivers. The inequality of pay in the West is calculated at the national level, taking into account the lesser participation of women than men in the job market, mainly because the vital job of homemaking and raising children is unpaid. So, as you see, things are much more complex than the way you present them.

Then you say, “it wasn't until long ago that they couldn't vote either. “ Another statement that you made without really thinking. Did you think that Western women were given their rights on a silver tray?

And you say, “I am in no way denying that some Iranian women are dominated” Really? Only SOME women? What about MOST WOMEN in order to be more scientific?

Finally, you express what I knew from the start was your core concern: The foreign intervention. You say,

“BUT it is one thing to be dominated and one thing to allow yourself to be dominated dually by both the men and others (i.e. the West) who would use these argument for their own political gain and access into the country, in the name of the liberation of its women.”

When a foreign power wants to invade a country, they would say whatever they judge convenient for them. They will FABRICATE LIES as they did in the case of Iraq. So, it is futile to be concerned about foreigners using our men’s weak point, which is dominating their own women.

You ask me , “Would your rather Iran be invaded in the name of women's freedom, like Afghanistan, because we lack a strong voice?”

No, I don’t want Iran to be invaded, no matter in what name. But I refuse to say that only SOME Iranian women are dominated instead of the truth that MOST Iranian women are dominated by their male relatives – like you do.

I refuse to distort the truth of Iran’s inner problems in the name of fighting against Imperialism. And I suggest to you that the only way Iranians will become strong enough to fight back the foreign influence (which has existed in the last 31 years) is to look at themselves in the mirror and acknowledge that most of them are plagued with sexism and many other cultural ills.

I enjoyed debating with you, dear Sanaz. I admire you for expressing your opinions publicly and being civil with someone who disagrees with you.

Cheers,

Azadeh


vildemose

Azadeh was spot on. We are

by vildemose on

Azadeh was spot on. We are dealing with a Islamic feminist.

Your loss
Does it really matter what a Westerner would say about our culture?

Sanaz Fotouhi
March 2, 2005
iranian.com

http://iranian.com/Opinion/2005/March/Hossein/index.html

Yes, I am in no way denying that some Iranian women are dominated BUT it is one thing to be dominated and one thing to allow yourself to be dominated dually by both the men and others (ie the West) who would use these argument for their own political gain and access into the country, in the name of the liberation of its women. This is where my biggest problem lies with books like this...that they confirm and accept, and reiteriate a whinning oppressive position of the Iranian woman...where are our strong women who are coming out to show us alternative perspectives??? Would your rather Iran be invaded in the name of women's freedom, like Afghanistan, because we lack a strong voice?

You have no political agenda?? really??Pardon me if you determine my calling out  your Islamist brand of feminism too crude.


Ari Siletz

RLT's outlook is defensible, but Fotouhi hits the mark

by Ari Siletz on

The issues Nafisi explores exist and are palpable. But Fotouhi's criticism about cardboard male characters still holds. RLT hobbles on one female leg and a male crutch throughout, perhaps because it takes less genius to dismiss human weaknesses as vices. In RLT's case the flaw stands out because the Western authors Nafisi reviews are quite fearless so that the characters in their novels can trust their creators to fully speak for them and to stand by them no matter what they do or think.

Solo, Azarin, Azadeh: This is the reason I'm guessing RLT won't become a classic. The position is still open (hint).


Flying Solo

Literature

by Flying Solo on

Hi Sanaz,

I enjoyed reading your blog; a fresh perspective and a highly unpopular one; so kudos for your courage.

I also took the opportunity to google your name and read about the focus of your interests.  After that, I returned to your blog and read it again and wish to leave a couple of comments.

As others have pointed out, Azar Nafisi presents her memoirs from the days of teaching in Iran.  Her experiences were simply based on who she came in contact with, namely the students she encountered in public and the 7 girls she met with in private.  Like yourself, I was quite taken aback by the absence of descriptors of men in her book. But you can hardly blame her for not entertaining a men's study group in her home.  Segregation of sexes in public and private gatherings in the Iran Nafisi occupied was, as I am certain you are aware, strictly observed.  The reality is that Nafisi did not have access to the same knowledge about the male students as she did about the females.  Therefore the reality of the mens' private lives be it troubles at home, financial hardships, addiction, frustration with the system at large, their strengths and weaknesses were hidden from her.  In RLT Nafisi writes about what she witnessed.

Juxstaposed against Nafisi's own social milieu, a reader would be taken aback if she were to have included in RLT the men that she herself associated with and presumably respected; a father, various uncles, a husband, cousins, nephews, friends' husbands etc.  That information is not included in RLT because RLT was not about Nafisi's personal life.

Among the Iranian female writers who have put pen to paper in the West, Nafisi would be considered one of the more socially relevant and readable ones who has a particular appeal to the Western reader, specifically because of the references to Nabakov's tale. Despite the hoopla and the publicizing of the book, we must not forget that, at the end of the day, this is one author's account of a specific period of time, of a specific group of people of a specific gender. 

What I understand from your blog is that you are disappointed as to why an eloquent writer such as Nafisi is not giving "The Iranian Man" some 'stage time' in RLT. I believe Nafisi's omission was intentional.  Her omission may be construed as a means to tacitly denegrate Iranian men.  It is possible thought that Nafisi, wishing to remain honest, did not write about Iranian men because she did not have the same sort of information about them.

It is a collective wish to have a good writer write what we hold dear in our hearts and when he/she doesn't, it is natural to feel some disappointment. But we must take heart in that Nafisi is but ONE writer, viewing the world she occupied through her own prism. In the big picture, LTR is but one piece of literature, among others that have been written and will be written about post-revolution Iran.

In my opinion most works of literature are generally popular within the span of the life of the writer. Great literature outlives the author, the greater it is the longer it will live. Will RLT ever become the latter? Time will tell. 

My very best to you.

 


Sanaz Fotouhi

not politically driven

by Sanaz Fotouhi on

Please don't put words into my mouth....I have no political agenda and there is no certainty of any certain agenda that I have. I am just putting this out there becuase there has been so many debates about Iranian women and their representations and the Iranian men have been underrepresented. That is all I am trying to say, so, nothing else attached..


Sanaz Fotouhi

In response

by Sanaz Fotouhi on

Dear Azadeh,

First of all, thank you for patienly reading the entire reivew and your thought provoking comments. In my defense, I will begin by telling you that this actually not meant to be a review as such. It is a critical piece of writing that is actually parter of a larger piece of work, so to this end, it is missing critical information. Continuing on from this, I do go on to argue that it would be untrue that men like the ones she does represent do not exist in the Iranian society--I have lived in Iran, grew up there, and go back often--so if anything I know that those kind of men do exist in Iran. I know how the basidji can be one-dimensional. In furthering my argument, in the larger context of the work, I do go on to say that the Green Movement has been crucial in shaking off the negative streotype of the Iranian men.

Now to answer the issues that you have raised:

First of all, what does the “so-called feminist” mean here?
Does it mean a kind of feminism that the author does not approve of?
Does she approve only of the oxyoronic “Islamic feminism?”

First, by so-called feminist I mean those people who in being feminist fail to see the fact that their very ideas of feminism and defending women is actually making them more victims of patriachal societies. So, this is the real oxymoron. Let me give you an example here. If Nafisi is trying to show us that Iranian women are oppressed for the world and her book could be read within a framework. However, this kind of work which constantly complains about the oppression of women and does not highlight the great many achievements that women have done in Iran, is in fact actually feeding back to the whole idea that Iranian women are oppressed. It is an affirmation and not in any way helping the Iranian women find their own voices and speak out. Yes--you might say, they are speaking out, but are they really? Is Nafisi's voice their voice? She can never claim to represent the voice of the entire Iranian women. No one can. But she does. She makes general statements about the situation of women and her worries are as short sighted as things like can her student have a puppy one day? Yes, that is a reality of life--people--men and women have desires--and that is part of life, but at the same time there are millions of women who do not even have food to put on their table and their worry is inherently different. Where are they represented in this bigger framework? This is what I mean by so called feminist. Those who claim to be speaking on behalf of those women on whose behalf they cannot speak, IF they want to truely represent their experiences.

And no I have no interest in Islamic feminism!

Secondly, the author’s above argument is illogical : Since when
a negative image of a group of people signifies their not being human
beings? What does being “bad” have to do with NOT being “human?”

This again needs explanation. A negative streotype of people--usually if they are placed in a group--ie. as terrorists, as migrants, as whatever that is classifying--is oppressive and taking away individuality of characters. This classification of people renders them invisible. When you see a man with a beard in the streets of say New York, you classify him. He is no longer seen as an individual in the larger picture in your point of view and the point of view of many who may view him. This invisibility as an individual distances peopel from each other and does not allow others to see each as human--because you don't see a point of identification. For example, lets say that all Iranian men are viewed as terrorists, then it would be very hard for others to connect with individual men who are viewed in this category, unless they find a common ground with him and believe that this person is a person too and that just becuase he comes from a specific background he may not be necessarily associated with those beliefs. If the Muslims and the Jews realized their similiarites they would stop fighting. Please remember that I am not talking about being 'bad' or 'good' I am talking about categories that are constructed in society that define people's identities....

This is another fallacious argument: Why should Nafisi give the
reader “detailed description about the Iranian man” (sic) when the book
is about the “experiences” of women, those of less than ten Iranian
women? Why should Nafisi develop the characters of “university
officials or the revolutionary guards?” And of course Nafisi does not
have a high regard about these men: they are bloody Islamists who are
holding the whole Iranian nation, men and women, hostage, for God’s
sake! Furthermore, when women’s experiences are the main subject of a
book, not only men, but also children and the birds of the sky remain
marginal. It seems that the author , obviously having a Male
Chauvinistic outlook, would like to see that men have always and
everywhere CENTRALITY in women’s lives. In that regard, she represents
the view of the majority of the Iranian women who, under the influence
of their men’s thinking, are phallocratic! Unfortunately for the author
of this article, that is not the view of a real feminist like Azar
Nafisi.

Okay, here I think you might have misunderstood what I said. I said that if we look at this book in terms of what's missing or what's marginal we can understand a lot about those not represented. Here, I am asking why hasn't she represented or why she has? The point is that just to highlight that these marginal representations are telling of the representatin of the Iranian men in current Iranian literature in English. This book is an example. While we can name fifty books by Iranian women in the last decades, how many can you name by men? And you would be surprised to know that Iranian men have written equally as much as the women... Therefore my arguement has nothing to do with me being a feminist or how I view men in the society. It is a simple observation of how the men are represented...

 

Is telling the truth about your own male relatives’ behaviour
vilifying them? Does the author of this article believe that Nafisi's
students were lying to her?

No, certainly not, but when she does mention that these men were a series of villian discussed each week, then isn't that villifying? Won't the western reader think that all Iranian men are like that?

Isn’t this a wrong and oppressive form of masculinity? Does
the author want Nafisi to say that this is a good form of masculinity
or does she expect Nafisi to simply lie and write the opposite of what
Sanaz has told her?

Once again, I am not talking about wrong or right masculinity. I am just pointing out how things have been represneted or how they have the potential of being read in certain frameworks.

Hasn’t the author heard of Zeinab Sisters and the Morality
Police? Nafisi is telling the truth about the women’s situation in
Iran. Of course what the author of this article is citing is not the
whole truth. The rest of the truth is revealed in RLT by the fact that
Nafisi was a University professor and her students attended university
classes. Therefore the intelligent and unbiased reader understands that
women in Iran can have access to higher education and do work outside
of the house - despite the original efforts of the fundamentalists to
return them into their kitchens!

Let me clarify that I never claimed to be putting forth a 'truth' or 'lie'. Indeed, I never mentioned that the author was lying or telling the truth. Everything is relative. Nafisi's relative truth might be different to mine, to yours, to the girls who went into her class. But the problem is that Nafisi claims to speak on behalf of the Iranian 'women,' how could she claim that truth? no one can. I can't and you can't. It would be the biggest lie if anyone claimed they could represent the truth for an entire population...

 

“By positioning the Iranian woman as the embodiment of oppressed
womanhood, Nafisi is representing herself as the representative of the
western woman, an epitome of modernity and progress that confirms the
Iranian/Middle Eastern women’s oppression.”

Why not? Not only the Middle-Eastern women are oppressed, but
also most of them, by being phallocrates like their male counterparts,
have remained oppressed. And yes, Western women have much more freedoms
than the Middle-Eastern women. Only ideologically blind people do not
want to see this fact. Nafisi has lived and studied in the UK and has
had the chance to taste personal freedoms. Of course she is “an epitome
of modernity and
progress that confirms the
Iranian/Middle Eastern women’s oppression.” Why should this fact
disturb the author? Does the author expect people to believe that most
men (and their governments that represent their interests) and women in
the traditional Middle-Eastern societies are not into oppressive
relationships?Of course this male-domination has different dimensions
and forms and degrees, and *women are often complicit* in these types
of relationships, but why denying this social and historical fact? Why
deny that Sharia Law has turned into 1400 year-old traditions and
customs and mentalities among both men and women in the Middle-East?

You know, this is exactly where our problems lie. That as Iranians we believe that the West or the Western woman is more enlightened more liberated and more free. By believing this, then we take on the role as oppressed women and we are actually digging our women a hole....lets face it, equality in the West does not amount to much either. Look at the job market, men get paid more, and it wan't until long ago that they couldn't vote either. Yes, I am in no way denying that some Iranian women are dominated BUT it is one thing to be dominated and one thing to allow yourself to be dominated dually by both the men and others (ie the West) who would use these argument for their own political gain and access into the country, in the name of the liberation of its women. This is where my biggest problem lies with books like this...that they confirm and accept, and reiteriate a whinning oppressive position of the Iranian woman...where are our strong women who are coming out to show us alternative perspectives??? Would your rather Iran be invaded in the name of women's freedom, like Afghanistan, because we lack a strong voice?

I think that's enough for now. What I want to say, however, is that after all this, this piece has no political agenda and nor am I condeming or denying a truth or a lie. I am simply creating food for thought...


SamSamIIII

"Duty" is the kernel of "Manhood"

by SamSamIIII on

 

Cowards are those who let fear/reservation/ignorance to overcome their sense of "duty" to uphold & defend the God given rights of their daughters, sisters, wives & mothers in their society. Hence the collective millenum old breed of  Iranian male have failed their "duty" & thus must be portrayed accordingly to face the naked truth.

& as for Iranian female

Having said that, one must not lose sight on the ironic culprits behind breeding & raising such male class. They are no other than the same oppressed female class as mothers who as primary teachers in early childhood fail to delegate universal & old Iranian/kiaani value system of quality of the genders to their "sons".

So both male & female class have mostly failed their "sense of duty" to different degrees.

Cheers!!!

Path of Kiaan Resurrection of True Iran Hoisting Drafshe Kaviaan http://iranianidentity.blogspot.com http://www.youtube.com/user/samsamsia


Azadeh Azad

Is the author expecting Nafisi and the rest of us to lie?

by Azadeh Azad on

Thank you dear Gunjeshk for your powerful reply. Azarin-e aziz you too mentioned good points. And the following is my response to the author of this article.

Ms. Fotouhi says,

“I believe that this book--and all the other so called feminist books emerging from the Middle East that address the issues of women--are also in a way constructing and forming a specific image of the Iranian man and Iranian (and Middle Eastern) masculinities that is repeating and confirming a certain negative image of the Iranian man in the West, leaving very little room for the Iranian man to be identified as a human being with feelings."

First of all, what does the “so-called feminist” mean here? Does it mean a kind of feminism that the author does not approve of? Does she approve only of the oxyoronic “Islamic feminism?”

Secondly, the author’s above argument is illogical : Since when a negative image of a group of people signifies  their not being human beings? What does being “bad” have to do with NOT being “human?”

And thirdly, where is ”The Iranian man?” I know that there are something like 35 million *Iranian men* in Iran, but “The Iranian man?” I don’t think such a creature exists. AN Iranian man exists, but not “The Iranian man.“

Maybe the author means "representative" of the Iranian men. But even that is as meaningless as the phrase she uses. Iranian men are divided along different social classes, ethnicities, ideologies, religions lines. No Iranian man  represents all Iranian men. 

The author says,

This book alsooffers us a glimpse into the mannerisms and characteristics of the Iranian men. Here I wish to locate and extend the marginal presence of the Iranian men in RLT, in order to understand how that marginality has shaped much of our understanding of him.”

Or later on,

“the above points, although painting us a supposed portrait of the condition of the Iranian women, do not give us much detailed description about the Iranian man.”

Or finally,

when men “do pop up they are marginal cardboard types of characters of students, university officials or the revolutionary guards, of whom Nafisi does not have a high regard and to whom she does not give enough space to be developed as realistic characters.”

This is another fallacious argument: Why should Nafisi give the reader “detailed description about the Iranian man” (sic) when the book is about the “experiences” of women, those of less than ten Iranian women? Why should Nafisi develop the characters of “university officials or the revolutionary guards?” And of course Nafisi does not have a high regard about these men: they are bloody Islamists who are holding the whole Iranian nation, men and women, hostage, for God’s sake! Furthermore, when women’s experiences are the main subject of a book, not only men, but also children and the birds of the sky remain marginal. It seems that the author , obviously having a Male Chauvinistic outlook, would like to see that men have always and everywhere CENTRALITY in women’s lives. In that regard, she represents the view of the majority of the Iranian women who, under the influence of their men’s thinking, are phallocratic! Unfortunately for the author of this article, that is not the view of a real feminist like Azar Nafisi.

Citing the new God of anti-Imperialism “Said,” the author says,

“ in locating and contextualizing the marginality of the Iranian men in RLT, we must first have a clear understanding of what the text represents about the Iranian women, as well as the socio-political, historical and discursive framework into which it is received. “

Then the author speaks of Nafisi’s class with her few female students, and states that “in each session men are vilified in various accounts and each girl reveals more of her fear of her male family members.”

Is telling the truth about your own male relatives’ behaviour vilifying them? Does the author of this article believe that Nafisi's students were lying to her? 

“women, represented by the seven girls who attended Nafisi’s private book club, live under constant fear of their domineering brothers, fathers, or other male family members in private, and in public are ‘subservient to politics and subject to the arbitrary rules,’ of the society which dictates their every action, from who they interact with to what they wear. “

 Isn’t that the truth?

Then the author gives us the example of Sanaz’s younger brother who had “taken to proving his masculinity by spying on her, listening to her phone conversations, driving her car around and monitoring her actions.”

 Isn’t this a wrong and oppressive form of masculinity? Does the  author want Nafisi to say that this is a good form of masculinity or does she expect Nafisi to simply lie and write the opposite of what Sanaz has told her?

The author repeats the example of Nassrin, another female student of Nafisi and concludes: “In Nafisi’s descriptions, it is not only in the private domain that these male villains pop up. In the public domain Iranian women are under religious and political domination and live in constant fear of being harassed by people on the street. As she puts it, ‘a stern Ayatollah, a self-proclaimed philosopher-king, had come to rule our land,’ and under his rule ‘[women] were never free of the regime’s definition of them as Muslim women.’

Good for Nafisi!  She is telling the truth. Do you expect her to say that Khomeini and his Sharia Law did not screw up the lives of women both in the private and the public spheres in Iran? Nafisi is not an Islamist to defend a dictator like Khomeini nor an apologist for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The author says,

This sort of description of the Iranian society as an insecure world filled with ‘goblins and witches,’ who are out to get the women, is repeated throughout the book and informs much of our understanding of the position of the Iranian woman in the public domain.”

Hasn’t the author heard of Zeinab Sisters and the Morality Police? Nafisi is telling the truth about the women’s situation in Iran. Of course what the author of this article is citing is not the whole truth. The rest of the truth is revealed in RLT by the fact that Nafisi was a University professor and her students attended university classes. Therefore the intelligent and unbiased reader understands that women in Iran can have access to higher education and do work outside of the house - despite the original efforts of the fundamentalists to return them into their kitchens!

The author says,

“By positioning the Iranian woman as the embodiment of oppressed womanhood, Nafisi is representing herself as the representative of the western woman, an epitome of modernity and progress that confirms the Iranian/Middle Eastern women’s oppression.”

Why not? Not only the Middle-Eastern women are oppressed, but also most of them, by being phallocrates like their male counterparts, have remained oppressed. And yes, Western women have much more freedoms than the Middle-Eastern women. Only ideologically blind people do not want to see this fact. Nafisi has lived and studied in the UK and has had the chance to taste personal freedoms. Of course she is “an epitome of modernity and progress that confirms the Iranian/Middle Eastern women’s oppression.” Why should this fact disturb the author? Does the author expect people to believe that most men (and their governments that represent their interests) and women in the traditional Middle-Eastern societies are not into oppressive relationships? Of course this male-domination has different dimensions and forms and degrees, and *women are often complicit*  in these types of relationships, but why denying this social and historical fact? Why deny that Sharia Law has turned into 1400 year-old traditions and customs and mentalities among both men and women in the Middle-East?

The author says,

“Nafisi feeds on this position of privilege [hers] constantly, to demonstrate the Iranian women’s oppression. For example, after a lengthy conversation with one of the girls, Yassi, who has just revealed to Nafisi how her family had limited her every move, Nafisi writes, ‘Could she ever live the life of someone like me, live on her own, take long walks holding hands with someone she loved, even have a little dog? She did not know.’ These representations of the oppressed Iranian women, and the first hand affirmations of our narrators, signals towards the stereotypical character of the Iranian men as controlling, with absurd sexual deviance and fanatically religious beliefs. In most case we arrive at these character conclusions through the women’s descriptions, in the men’s invisibility, without having come across a single man who actually demonstrates these presumed characteristics first hand. “

After complaining that Nafisi does not develop male characters, the author asserts that Nafisi does describe the character of an Islamist student; however, the author of the article is not happy with it and finds it “problematic,” and “ reductive.” She believes that Nafisi’s description of Mr. Bahari presents him as a “primitive” man whose personality is reduced to his religious interests. Is Bahari’s character description one-dimensional? I don’t think so. I believe that it is Mr. Bahari - like all young Islamists - who is a one-dimensional man! Of course not all Iranian men are one-dimensional, but the low-ranking and young Islamists are. The author needs to go to Iran, live and work there, and mingle among the male Islamists – if they allow a “naa-mahram” woman do that - to see how many dimensions a young Basiji or Islamist / fundamentalist has.

The author says,

“Not only these descriptions are “reductive of the identity of the Iranian man, they are also directly contributing to a further emphasis of the hypervisiblity of the Iranian as a specific type, particularly in a post-9/11 climate. “

There are two problems with this argument:

one) Mr. Bahari, an Islamist student, does not represent “the Iranian man,” as the author puts it. Most Iranian men are NOT Islamists, and there are as many personalities as there are Iranian men.

Two) The Iranian men in Diaspora as well as the men of the Green Movement have already broken down the stereotype of the fanatically religious Iranian man that the Hostage Taking by the Islamists in 1980 created well before the 9/11/2001.

The author says,

“such representations of the Iranian man could be seen as feeding into the post 9/11 discourse of War on Terror where the abuse of women and the denial of their rights has been used as a mark of barbarism and an indication of a social sickness, that requires intervention. “

Again, there is no such a creature called “The Iranian Man.” An Islamist man, like Mr. Bahari whom Nafisi described, is far from representing the Iranian men. But more importantly, is the author pretending that the Barbaric Sharia Law is not determining the lives of women in Iran?

It is not the Iranian men who are barbaric, but the Islamic Republic of Iran (recently metamorphosed into the Islamic Military Dictatorship of Iran.)

There is no doubt that the author of this article expects Nafisi and others to lie about  the characters of the “Iranian Islamist men.” But although the warmongers might use the nasty persona of these men against the Iranian people, it is against the interests of the Iranian people to lie and show a nice face of those who are oppressing them.

Azadeh


Midwesty

Dear Ms. Fotouhi

by Midwesty on

Don't let the two-faced hypocrites who portray themselves as a moral compass discourage you from writing more. These people are more wobbly than their house of cards they are sitting in. I truly enjoyed this blog and am impressed by your courage.

Look forward to your next writing!

Good bless!


vildemose

AS: I just ordered her

by vildemose on

AS: I just ordered her book. Nafisi cv will continue to irk those who are envious of her success as an Iranian female writer.


Azarin Sadegh

Voila another article about Reading Lolita in Tehran!!

by Azarin Sadegh on

Wow...As RLT has been first published in 2003, I am surprised the amount of polemic it still generates...and maybe this is the sign of a good memoir which manages to remain relevant even 7 years after its frst publishing!! 

But unfortunately many of Nafisi's critics have missed her second memoir, Things I've been Silent about...where Nafisi describes so beautifully and deeply her relationship with her parents, her love for her father (an Iranian man...:-) and her difficult relationship with her mother, while giving a very interesting view on Iran's historical events from an intimate angle.

Actually, I’ve even written a review about it..:-)http://www.amazon.com/review/RCVQWPD2S08E1

First, I believe that there is no right or wrong way of interpreting a work of fiction. We are free to read a book and to come up with our own conclusion; like it or hate it. But let me remind you that RLT is a memoir and so by definition should be read as its author's memories, and not the memory of a whole nation. In this case, and even for writing fiction, a writer's first responsibility is toward her own truth. She doesn't have to please everyone's political agenda. And this is what the great literature is about. The best books are always about one single character and her point of view, and also how the reader feels connected to this protagonist, no matter the setting, the theme, etc. A good example is Lolita which is a great book about a guy who can be called a child molester!! (You should read Bahmani’s article about Lolita, and the whole thread…) 

Also, I assume that the author of this article is a young woman who hasn't lived in Tehran during the period that RLT talks about...but many of us would still remember and would actually describe the same atmosphere of fear and tension. And unfortunately, considering the recent videos on Youtube from the arrests of the girls on the streets, nothing has changed much in this regard.

I don't intend to write more about RLT, as this is a pretty tired subject, but I'd like to invite everyone who might have a doubt about Nafisi's real opinion regarding men in general, to take a look at her second memoir (where she writes about one particular Iranian man, her deep love for the Iranian literature and for Iran) before accusing, trying and condemning her, and then dismissing reading her work for whatever reason!   


hamsade ghadimi

imagine a world where

by hamsade ghadimi on

imagine a world where everyone who wrote a book had to write another book to answer her critics.  rlt offers a perspective of difficulties women face in the oppressive environment that currently exists (and previously existed) in iran.  are there new requirement for writing a book that should offer every person's perspective?  should the african american writers who write about the oppression of their people in the u.s. be mindful in including the nice white folks that also live in the u.s.?

i don't think that a sophisticated reader will extrapolate an opinion on all iranian men (whether inside or outside of iran) on the male characters in this book.  nafisi's book is a tour de force and i highly recommend it.  nafisi tackled a very complex social issue while cleverly weaving her narrative with lolita.  should we be more concerend with affirming the situation that the iranian women face on a daily basis or be concerned as not to hurt the iranian man's feelings?  frankly, i was not offended and can't believe someone would perscribe others not to read it (referring to the other blog).


vildemose

midwesty: No name calling

by vildemose on

midwesty: No name calling please, there is no need. I will wait for her response, if you don't mind.

 


Midwesty

Tell me how many have you written?

by Midwesty on

Since you opened the door. Are you always so selective like this or sometimes? because this sounds like hypocrisy to me.

By the way, have you seen any book critique not to have opinion of her/his own? Then what would be the purpose of reviewing?


vildemose

Is she really reviewing a

by vildemose on

Is she really reviewing a book? To me, it looks like a politically driven piece based on her own ideological indoctrination. Her perceptions of the book and Nafisi herself are definitely influenced  by her ideological/political leanings.

What other book reviews has she written??

P.S. Some Iranian men are absolutely wonderful but others not so much. This statement applies to  any men from any origin and nationality. Men are all the same no matter where you go. Right women??lol


Midwesty

Imagine the world when ...

by Midwesty on

anyone who wrote a book review had to write a book to answer the adversaries!

Or writing a book to tell us there is a sun in the sky...


vildemose

In short, RLT paints a very

by vildemose on

In short, RLT paints a very unrealistic and one-dimensional picture of the Iranian man that can be potentially damaging to the identities and images of some of our wonderful Iranian men.

Why don't you try to write a novel and present your own experiences with Iranian men so we can get a more balanced view of "Iranian men"?

What if she is not painting a portrait of anybody. What is she is simply recounting her personal  experience (bad or good) as a woman in relation to men in her society? 


Midwesty

DK jan,

by Midwesty on

Why are you dancing around the subject? Isn't RLT depicting a one-sided image of Iranian men or to make it easier a lopsided image of wrong Iranian men, as a true image?


Darius Kadivar

Sorry But Even the "Wonderful" Iranian Man Not to say ...

by Darius Kadivar on

The "Wondeful" Iranian Homo Sapien has to ask himself how and why his own species natural evolution was abrubtly stopped in 1979 to allow itself to give up his entire nation to these other "Wonderful" fellow members of his own gender:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QY1T-2f_KM

And allow his better half to be enslaved by them:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU-Dy53nCNU

I think We "Wonderful" Iranian men at large have a great deal of explanation to do ...

If those 'Edward Said' Wannabes like Hamid Dabashi and his Fan club of pseudo jealous Literary experts à la Fatemeh Keshavarz who try to feed on controversy rather than invest their own saliva and ink on more urgent matters of concern to Iranians than the Palestinian cause, had something of substance to say, they would probably have been able compensate on their own lack of talent ...

SATIRE: Hamid Dabashi & George Galloway "Get me Out of Here, I'm a Celebrity"

Hamid Dabashi say's Obama is looking more and more like Bush

The Fact Remains that Iranians at Large hate to question their own shortcomings even if those shortcomings prove correct. Or accept that maybe ... maybe there is an epsilon of truth in the assessments of Azar Nafisi or any other author or personality which tries to question not only her own past ( therefore including self criticism) but her countrymen and countrywomen's behavior particularly that of her own generation which is the real community which is truly targeted in her book far more than her entire compatriots at large.

Is Accepting the fact that we belong not just to our own community but to Humanity at large too hard to swallow ? ...

Azar Nafisi's book is precisely the anti thesis of what Edward Said preached against: Cultural Arrogance.

Recommended Watching:

HISTORY FORUM: Edward Saïd and Orientalism (In 4 Parts)

Firstly because she is writing from the perspective of an Iranian and Not a Westerner. Secondly as Such she is precisely attempting in her modest but effective way to bridge the East and West through her talent and interest in a different culture than of her own. Thus Proving the Quentessential Colonial British Literary Icon Rudyard Kipling Wrong:

"Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" - The Ballad of East and West

Those who like Mr. Dabashi or Fatemeh Keshavarz ( who in her case represent's no threat to anyone but herself given her lack of talent and general ignorance under the cloak of academic credentials like all Agha Va Khanoum DOKOTOR HA VA PORFOSSOR HA in our community and particularly amongst the '79 Generation who brought upon us the disaster and national suicide of 1979 ) shamelessly have attacked her in the past, can fool no one nor make us forget their own responsability in enslaving our nation for the past 30 years only to conveniently jump on the Band Wagon of the Green Movement as if they were opposed to the Islamic Republic in the first place.

One can equally question why Dabashi who is so infatuated with an Alien Arab Culture and Islam

HISTORY FORUM: Islam and the West: Clash of Civilizations ? (Santa Clara University, CA) 

and hates Hollywood except when it serves his arguments:

Ridley's Crusade by DK

refuses that right to Azar Nafisi for admiring the Western culture and literary works she deems as progressive and worthy of study at the expense of accusing her of being a neo con warmonger ? A similar Complaint he made against Abbas Milani which he equally dislikes for his success and talent. 

Sorry I don't buy your arguments.

And Here are My VISUAL ORIENTALIST ( which I discovered on Iranian Television and Iranian Cinema Screens Prior to the Revolution of 1979) Recommendations for Dabashi and his Likeminds Education :

YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (FOR Soraya Ulrich & Hamid Dabashi)

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (FOR Soraya Ulrich & Hamid Dabashi)

A LIFE IN PICTURES: Reza S. Badiyi The Last TV Tycoon

A LIFE IN PICTURES: Parviz Sayyad Explains it all ( Bebin TV)

UNITED ARTISTS : Manoocher Vossough and Googoosh Re-United in London For The First Time in 30 Years

And other Iranian Men ... Genuinely "Wonderful" but more importantly of "Substance" :

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM: Manouchehr Vossough Leaves Iran thanks to Kurd Rebels (1978/79)

HISTORY FORUM: Nader Naderpour on Iran's Constitutional Revolution and European Rennaissance (1996)

HISTORY FORUM: Ahmad Kasravi's Life, Assassination and Intellectual Legacy 64 years On ...

As well as Women:

Mahnaz Afkhami: A Women For All Seasons (VOA/BBC Interviews)

JAVIDAN: Farokhroo Pārsā (1922-1980)

HISTORY FORUM: Women Right's a 100 Years Struggle

Best,

DK a Bad IRANICAN Man ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeAsJm-niKI

 


vildemose

@gunjeshk

by vildemose on

Like it or not, there are millions of men who idealize the possession of a child-bride or minimally, a virginal woman.

I hear there are "virgin farms" in Gulf states and SA who raise virgin girls for one-time pleasure of this or that king/sheikh haram. I'm not sure if Western men had the same access and liberty in their culture, they wouldn't do the same. Just look at the polygamists ranches Texas and   Arizona.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/05/texas.ranch/index.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89476130


default

Lolita is wholly cautionary

by gunjeshk on

I am sorry to see Ms. Nafisi become the object of controversy. She deserves more than the criticism she often gets. On the other hand, that is what great cutting-edge art does; it inspires discourse and thought.  Who would argue that Iranian men and women don’t need this?

 Lolita, as a character is wholly cautionary, she is not held up to be an example worthy of emulation. Nabokov foresaw the trends in Western pop culture that have lead to sexual exploitation of women, when he wrote the book 50 years ago (he was true genius). Nabokov drafted the characterization of an utterly loathsome personality, Humbert Humbert (even his name is despicable). Only in hindsight and after considerable time can we immediately spot Humbert Humbert for what he is: a textbook depiction of a pedophile.

Examination of H.H’s manipulative scheming to gain access though marriage to Lolita’s mother depicts real pedophilic strategy. Witness the statistical number of young girls raped by their own stepfather.

 Like it or not, there are millions of men who idealize the possession of a child-bride or minimally, a virginal woman. Trafficking of young women as "sex workers" across the globe is epidemic.   It looks as though the Iranian community must undergo the same conscience-raising arguments that took place in 70’s America.  Some men (and their defenders) may feel that Iranian manhood is on trial, but eventually we will learn to reexamine our cultural programming because women who simply want equality will not accept less.  Is Iranian manhood so fragile that a book threatens it?  I doubt it.  

A serious reexamination of cultural standards has to happen in our society if it is to advance in a meaningful way toward gender equality.  To do less, is to accept all the ways that women are legally devalued by current Iranian law. I wish more books by Iranian authors could generate the kind of dialogue we are see in regard to "Reading Lolita in Tehran." Nafisi struck a pulsing nerve. The debates here on IC only demonstrate how insightful her work has been.