Some Thoughts on Persepolis

28Sep09

Hi there! My name’s Amanda, but you may also know me as The Undomestic Goddess, or simply @TheUndomestic for those on Twitter. I just finished reading Persepolis (I got my hands on the book a little late) and would like to offer the following questions up for discussion:

– In which instances is sex a means for shame and oppression? In which instances is it used for freedom and liberation?

– Was Marjane raised to be a feminist? How do each of her caregivers contribute to this (or not)?

– How do the men and women Marjane interacts with both in her life in Europe and in her life in Iran shape her self-perception?

– How are the ways in which Marjane experiences street harassment and victim blaming in Iran different from those of the west? How are they similar?

 

Leave your opinions in the comments below!

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3 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Persepolis”

  1. I kept meaning to get to this, but I figure better late than never!

    1. In which instances is sex a means for shame and oppression? In which instances is it used for freedom and liberation?

    For Marjane, sex seems to be primarily liberating, and a way to express her rebellion against societal norms (proudly declaring that she is no longer a virgin to her friends, etc.). At the same time, in order to have an “acceptable” sexual relationship in Iran, she enters into an early marriage. (One wonders how long the relationship would have lasted had she been in Europe instead of Iran at the time.)

    2. Was Marjane raised to be a feminist? How do each of her caregivers contribute to this (or not)?

    I would say that she was raised to be radical or Communist more than she was raised to be feminist–her parents certainly were open to her being exposed to political situations, and her family was very active in Iranian affairs. At the same time, it’s more than likely that this exposure to radicalism left her open to feminist ideas–and the resistance by women of her family to the restrictions placed upon women by the Islamic regime (the veil, etc.) also contributed.

    3. How do the men and women Marjane interacts with both in her life in Europe and in her life in Iran shape her self-perception?

    This is a complicated one–since almost everyone she met shaped her in one way or another. I would say that most of the individuals she encountered as a child had a largely positive influence on her (particularly her one uncle and her grandmother), but that she encountered more mixed messages as an adult and in her experiences in Europe.

    4. How are the ways in which Marjane experiences street harassment and victim blaming in Iran different from those of the west? How are they similar?

    In Iran, she largely encounters harassment based on her appearance (too Western, not modest enough), but in Europe, harassment seems to be based on her racial identity.

    Now off to read bell hooks!

  2. I actually found it interesting that the street harassment, while definitely more oppressive, is not so much unlike what happens in the US. In one instance, she is told to stop running because her butt moves in a sensual way, and she yells for the guy to stop looking at her ass. Here the women are expected to control men’s desires – they are the perpetrators, the instigators. This makes it easy to blame the victim should anything happen to her, like in instances of rape. SHE was leading him on, SHE was wearing such-and-such. We may not be Islamic extremists, but our cultural implications are not that far off.

    • I agree that in a lot of ways it’s not far off–I was trying to remember examples of harassment as my copy of Persepolis went back to the library a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if blaming the victim for her own victimization is a characteristic of patriarchy no matter where you are?


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