Thursday, October 16, 2008

Intro to The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

Haven't read the book, but that does not stop me from enjoying the intro. Found via the blog: Fudzail. UPDATE: Just realized that the well-written commentary on Fudzail's site was from Iran Writes.

Now that you've seen it, I have 2 comments:

1. Only a man could claim to be "sometimes" reminded that he is living under Islamic rule. For women, the reminder is relentless.

2. I agree that the lack of fear is surprising in Iran; that there *can* be no palpable sense of secret police. I do, however, think that if he were to stay for a really extended time, say a year or two, he would have a different view. (If he had an American wife staying with him, I'm positive he would have a different view.)

I would also argue, that if he were a woman, he would think differently as well. Every woman I know who returned to Iran after spending a significant amount of time abroad, had the sense of being watched. Many of the Iranian women I met, who had become accustomed to life in the UK or the US or the Netherlands or any number of other places, had lost much of their ability to maneuver easily in the society. It wasn't even an issue of "ability," it was an issue of willingness.

It was so much easier for me than for my expat Iranian friends. My taarof mishaps were excused, my aggressiveness accepted... People expected me to be inflexible, selfish, and miserly. With those kinds of expectations, it's easy to impress. I was treated like a full grown child: spoiled and doted upon. Trust me, had I been culturally Iranian I would have been taken to task for every misstep: whether perceived or purposeful.

I would love to hear from expat Iranian women out there who want to chime in and tell me how wrong/right I am.

I'll even tag a few:

Pedestrian at Sidewalk Lyrics
Homeyra at Forever Under Construction
Beja at A Voice of Two Cities
Ava at Love Jihadi

(I hope commenters will add to this list and chime in with their own experiences)


Pedestrian said...

Thanks for tagging me!

You've just raised an INFINITELY interesting view point which I will indulge in extensively when I'm done with my school work :-) ... Yes, even more extensive than this huge blob of writing.

I have been going back and forth to and from Iran since I was six/seven years old. 6 years in Canada ... 5 years in Iran ... 2 years in Canada ... ad nauseam.

So I guess I don't fit into your definition. From childhood, I have learnt how to maneuver myself in both societies.As a result, my perception of Iran is much more positive. It's more positive than 24 year olds I know in Iran. It is more positive than 24 year old Iranians outside of Iran. I think that is very different than say, an Iranian woman who moved to the U.S. at the age of 20, and is now back living in Iran after 25 long years.

I can not comment on that type of experience.

Functioning well in an Iranian society has lots of "rules" ... and they go beyond the political. They are cultural/social rules.

But from a personal vantage point, as a female in Iran ... you do live with fear. But it is much more complex than "fear of a secret police" or a fear that "you are being watched." And I appreciate Majd for clarifying that misconception. However, I don't believe he was very successful at depicting the "real" conception.

Tori said...

Pedestrian, I look forward to more conversation about this. I am so curious about how you manage to maneuver in Iran, so I look forward to your school vacation!

homeyra said...

I can't see the video. I will read what I can find on Majd's book and answer you later.
Let me just say that I would have answered these questions very differently 5 or 10 years ago.

NF said...

I am actually reading this book right now and think it is a good read overall. I was born and raised outside of Iran and have not really lived in Iran, so maybe my opion is not as educated as others may be (or the opposite - biased). I am also a non-muslim. I found the discussions of Iranian politics and history the most interesting. It is something that, outside of a few blogs, few people who are not "plugged in" get to read and understand. Of course one has to take into account Majd's biases as well(obviously he is not going to say anything that offends his sources too terribly, or puts Khatami in a bad light). But I think he gives a fair treatment overall. I think its a book that needed to be written, especially by someone who as some authority (other than as a commentator/talking head), and whose biases are not obvious at first glance. I am recommending it to some of my non-iranian friends who want to understand the politics of Iran better (and some who obviously need to). Read it with an open mind, and I think you might appreciate it more.

Tori said...

Thanks NF, I will definitely read the book. I did enjoy his little video despite the fact that I do, indeed, feel that it is a very, very male viewpoint.

When I was in Iran, I saw that men who had lived abroad for awhile were afforded a special status that the women who had lived abroad were not. The men were seen as more successful and were not bound by the laws of taarof (manners and ettiquette). My male friends who return to Iran (except Kamran), are so much more optimistic about the country than my women friends.

BTW, a great read is "Being Modern in Iran" by Fariba Adelkhah.

homeyra said...

I read the links you recommended, as I can't see this interview I'll base my answers on your post and those articles.
I agree that point number one applies to many, although as someone living in Tehran I am mainly surrounded by people to whom it doesn't apply.
We have a society which imposes rules - not defined by the "elites". Quite the opposite. The rules are imposed by the non-elite or "the-far-from-elite". People deal with this situation in a variety of ways. For some this is all they know. Only a real survey could give a clear picture, I have no knowledge of one.
I can only think of a large spectrum of personal situations, isn't easy to generalize.
A feminist discourse has certainly a lot of ground over here, though I don't think that the average man is really privileged compared to a woman.
I was more annoyed by the biased attitude of some western-educated-well-off men. It is easier for me to deal with the average Iranian Joe - plumber or not!:).
Your second point. Again I trust that what you say is the real feeling of some, or of many. Still I don't recognize myself in this description.
I have lived a long time out of Iran - almost two decades - studied and worked in Europe and in North America. As a mainly introverted person, I know that my personal life isn't that different now and then. Except that I never feel lonely here. I might feel mad, angry and outraged! But still I belong here, it is my home, with it's good, it's bad and it's ugly.
I have a lot more to say. Later perhaps.

homeyra said...

A clarification.
3 times I found myself in a situation where someone was patronizing me because I am a woman.
All in a professional situation. All three men were in their 60's or 60+. All three are (were) highly educated, all had studied in England!
Two of them got a good lesson:)

Tori said...

thanks homeyra, for taking time to comment. I didn't realize you were in Iran...

When I was in Iran, I felt that my biggest problem was not that I was a woman, but that I do not have complete control over the display of my emotions. I could not ever completely master my anger, for instance, and use it in a controlled and calm manner. Even when I thought I was perfectly calm, people would interpret my reaction as too bossy. Oh well...