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GENDER RELATIONS
Gender Relations in the Islamic Republic of Iran
by:
Iranica
Partition

Conclusion. Under the Pahlavis, traditional and non-traditional models of gender relations co-existed, with varying degrees of acceptability. After the revolution, many aspects of non-traditional gender relations were deemed counter-revolutionary and restrictive measures were enforced. Post-revolutionary developments also sharpened the conflict between rigidly defined Islamic norms and values and the constantly changing lifestyles of modern society. Segregated public spaces have actually tended to afford women, especially from traditional families, the opportunity to utilize cultural resources (e.g., art or computer classes, sport centers, education, television programs, and videos) that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. These resources expose young people to different lifestyles and encourage them to pursue goals that are not compatible with the views of Islamic fundamentalists. Living amidst multiple lifestyle choices thus breeds doubt about tradition and long-held values, and ceaselessly intertwines customary and innovative practices. Local and global interweave so that cultural “authenticity” and “purity” become impossible.

Two contradictory gender patterns have thus emerged in the IRI. The traditional model, existing prior to the revolution, has gained considerable power after the rise of the IRI. The other, non-traditional model, also deriving from the pre-Revolutionary era, has since been significantly reshaped, to become at once more vulnerable and more resilient. Politically suspect, it is predominantly clandestine, becoming visible on occasions, but only at the risk of liability. Nonetheless, as new social spaces become available to young women, especially among the lower social classes, they gain more opportunities to question established norms and vie for alternative living arrangements. Public parks, for instance, enhance interactions between the sexes. College life offers young people, especially young women, less parental control over daily life.
Many fundamentalist concerns about such issues as marriage, sexual morality, and women’s chastity do indeed reflect the sentiments of many Persians. Two decades of constant exposure to Islamic propaganda has also inevitably affected the attitudes of ordinary people, either reinforcing old beliefs or increasing acceptance of fundamentalist assumptions. Nonetheless, many individuals, particularly among the urban educated middle and upper classes, find Islamic fundamentalists “too extreme,” “dogmatic,” ommol (antiquated), and sonnatī (traditionalist). The tension between these positions has profound implications for gender politics in the IRI. The space between them creates an arena for the expression of gender alternatives; makes visible the diversity of women’s roles, experiences, and identities; and legitimates their concerns and grievances.

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