Monday, March 08, 2004

On women

It is the International Women’s Day and a committee formed ad hoc plans activities to raise awareness of the continuing violence against women later this evening. Hence the early post.

Despite the best efforts of the Iranian Regime, Iranian women have made much progress thanks chiefly to their audacity, and their indomitable spirits. Patsy they are not. Much legal impediments remain of course. But we would be fooling ourselves to blame all on the Regime or to want to exclusively focus on the Legal. Iranian men can be very pigheaded, selfish, insecure and suffocating. Witness the increasing reports of rape, domestic abuse, prostitution, battery and murder. That said when it comes to positive changes in the sex roles in Iran, one gets the sense that-- our posturing and gobbledygook not withstanding-- there is no turning back now.

I guess what makes the experience of life in Iran so jarring is the striking difference between the social and the private spheres. Let’s start with the basics. Like it or not, women continue to shoulder the greatest share of burden for the household management. Regardless of the wealth, social position, income, or education, the Iranian household can be a paragon of efficiency and cleanliness. I am not claiming here that we don’t have our fair share of problems. But one must acknowledge: it is no easy task to feed a large family like clockwork three times a day and also manage to keep everything shiny and the fridge well stocked. You pass any house during lunch or dinner, and you’ll go absolutely crazy for the aroma. Iranians love their food and cooking is quite a production. Iranian women grow to develop administrative skills which is mostly lacking in their male counterparts. Any one with minimal contact with Iranian men can attest to our superior time management skills among others!

Now any one with any sense will recognize that most women have better things to do with their lives than solely feeding and caring for a bunch of lazy household members who don’t help much. Nonetheless, they do so everyday with attention and exemplary care, something you don’t often see once you step out of the house. Everywhere you go, the incompetence, the lack of attention to detail, the disorganized, chaotic work environment, the dirtiness, the absolute inattentiveness to time, or punctuality, (and the incessantly endless whining) can be infuriating. As if the Iranian men are the only ones on the planet who don’t get paid as much as they think they deserve or dislike their jobs or have to be discriminating in verbalization of their thoughts. As a general rule, the women take more pride in whatever it is they do than their male counterparts, and it shows

You also get a sense that there is a greater cooperation amongst women than men. If only we (the men) could be persuaded to cooperate more, and to listen. But I guess much remains to be negotiated. All the same, there is a different hum to the activities lead by/of women.

And so, it is not surprising that when women step outside of the traditional roles, they mostly excel in whatever they set their sights on. Now days, it is difficult to do anything and not run in to woman in positions of power: an educator, doctors, engineers, nurses, and so on. About sixty percent of those who pass the competitive university entrance exam are also women. Convergence of hard work, persistence, perseverance and natural intelligence (not to mention stunning eyes and enchanting faces) makes for an explosively winning combination

It might not seem like it now, but Iranian woman are poised to take the helm of this nation in a dazzling sort of way. I often wonder what Iran will look like in twenty or thirty years , when the present ongoing experiment in madness finally comes to an end and when our ancient nation continues-- in a saner, more sober and civil manner-- its struggles to build a society that allows all citizens maximum opportunities for self-actualization.

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