Sunday, December 05, 2004

Warrior Woman

Aren’t we quite the feverish bunch? If only I could have collected some pittance every time we’ve become frenzied over some inanity or other.

So here we have two manifestations of public passions at work again: all the brouhaha over a proposed referendum to amend the constitution and of course the fulminations (yet again) about the actual name of that Gulf bordering the Straight of Hormuz!

Now really! Do we need any more excuses to utter the vilest sorts of xenophobic, bigoted anti-Arab balderdash?

Truth to tell, I have had a gentleman’s agreement with my Arab friends and acquaintances which has worked quite well over the years. In order to avoid all the shallow nationalist blabber, I just call it the Gulf when the subject comes up and my friends reciprocate. Horror of horrors!

I know it is not for everyone; nor a universally applicable prescription. Yet my bubble has been a great deal more civil consequently and that’s all that counts. I think I’ll have to stick with what works.

In the meanwhile, the referendum stuff I will also have to ignore until either the fever subsides or vanishes entirely—and vanish it will along with the rest of the contemptible creatures ruling us poorly; the ones who inevitably end up bolstered each and every time on account of false hopes. Oddly, even Mr. Blair appears poised to get in on the action this time around!

One thing, though, that I simply can’t ignore is the news of the DNA tests confirming the 2,000-year-old bones of a sword-wielding Iranian warrior buried in a tomb along with 108 others indeed as that of a woman. This is the second indisputable proof , in a short span of time, of the existence of such woman in ancient Persia.

Women’s lives in ancient times can be a fascinating subject. Recent scholarship-- in particular this work by Maria Brosius-- has done much to deepen our understanding of some of the features. And the past generally helps put present in perspective. I mean, who can really be surprised by the existence of warrior women knowing what woman in Iran have done and continue to do every day. It must be in the genes!

As I have said before, this present experience of imbecility notwithstanding, Iranian women are poised to take the helm of this nation in a dazzling sort of way. They are the one consistently belligerent group incessantly challenging boundaries and refusing to be cowered.

Even when it appears as if they have retreated, the battle continues in more subtle forms. Only if you could see my Mom and Sister in action!

Naturally, a reevaluation of the past has become an ongoing project reflecting the state of the existing movements. I can’t wait, for instance, to get my hands on this book of Afsaneh Najmabadi, a meticulous scholar, even though certain political implications of her paradigmatic approach I find suffocating.

Some other interesting readings for your gratification: Homa Hoodfar’s nuanced treatment of women’s movement in Iran; Parvin Ghorayshi’s fascinating discussion of the transforming/transformational experience of some rural woman. (in French. It takes me for ever but I try); and a UN Research Institute project, Parvin Paidar’s Gender of Democracy. (all pdf)

And one last short piece--quite poignant I think—of the “mundane”. A personal narrative of the harrowing experience of one of the many silly cultural obsessions wreaking havoc on life and only skin deep: Farideh Dayanim Goldin’s Feathers and Hair.

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