I have been trying to avoid the subject of sexual politics in Iran for a number of different reasons; chief amongst them, a lover from the past who is an avid reader of this blog. Soon as the slightest reference to a woman appears on this blog, an email also arrives in my box demanding to know what really lies behind the utterance and occasionally even expressing outrage and feeling betrayed or bruised.
Thus, I have been consciously censoring myself quite a bit for fear of hurting my ex. Our paths diverged many moons ago, but there is still a great deal of affection at work.
It might be one thing to offend the authorities and the censors or torturers who diligently toil at making our lives miserable and quite another hurting someone you care about. Where is the romance in that, really? .
But then the Zeitoon piece I presented you with in the last post was just way too delicious to ignore. And this time I deviated from the norm by sending a warning to my ex first. This, my way of stating the obvious. Relationships are hard. Sexuality and numerous issues arising from it--even in some of the most open, tolerant societies, and even assuming the best of intentions remain troublesome still. And even the minutiae of the men/women encounters atrociously difficult to get right—anywhere, any time.
No matter how old one gets or how experienced and regardless of what continent or country one resides in, there are no magic formulae. Our love lives are difficult to deal with and oftentimes annoying.
Zeitoon's writing then both touched me profoundly and obviously also irritated me. In one sense, I felt profound shame. That's a fundamental fact of life with us Iranians, you see. No avoiding it. We are still stuck (oh well, lets bluntly say it in the way some of the more petty-spirited Likudniks are so enamored of saying) in that immature adolescent stage of obsessing about honor and shame.
Consequently, certain critiques that some of my more excitable readers might dismiss as the standard issue "Fem-ah-nazi" propaganda feel quite apt, insightful and applicable here. After all, who in good conscious can argue against the proposition that "all men are genetically educated from birth to dominate, betray and beat up women," when one happens to be living in such grotesquely patriarchal, abusive society as today's Iran? Although I must say here that I am quite relieved and happy to note there is still room for us in Morisset's universe.
And shame is not so terribly atrocious when you think about it, really. I happen to think Thrasymachus learns a few things when he blushes in that famous encounter with Socrates. So I too blushed after reading Zeitoon's piece.
That a woman in love could be so emotionally distraught at nights agitated me. How could we—the men of this nation—participate in such burdensome construct? How could we have allowed our conduct to so disrupt the most natural relation that should exist between women and their bodies and so also recreate those daily impediments to the joys of exploring desires? Why should even some of our best and the brightest have to endure such torment?
But where there is suffering there is also struggle. Where there is abuse there is naturally that politics of liberation. One can acknowledge abuse without believing in the cult of victimhood. And in here lies the paradox of Iran's political discourses and certain limitations which I think are culturally determined and ultimately counterproductive. Alternative discourses and modes of being are needlessly frivolous due to years of authoritarianism. So for me, the central issue has become one of self-limiting perspectives.
Let me just admit here first that one learns quickly living in Iran that nothing is at it initially appears. Additionally, even though I read Zeitoon often enough, I don't usually follow the nitty-gritty of her love life. So I am not at all clear whether her piece is actually an honest dialogue between the lady and her conscious or an attempt to highlight certain problems that affects multitude of women (and men) here.
Whatever the case might be, the heroine in the piece has chosen a certain solution to a problem that she so obviously finds unsettling. Her piece also reveals an approach to communication that is both politically tendentious and reflective of the omnipresent apprehension of the body –again so typically Iranian, though by no means our obsession exclusively.
In short, if politics is ultimately about communication, then the piece is an exemplar of a certain notion of the Political which should be scrutinized. We'll explore more in the next post
Now you should go read a real writer, Corinna Hasofferett of Time in Tel Aviv. Sol Salbe just translated one of her posts from the original Hebrew and so we now have in English, Corinna's How to Turn the World Upside Down.