Exploring Gender Cross-Culturally: Persia/Iran

Thought it might be interesting to introduce other worldviews of gender during July. By comparing our norms and expectations of the relations between the sexes we gain the most insight into our own (not the other’s). This is from Encyclopedia Iranica.

About the photo below: An Iranian woman veiled in modern fashion crosses a street in Tehran, 24 October 2006. From body-covering black chadors to colourful headscarves, the wearing of the veil is obligatory for all mature women in Iran, even though there is now a striking diversity in how it is observed. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI

Although belied by a more complex social reality and beneath temporal and local variations, three interrelated patterns permeate gender relations in contemporary Persia. They are (1) segregation of the sexes, (2) male domination/female subordination, and (3) the primary role of woman as wife and mother within the family unit.


In addition to divides defined by class, religious, ethnic, and generational differences, there has existed in Persia another division of the social order, one based on sex. This axis, around which society was, and, to a certain extent, continues to be organized, kept the world of men and women apart. Traditionally, men engaged in activities outside the house in the public sphere of politics and the market place. The world of women, on the other hand, was indoors. It was private and domestic.
One of the most compelling justifications for sex-segregation has been the belief that sexual desire is easily stimulated in both sexes and, if unregulated, can cause social mayhem and disorder. To channel sexual conduct properly, various forms of physical and symbolic barriers were created between the two sexes. To protect the integrity of the male line of descent, women’s sexuality was closely monitored and contained. …

Women’s chastity has been inextricably linked with space. While mobility has always been valued and admired in men, it has often been associated with opportunity for sexual promiscuity in women. Kò^a@ba@ngard (street-walker), velgard (vagrant), and harja@÷^ (belonging or existing everywhere) are terms synonymous with prostitution when applied to women. Gomra@h kardan and az ra@h ba dar bordan (leading astray) are equivalent to seducing. The veil (see ÙADOR), the most conspicuous expression of sex-segregation, like the hymen (parda-ye bekarat), is perceived to be a physical impediment, an obstacle to men’s and women’s sexual temptation.

What is the most conspicuous expression of sex-segregation in American culture?
Is there something or some context analagous to the veil in U.S. society or within black culture??

  • Bathrooms?
  • Saunas?
  • Music production?
  • Genres of music and literature
  • Pornography (for men v. women on sale at news-stands)

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