During Iran’s presidential elections, women who are usually punished for non-Islamic dress codes, are offered a rare freedom. They are seen uncovered in photos with candidates. Rhetoric regarding women’s rights rises, and gender segregations are curbed.
Iran’s culture seems heavy-hearted. Most holidays are the anniversaries of the deaths of some Imams, but during elections, street celebrations are allowed. The Iranian people, who bear the brunt of a crippled economy experience hope, but it is false, as it is based on their vote.
In a country where the Supreme Leader calls gender equality a “Zionist plot” women rights are shockingly limited.
For instance, in Iran, women are disqualified from running for the presidency. The laws of the constitution decree that the president must be male. As well, he must believe in the Islamic Republic, and follow the dominant sect of Islam, which is Twelve-Imam Shia. In this manner, more than half of the Iranian population is automatically excluded. Women’s rights are limited to voting. Women are not trusted to participate in the race for this important position.
There has been a slight increase in the number of Iranian women working in government positions compared to twenty years ago, which the state uses as a means for publicity. However, women like Maryam Mojtahidzadeh, the influential head of the women’s ministry, don’t speak of equality, but of ’complementary’ roles for women.
Even today, a woman’s most important life decisions, such as marriage, child custody, divorce, employment, and traveling abroad, continues to legally require a man’s approval. The man may be her father or grandfather, her husband, or one of the all-male judges.
The government plays on women’s fear of invasions to draw their votes. Iranians worry that their country could be torn apart like their neighbors, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and women know they are the first victims of war. When they believe they must choose between violence and reform, most will choose to support a dictator to avoid reaching the point of war.
The government undermines such options as civil disobedience or boycotting the elections, even though “Reformists” offer no plan to make changes to the discriminatory laws of the constitution. Still, they argue that the marginalized must vote for them “for stability”.
Under such repression, Iranian women lack confidence in themselves and other women. While they are legally allowed to run for lower rank positions, they don’t trust themselves with managerial roles. Through globalization, the Iranian diaspora, and access to the internet, Iranian women have seen how unfair their situation is, compared to women in the West, where gender equality is the norm. Women are not taught gender equality in Iran.
In Iran, feminism is said to be “a threat to families and society”. The increase in the divorce rate isn’t viewed as a protest to patriarchy, but instead, is attributed to the negative impact of women’s relative “liberation” from cultural taboos.
60% of Iranian college graduates are women, but they make up only 13% of the workforce.
Divorce and travel rights have been gained by may women who have stated these rights in their marriage licenses. Such legal loopholes are used by the upper-middle class. Life has not improve for the majority of Iran’s women.
Common language that is inherently denigrating for women like, “They allowed the girl to do…” not “The girl did…”, and widespread jokes that mock women as being simple, are a continuation of the patriarchy, and create distrust in women, as well.
In Iran, women are only welcome when they contribute to patriarchy and nationalism. The short-lived freedom and hope enjoyed during the election season, the allusions to empowering women, the myth of ‘war or reformists’, is meant to use women and minorities, to bring them the polling stations, and obtain their votes.