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Analysis of The Portrayal of Women in Persepolis

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When considering initial thoughts of people towards women it varies from person to person, gender to gender and one nation to another. The perception of women is heavily dependent on external influences such as religion, relationships and the political standing of the nation where the individual resides. In Marjane Satrapi’s book Persepolis, the portrayal of women can be divided into two very distinct views. One view is that of a strong, opinionated, and resource woman. The second view shows the reader a woman who is hidden, not important, and that has certain roles. The book follows the life of Satrapi from her childhood and the transition between childhood and adulthood. The purpose of this paper is to prove the fact that the novel Persepolis deconstructs the typical western perception of Islamic women and specifically the women of Iran this will be proven by understanding the spectrum of women who defy the expectations.

By analysing and understanding the normal perception of women it can clearly be stated that the role of women in society and in general has dramatically changed over the ages. By analysing studies conducted on the portrayal of women in advertisements during the 1970s, the findings provided four general views for women of that time period. The first view stated that the role of a woman resides in the household. Secondly women are not permitted to do anything of significant importance and are restricted from making any important decisions, the only decisions which are excusable are about the purchasing of inexpensive items. This is practically the only time where women showed signs of minor independence since simple decisions were permitted by the man in the house. The third general view in the study states that women are dependent on men and need men to provide protection and the final view of women in advertisements was that men regard women as sexual objects and that men and particularly do not show show care for women in society.

The study shows how advertisments in the 1970s viewed women during westernisation and claims that women were seen as unimportant and had very little importance to the growing culture other than sex and housework. In comparison to Iran during the revolution, women were being treated in the same way by saying it was for “Islam” however by enforcing sanctions and regulations women in Iran were being robbed of thier rights to wear and say anything they want, along with this as the rest of the world saw reforms in society regarding women Iran pushed further to remove these modern ideas. Compared to Iran women outside started to be more independent and began playing a bigger role in society , though women are now seen as more independent and have gained a lot of respect, society still divides women into two very distinct categories. The first being the housewife and the second is known as the career women. In relation to this category during 1970 women accounted for 29 percent of the global workforce and as of 2009 they accounted for 46.8 percent of the workforce.

Women of the Middle East

When considering the typical Iraninan women it can be said the majority of people consider her as covered up and silent. These stereotypes are derived from the Islam as the religion enforces certain rules to women regarding their outwardly apearance. The book begins by bringing the reader to the center of the situation when these laws were being enforced, Satrapi from the very first page of the book throws away misconceptions and pre-existing thoughts of Iranian women. As the novel takes place right after the revolution of 1977 the country’s power and authorities were scrambled, a journal study conducted by Patricia Higgins explains the situation the best without any external bias “In March 1979, less than two months after revolutionary forces had successfully removed the Shah from power, thousands of women turned the victory celebration scheduled for International Women’s Day into a demonstration against announced plans to make veiling compulsory. Although the veiling issue was the catalyst, demonstrators were also concerned about women’s exclusion from the judiciary and the military and about government plans to review the marriage and family law of the Pahlavi government. After participating actively in street demonstrations supporting the revolution- most often in the veils or scarf’s and sex- segregated groups deemed proper in Islam- women, it seemed, were not prepared to accept the more conservative Islamic definition of their place”. This extract form the journal provides readers with an insight into the changes which came following the revolution, this is an important source as Satrapi and her mother are going through this revolution and are facing the changes it is bringing. In the introduction period of the novel Starapi’s mother was depicted as a demonstrator for women and it was during this significant period of time where Satrapi’s mother’s life was endangered.

On page 5 of the novel, there is an illustration of Satrapi’s mother shaking her fist and the text says “At one of the demonstrations, a German journalist took a photo of my mother”. Following this illustration it was uncovered that she ended up dying her hair blonde and started wearing large dark glasses to ensure that she was not recognised by any of the authorities. Soon after the public demonstrations ended and according to Higgins “the controversy over women’s proper role in Iran has continued but in less dramatic forms”. The first pages of Persepolis were crucial since many readers are completely unaware about the history of the veil in Iran, people just seemed to believe that women of Iran had been wearing the veil forever. Persepolis shows the reader that women were not always oppressed in Iran and this is done by showing the reader an image which depicts young girls playing in the courtyard school . The children are running around the school yard with their veils, and showing no respect as one veil is on the ground, one girl is using the veil as a jumping rope and the other using her veil like it is the reins on a horse. Another depiction in the same picture shows the school girls saying different reasons why they don’t want to wear the veil, one girl simply says because it’s too hot outside.

Differences and similarities between women from the two cultures

One major purpose of this paper is to provide people with information pertaining to women in western culture and women from the Middle East, a fact which is accepted by many people is that both groups of women have been through immense struggle, and from that struggle change has been achieved. After doing further research an observation made was that women from the west have the ability to voice their concerns and issues when compared to the middle eastern women. As stated earlier, Satrapi’s mother successfully demonstrated against the rules however she had to fear for her life since being targeted by the authorities was a high possibility, and from researching for this paper one claim which can be made is that one culture has been changing and improving for decades now whereas the Middle Eastern culture, has shown very little improvement.

Feminism

The novel Persepolis has certain focus around the women of Iran as it looks into the roles women play in society. Whenever any literary text focuses on the role of women it engages the reader in feminist criticism. In the setting of the novel, Iran, women were expected to present and carry themselves in a particular way. For example society didn’t expect women to stand out or speak up about their issues unlike western nations where it is common for women to stand up for their opinions. However this is not the case for Satrapi and her mother .Satrapi’s parents demonstrated against the king and Satrapi begged them to take her with them to the demonstration against the shah. One key aspect which the book highlights is that even at such a young age, Satrapi had grounded morals and something to fight for, she believed that in order for change to occur it must be supported by as much of the population as possible. Another key trait which women were supposed to have in Iran during this period was that they were essentially not allowed to be their own person, meaning they had to be as plain and dull as possible and in terms of the book Satrapi didn’t pay much attention to this rule a prominent example of this can be seen during a conversation on page 119. Satrapi is sitting on the floor with her arms on the coffee table as she paints her nails and soon after this her mother tells her “You’d be better off without nail polish, you could get arrested”. This scene shows the seriousness of the whole issue since wearing something as harmless as nail polish can serve as ground for arresting a young woman. Soon after this image Satrapi replies to her mom by saying “I’ll put my hands in my pockets”. This just shows the reader that even as a young girl she doesn’t mind the consequences of her actions, it also shows she refuses to be obedient like the other women in the nation and wont let s man decide what she can of cant wear.

Deconstruction

Like many people outside Iran or even the Middle East, people seem to have opinions about women from the area such as they don’t want to fight or that they don’t want their freedom. However to speak with the text, Persepolis gets rid of these presumptions about women and the transition into womanhood through Satrapi her mother and grandmother. With Satrapi’s mother change is shown through her ability to fight as she is depicted as a woman of unbound energy which makes her a fighter, she fights for what’s just and does all she can to bring about change. For Satrapi’s grandmother, it’s what she stands for in the lives of Satrapi and her Mother. In the novel she is shown as an elderly woman who possesses knowledge which she gives to Satrapi to help fight her battles. One important thing to note is that Satrapi’s grandmother doesn’t try to hide who she is or try to influence Satrapi to change her attitude toward the national issue, as she is the only one who lets Satrapi’s believe that she is the last disciple of God. For Satrapi there are tons of examples where she displays toughness. When assessing the book further one detail which stands out is when Mehri comes to babysit Satrapi while her parents were away. Satrapi went to demonstrate the next with Mehri and managed to force Mehri to go with her even though she is older than Satrapi. They went and protested from morning till the end of night and in the last frame of page, Mehri can be seen shouting “long live the republic” and beside her Satrapi shouts“down with the Shah”. This is how Satrapi uses deconstruction, she disrupts our presumptions about women in Iran and shows the reader how women can share the same rights even though they are separated by thousands of miles.

Conclusion

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is an example of a literary works which have the potential to motivate women to bring about change. Women in this novel are depicted as oppressed and the novel has a dark tone which seemingly leaves no place for hope. Satrapi in this novel can be seen as hope as her charisma brings about a change to the people she interacts with. Overall this was a book of hope which highlights the hopeful transition of Satrapi into adulthood. 

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Analysis Of The Portrayal Of Women In Persepolis. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-the-portrayal-of-women-in-persepolis/
“Analysis Of The Portrayal Of Women In Persepolis.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-the-portrayal-of-women-in-persepolis/
Analysis Of The Portrayal Of Women In Persepolis. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-the-portrayal-of-women-in-persepolis/> [Accessed 29 Jun. 2022].
Analysis Of The Portrayal Of Women In Persepolis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 16 [cited 2022 Jun 29]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-the-portrayal-of-women-in-persepolis/
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