The Complete Persepolis can be described as a coming-of-age graphic memoir which explains the experience of the author while growing up during as well as after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. The story was initially published in two volumes in America and four volumes in French. The first half of the book explains Marjane's girlhood, where she grew up under the Islamic regime during the Iraq-Iran war. On the other hand, the second half describes her exile experience in Vienna at fourteen years old. Marjane returns to Iran at nineteen years of age then leave for good when she was twenty-four years old. Overall, the story explains the development of Marjane's identity in a landscape that was a complex cultural and political both in Iran and while she was in exile.
The perceptions of women vary from person to person due to the influence of numerous factors. Some of these factors include relationships, religion, politics, among other factors. The narrative Persepolis has two varying perceptions of women. One impression identifies a woman as an opinionated, strong, and resourceful person. The other understanding describes a woman as a person that is hidden, unimportant, and a person who has specific roles. Therefore, this analysis aims at identifying a spectrum of women and recognize the representation of feminism between the women in the book Persepolis.
View on Women
All through the novel, Marjane unceasingly expresses the idea of feminism by explaining her frustration with Iran's strict regulations on women. Moreover, Marjane also grows up to have strong female relationships with her family. These women helped her to become a strong woman who does not condone inequality. One of the primary contributors to her strength is her mother and her grandmother. Both her mother and grandmother are independent, outspoken, and progressive, and as such, they encourage Marjane to become herself and never to forget where she comes from. Since her mother and grandmother have been brought up under the shared experience of Iranian women, they have experiences in the systemized oppression. As a result, Marjane often approaches her grandmother for advice while she also seeks her approval. For instance, when she thinks of getting a divorce, her grandmother encourages Marjane to "leave him the day that he doesn't want him anymore." Her grandmother also explains that "when a tooth is rotten, you have to pull it out!" (Satrapi 335). This note depicts Marjane's grandmother as a strong representation of female independence and identity since she supports Marjane's romantic relationships; she does not encourage her to rely on a man as her source of happiness. She reminds Marjane to keep her dignity and be true to herself even though she may meet many jerks who will hurt her and tell her it is because she is stupid (Satrapi 150). Through this, Marjane idolizes her grandmother, who serves as her moral compass since she scolds her when she is wrong. Furthermore, Marjane views her as a strong representation of independence and identity that Marjane wishes to achieve.
Marjane's grandmother always reminds her of the sacrifices that they have made in the fight for human rights and justice for Iranian women. Marjane's mother also acts as a role model for her as she shapes Marjane's beliefs and ideals, thus influencing her life to a great extent. Just like any mother, she plays a vital role in Marjane's education, hoping that Marjane will understand the importance of being an educated woman in a misogynistic society. She also does not want her daughter to live in a difficult time when she states that "I know how I brought you up. Above all, I trust your education" (Satrapi 147). Therefore, even though Marjane has two strong females as role models in her life, she has a mixed perception of both Western and Iranian women. Some of the mixed perceptions include genuine and artificial, conformist and rebellious and as indistinguishable and unique as her mother and grandmother who are the main influences in her youth. Her view of her grandmother is almost romanticized. The book also explores the role of female companionship. According to the story, Marjane first becomes distanced from other Iranian women when she first returns from the west. However, she regains the sense of unity once she identifies those who try to maintain a sense of personal identity beneath the veil.
Women of the Middle East
The most common assumption that I have for Iranian women is a person who is all covered up and very silent and submissive. I used to think that Iranian women are covered up in their veils, and the only visible part is their eyes. From the beginning of the story, Marjane tries to divert our thoughts from the assumptions of Iranian women. She identifies unique perspectives of the Iranian women during and after the revolution between 1977-1979. Furthermore, she explains that women in Iran actively participated in demonstrations in regards to the compulsive veiling issue as well as the exclusion of women from the judiciary and the military. The demonstrations also included the government plans to review marriage and family laws of the Pahlavi government. She further explains that from these demonstrations, women are identified as not ready to accept more conservative Islamic definitions of their place (Higgins 477). Therefore, from this description, women can be identified as social, legal, and ideological individuals who are ready to fight for their rights and liberties. In addition, the book provides an insight into the changes that women faced during and after the revolution. Furthermore, Marjane and her mother are going through the same revolution as well as having to deal with the changes that the revolution brings. The narrative identifies Marjane's mother as a demonstrator and even provides a picture of her shaking her fist. From her contribution, the contribution over women's proper role in Iran has proceeded in less dramatic forms (Higgins 477). The book illustrates that women are not just antisocial submissive people who are subjected to the rule of men.
Women in Western Culture
In Western culture, the perception of women has been modified over the years. The study conducted by Sullivan and O'Connor reveals that women have specific roles. The study indicated that women's place is at home. Furthermore, women do not need to do anything important or make any vital decisions, and they are allowed to make decisions that concern buying inexpensive items or those which are simple. Moreover, women are considered to be dependent on men as they need men to protect them. Finally, women are perceived as sexual objects and that men are not interested in women as people (Sullivan & O'Connor, 182-87). This study shows how people conceived women during that time during the western culture, particularly in the United States. The women in this era were viewed as unimportant with limited importance to culture apart from housework and procreation. However, the new era has seen some changes in regards to the perception of women as they are viewed as independent, and they play a vital role in society. Even though women are not viewed as equal to men, they have gained significant respect over the years, and they are seen as more than household workers or procreation partners. According to the Quick Statistics on Women Workers of 2009, women in Western culture are divided into two categories, the housewife and the career woman. In the 1970s, women counted for 29% of the workforce. However, in 2009, the percentage rate has increased to 46.8% of women in the total workforce.
Differences and Similarities Between Women From the Two Cultures
Both the women from Iranian and Western cultures have struggled to achieve change in their cultures in terms of the perception of women. However, from the analysis of the two cultures, it is clear that women from Western culture have more of a voice as compared to Iranian women. In Iran, the book explains that Marjane 's mother demonstrated against the rules. However, she was afraid for her life. On the other hand, the women in the United States only held one women's rights movement, which was not that big of resistance as compared to the Iranian demonstrations. Therefore, the most significant difference between the two cultures is their ability to change since one culture has been adjusting and advancing over the years, while the Middle Eastern culture has made minimal advancements over the years.
View of Feminism
The fact that the book explores themes that are highly feministic as it critiques the patriarchal society, as well as the general sexism towards women, would cause one to question whether the author is a feminist. However, many interviews with the author have revealed that she is strongly reluctant to link herself with feminism state any feminist intentions within her book. For instance, in an interview with ABC News, the author states that she is not a feminist, but she is against stupidity regardless of whether it is from males or females. She further says that "It happens that I am a woman, so it becomes a "woman coming of age story." I think if I were a man, it wouldn't change so much; they never call it a "man coming of age story." It is a human coming of age story; let's go for humanity and humanism" (Ghadisha par 8). Nevertheless, numerous critics have pointed out that she is contradicting herself since feminism is identified as the belief that women deserve the same treatment as men in society. All through her novel, the author tries to highlight this belief. His belief can be identified as a product of the Western concept that women are better than men. I, among many women, agree with the definition provided by Satrapi as it focuses on the rights of women.
The book "Persepolis" has a particular focus on women as it identifies the various roles of women in different societies. For instance, the book identifies the role of Marji, her mother, and her grandmother. Whenever a book focuses on the role of women, it can be classified as engaging the reader in feminist criticism. Iranian women are expected to behave in a particular way such that they are not supposed to speak up against issues or to stand out. However, for Marji and her mother, they demonstrated against the King and Marji begged them to bring her along wherever they were demonstrating. Furthermore, Marji had to develop morals as well as the courage to stand up and fight for herself. She believes that for change to take place, the majority of the population has to support the course (Satrapi 15-16). Traditionally, women are not allowed to be unique or be their own person as they had to be plain and dull. However, Marji did not adhere to the same rule since she even chooses to paint her nails even though she could be arrested (Satrapi 119). Even after she is informed of the possible consequence of her actions, she finds a solution by stating that "I'll put my hands in my pockets" (Satrapi 119). She is indifferent towards getting in trouble and refuses to be like the other women. She does not let the men decide what she can or cannot wear. Therefore, her actions portray her as a feminist, thus making her a good role model for other women.
Marjane is neither at home in Iran nor Europe. However, to survive, she must forge a new yet limited identity as a result of her experiences. The contradicting forces of the Iranian political culture which is oppressive to women and is politically decentered and the western culture which is hostile to ethnic identities that are foreign to theirs. The condition experienced by Marji is typical for postcolonial women. However, the author recurrently and consciously highlights the individual subject position of the protagonist narrator through the embodiment that results in...
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