Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


What the veil can hide

Slate spinoff double X started a really fascinating dialogue between Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi and our own Janet Afary, author of Sexual Politics in Modern Iran.

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Dear Janet,

I am glad to see you’ve been reading my work since you were a graduate student. Did you read my work in English or Persian? (I write in Arabic.) I very much enjoyed your book: Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. Egypt, my country, and Iran have many things in common, both in the past and the present.

Today in both countries, opposition groups are gaining more power against local regimes. Like you, I am optimistic that we will soon be free of both religious, patriarchal, and neo-colonial domination.

You speak in your book about what you called “sexual revolution,” which began in Iran seven decades ago and is still going today. Is it really a sexual revolution? And what do you mean by that? Are you referring to actual relations between men and women, inside and outside marriage? I wonder if sexual liberation can really happen in Iran, or any country, without political, economic, and educational liberation happening first, or at least happening together.

I agree with you that sexual and marriage customs and laws are changing radically in Iran, thanks to the growing number of educated and economically independent women. This is happening also in Egypt, in spite of the increasing numbers of veiled women. But many veiled women in Iran and Egypt (and other countries) use the veil to gain more social and sexual freedom.

Read the rest at double X >>

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