The dominant view of women in postrevolutionary Iran, often reinforced by the mass demonstration of women in government rallies, is that they are all alike, all oppressed, obedient to their male counterparts, overly traditional, and shrouded in the veil ( châdor ). This could not be further from the truth. Though Iranian culture remains patriarchal, women in Iran are diverse, belong to different subcultures and social classes, and follow different traditions within the overall patriarchal culture. Women are ordered by the Islamic government to have appropriate hejâb (veil), but Iranian women demonstrate a great deal of diversity in their physical appearance as well as their behaviors. Some women are very modern, even more modern and more feminist than some of their counterparts in Western countries. Many women are traditional but not necessarily passive or even submissive to their partners or fathers. Though Islam and traditional Iranian culture command women’s obedience to their husbands, not all women comply. Nor do all women put up with their husbands’ dominance. Even in traditional households, where sexist attitudes might abound, women fi nd many subtle ways of resisting these attitudes and even on occasion turn the tide in their favor. The reality of women’s status in Iran and gender relations is complex and subject to change and diversity. Although there is no such thing as a typical woman in such a geographically and culturally diverse society, cultural rules and religious regulations shape the lives of women in various communities in Iran. The most important cultural norm affecting a woman’s life is the prevalent cultural association of a married woman with family honor. Women must be conscious of their public behavior and be constantly chaperoned by male relatives outside of the home. As involuntary guardians of society’s moral contract, many women feel unduly restricted and held responsible for appropriate standards of behavior, lest they malign the patriarchy’s honor. In many cases, privacy, freedom, and individuality are subsumed by the interests of family, husbands, or parents. Tribal and religious traditions also influence women’s rights and obligations. For instance, among the Lurs, men retain absolute control over women, whereas among the Qashqâis, women have more freedom. The gender relationship in Iran has gone through a sea change in the last century. Up until the early twentieth century, Iran was a segregated society in which urban women stayed home and the public arena was fi lled by men. Public places like bazaars were filled with men, and few women were seen roaming for shopping or traveling between destinations. A walk in the streets of Tehran today shows another picture. Women have an overwhelming presence in the public arena as shoppers, sellers, passers-by, police, drivers, and even spectators. At the beginning of the twentieth century, women were denied the opportunity to pursue schooling, trades, politics, and even the arts. They had no visible presence in the public arena. The Iranian educational system was still traditional as male teachers and students met in private schools or even homes, known as maktab-khâneh. The few women who excelled in arts and education were the daughters or wives of aristocrats or politically influential elites who could afford private mentors. Even these educated families did not expose their wives or daughters to the public, as this would have damaged the reputation of the family. The first efforts in educating girls began by a few educated women who had observed missionary schools in Iran and wished to create similar opportunities for Iranian women. At the close of the nineteenth century, a few schools emerged, where teachers taught modern curricula using a blackboard and chalk. Slowly, women activists succeeded in opening a few schools for girls. By 1913, some 2,500 girls were being taught in girls’ schools in Tehran. Urban women began breaking their traditional role by learning how to read and write. As demands for labor increased, women began working in silk-weaving and wool-spinning factories, fi sheries, and the textile industry. Soon, this demand for labor was expanded to include different educational and service-oriented institutions. As Rezâ Shah began his modernization of Iran in the 1930s and expressed an interest in breaking away from the tradition of secluding women, more and more women were educated and hired in government offi ces. Educational expansion and urbanization offered educated and willing families the opportunity to send their daughters to schools. The Pahlavi government viewed women’s participation in the educational system as a sign of modernity and progress and encouraged families to send their daughters to school. In 1936, following Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk’s earlier abolition of the veil in his country, Rezâ Shah banned the use of veil in public places, alienating a large segment of the population who viewed such a practice as an assault on their dignity and their religious beliefs. Although this policy could not be followed thoroughly and had to be relaxed, its impact of encouraging young women to participate in national life was drastic. The education of women went hand in hand with the expansion of opportunities for women’s presence in the public sphere. After the establishment of universities, women were accepted at universities, and as they gained more education and skills, they began to take government jobs, especially in hospitals and schools. A number of legislative and political developments during the Pahlavi rule increased women’s chances of overcoming traditional obstacles in gaining civil protection and political participation in society. The first was women’s enfranchisement as a part of the White Revolution in 1963. Although opposed by some segments of the religious community, the act resulted in women’s participation in civil and political affairs. In the decade that followed, several women were elected to the parliament, and a woman was appointed as the minister of education. The second most important legal development affecting the lives of women during the Pahlavi era was the Family Protection Act (FPA) of 1967, which was revised in 1975. This legislation was meant to improve conditions for women; it changed existing practices regarding the legal age and conditions of marriage, a woman’s right to divorce, and the practice of temporary marriage ( sigheh, discussed in an earlier chapter); it also altered the legalities surrounding women’s rights in the domestic sphere. In 1966, the High Council of Iranian Women’s Associations, which was established in 1959, was renamed as Sâzmân-e Zanân-e Irân (The Women’s Organization of Iran [WOI]). Although the WOI actively campaigned for legal reforms, it was not able to mobilize women in any effective way. Its efforts often focused on urban, educated women; the majority of women from traditional sectors of society never connected with the WOI. Despite legal changes and gains in education and political participation, male attitudes toward women did not change much, and the majority of girls were socialized to become good wives and mothers rather than to seek education for future employment. There was a weak relationship between increased education and women’s domestic attitudes. Girls married at a young age, and if they chose a career, it was often due to economic necessity and was always of secondary importance to that of their husbands. The more Iran modernized, the more pressure was felt by the traditional sector, resulting in a polarized society with two separate cultures living side by side: one in which women stayed home and another where women studied and worked in public; one in which male-female interaction was limited to intimates and relatives alone, and another in which men and women interacted openly and attended schools, theaters, and parks. The traditional sector, being the larger segment, included most women in rural areas and small towns, and religious populations in urban areas. The modern sector included the educated segment of the population, mostly working in modern industries, government bureaucracies, and private businesses dealing with companies in foreign countries. The male-female interactions in the traditional sector remained relatively unchanged: arranged marriages, female housewives, male breadwinners, family travels only to religious destinations, attending mosques with some regularity, obedient children following parental choice of occupation, separate schools for boys and girls, and so forth. The modern sector looked into the Western lifestyle: marriages based on individual love with ceremonies in modern settings, both couples holding jobs, educating children with a higher expectation for social mobility, family vacations at beaches and resort towns, travels abroad, attending theaters and modern cultural centers with some regularity, living in modern houses and apartments, and so forth. This polarization ended with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, in which both traditional and modern Iranian women came together in opposition to the shah’s regime and participated in a revolution that opposed much of the shah’s modernization programs. In the late 1970s, the political opposition to the shah brought secular women together with traditional women in massive demonstrations in Iranian cities to overthrow the Pahlavi regime. Women of all classes and ideological persuasions participated in anti-shah’s demonstrations. Some young female members of underground political organizations even engaged in a few armed confrontations with the army. Since the demonstrations were sanctioned by the clerics, traditional women felt comfortable appearing in public. Traditional husbands also were disarmed of their religious reasons to disallow the public appearance of their wives. Scenes of revolution in the streets of Tehran, with millions of Iranian men and women of all stripes demonstrating together in defi ance of the shah, seemed both unprecedented and miraculous. The alliance did not last long. After the success of the revolution, secular women realized that their veiling in political sympathy with the traditional women was here to stay, as Âyatollâh Khomeini demanded that women dress “properly” and abolished the Family Protection Act. As the revolution succeeded and an Islamic Republic was established, women in government offi ces faced new restrictions on their movements and interactions with male colleagues, and many were asked to leave employment in order to open up the opportunities for men. Public places such as universities, schools, and government offi ces were segregated again. Women were barred from the legal profession as judges and were also denied entrance to certain fields in the universities. Prior to the revolution, women’s public appearance and social interactions with men were regulated by tradition and religion. No civic law dictated the form and the extent of their interaction in public. However, since the revolution, male-female interaction has come under strict codes, both in public and private spheres. Nonrelated males and females are forbidden from having contact with each other, and the sexes are strictly segregated in public and even in private. Narrowly defi ned Islamic laws put in effect after the revolution are a constant reminder to men and women as they interact in various public arenas. The morality police are never far from people’s minds during the course of their everyday lives. But the problem is not just the law but how these laws are interpreted differently by different men (father, husband, son, and unrelated males), religious authorities, and government officials. Furthermore, where the laws are specific, they are arbitrarily applied as different punishments are meted out in different circumstances, seemingly at the will of the police. The measures introduced by the government created a divide between the secular women, who did not wish to veil, and the then dominant and powerful religious women, who had massive support from the government for religiously sanctioned employment and political activism. Demonstration against new restrictions was harshly suppressed, and women’s demands for choosing one’s dress, the preservation of the Family Protection Act, and the right to work in legal professions were denied. The war with Iraq gave the regime ammunition to suppress political dissent and push for a policy of Islamization of social and gender relationships. By and large, the government succeeded in having its way in the 1980s, and gender-relations in the country became much more segregated. The restrictive policies against women, coupled with the economic recession caused by the Iran-Iraq War, contributed to a notable decline in women’s participation in the labor force, especially in the industrial sector. Yet, nonsecular women’s participation in social and political life increased. Religious women were recruited for political offi ces and for supportive roles on the war front. In a religious environment, traditional men felt comfortable supporting their wives’ employment and daughters’ demands for higher education, music lessons, and English classes. The increasing participation of women in education and the social arena caught up with the restrictive laws of 1980s. As the war ended and many female activists returned from the war front, they began to push for the gender equality promised by religious authorities. Arguing within the religious tradition, these women demanded the removal of discriminatory and restrictive policies that denied them equal opportunity and respect in society. These new Islamic feminists did not demand open male-female relationships, abolition of mandatory hejâb (veil), and elimination of the Shari‘a as the basis of women’s rights—demands that have been consistently made by secular women. These women saw to it that they have a say in the interpretation of the Shari‘a and argued that genuine Islam is supportive of women’s rights. This nonconfrontational and insider strategy made it easier for traditionalists to allow for a more fl exible interpretation of religious edicts in the area of dress, women’s participation in politics, and their mobility within educational and social institutions—as long as it did not contradict the Islamic law. This has dramatically changed the appearance of Iranian society since the early 1990s. Women’s participation in the job market and education increased, and technical and engineering fields, once closed to women in the 1980s, were opened in 1993. The socioeconomic profi le of women within the society increased and allowed them to obtain professional status in many fields. Despite the institutional barriers put in place by the Islamic Republic in cultural and male-female interactions, women have pushed the imposed boundaries farther out and made concerted efforts in penetrating various professions in the public arena, especially in the film industry, literary works, and mass media. Today, public places are fi lled with women, women’s dress has become more colorful and stylish, and young girls often try to interact with their male partners with more courage and a sense of rebellion. Though the morality police are still a reality of Iran’s public arena, young women have been able to develop new gender relationships that are much more liberal than those experienced by their parents. In 2005, it was not unusual for an 18-year-old in metropolitan Tehran to have a boyfriend, even though this relationship may not have involved any physical intimacy. Despite all these changes, studies dealing with the effect of traditional gender roles on women reflect a very challenging situation. The suicide rate among women has been high in several provinces due to the stress of high expectations put on women inside and outside the family. In recent years, runaway girls, usually escaping parental restrictions and physical harassment, have become a major challenge for the current government. Prostitution has increased, mostly due to restrictions put on the interactions between an increasingly large, young population, and it has now extended to young girls. Drug addiction is spreading among young females as well. Yet, the negative impact of gender roles is not limited to women alone. There are tremendous disappointments with the social imposition of traditional roles for both genders. The effect of socialization cannot be overestimated in placing men and women in unhappy patterns of domination and submission. Considerable pressures exist for many men, too, whose lives are defi ned as being the sole breadwinner, with pressure to protect the family honor. Not being able to provide for one’s family is a serious threat to a husband’s claim to manhood. For women who stay home, housework is a full-time job and is therefore a signifi cant deterrent to taking a job outside of the home. Although in recent years the number of women in workplace has increased, many educated and capable women remain excluded from traditional male domains. Although working women make significant contributions to the economy, particularly in rural areas and the heavily agricultural northern areas where women are essential to cultivating rice and raising livestock, women comprise a small percentage of the workforce. Women have difficulty securing jobs in management positions, especially in industry and services. Labor laws are not clear about equal pay, and where there is a clear mandate, it is largely ignored. Working outside of home is an issue for women in urban areas because rural women have always been engaged in family work or farmwork. Historically, the job market in urban areas has been restricted by gender. But recently, several factors have contributed to the gender neutralization of many occupations, which are thus becoming available to women as well. These include recent changes in the global economy, increasing female education, changes in the public’s attitude about female work, economic necessity, and new legislation supporting female work. While most traditional women in urban areas are content to remain housewives and forego outside work, most educated women are unhappy, and many resist the strict female roles imposed on them as mother, wife, housemaid, and nurturer. Women pursue work outside the home for several reasons: direct contribution to the family income, autonomy, personal needs, or fulfillment of educational capabilities. Women’s wage-earning capabilities are sometimes perceived as a threat to their husbands’ masculinity. Women who do have income feel that their contributions are underappreciated relative to the primacy of men’s work. In most cases, once a woman bears children, she ends her wage-earning work. As a mother, her devotion and energy are expected to return to the domestic sphere to raise the children. Still, the superwoman complex of the so-called career mom, so prevalent in Western industrialized countries, does have an Iranian counterpart as well. Many working women are bound to raise their children, attend to their husbands’ needs, and still pursue their careers with excellence. Many working women with young children often experience guilt for not being able to fully attend to their children’s care or resentment by others for not giving priority to their children’s welfare.