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Authors: Brightbill, Grayson
Advisors: Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz
Department: Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Certificate Program: Near Eastern Studies Program
Class Year: 2021
Abstract: In America, certain assumptions tend to dominate the conversation surrounding Iranian women. Many parts of American culture, from news outlets, to the media, to interpersonal interactions among people with little exposure to Iranian individuals, consciously or subconsciously portray Iranian women as lacking agency and chained to a position of inferiority by an oppressive government. After learning more about Iranian history, politics, and culture through my undergraduate coursework, I wanted to explore these portrayals and assumptions more deeply. This thesis explores the history and patterns of women’s rights trends in Iran since the 1960s, in order to answer the following research question: how did the state of women’s rights change from the Pahlavi era to the present, and what role did women play in effectuating that change? Over the course of my research, I analyzed secondary sources for historic context and scholarly discussion on the topic, as well as primary sources such as Iranian newspapers, legislation, films, and literature. I also incorporated data from the Iranian Statistical Center’s census data and from the most recent UN Human Development Report. Through this data analysis, I sought to compare the current status of women in Iran with how they are portrayed by government and media sources, and to understand how Iranian women have expressed their agency and advocated for themselves over time. Major themes covered in this thesis are the multidimensional aspect of women’s rights movements, the presence of Western feminism in Iran, the concept of westernization, Islamic political thought, and the media’s portrayal of women. It explores movements which dominated different intersectional identities in Iran, including women of different socioeconomic classes and ideological backgrounds. The following core trends echo throughout the chronology of this thesis: 1) Iranian women have faced repression over Iran’s history, through attempts to control their participation in society, their education levels, and even their dress. 2) The media, both Western media and journalism from Iran itself, often portrays Iranian women as lacking agency, as only participating occasionally in society, and as inferior to either men or Western women. However, these portrayals are most often false. 3) Western methods of analysis, from statistics to media portrayal, and the typical Western idea of “progress” should not serve as the unilateral and perfect measures of women’s gains in society. While in some cases, these measures can helpfully mark progress or point to shortcomings, in others, they neglect women’s achievements and do not depict the whole story. 4) Women in Iran have found tangible and often under-recognized ways to thrive under any oppressive legislation or patriarchal society. This thesis has far-reaching policy implications for those seeking to support, interact with, or evaluate the status of women’s rights in Iran. A thorough understanding of these movements’ historic and cultural backgrounds is integral to international organizations or individual actors who seek to support women’s rights activism. Through my analysis, I seek to provide the background knowledge necessary to build a path forward for interactions which uplift Iranian women’s voices and cater to their cultural and historical framework and needs.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2021

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