Sociology Feminism and the Symbolism of the Hejab Article Review

Total Length: 565 words ( 2 double-spaced pages)

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Problem, Puzzle, Research Questions

The author critically examines all types of social controls on women, but focuses on laws related to the hejab in Iran. Neghibi (1999) claims that the Shah’s law that forbade the hejab and the Ayatollah’s mandatory hejab law had an ironically similar overall effect of controlling women’s bodies through a patriarchal state. The main difference is that the former aligned national identities in Iran with Western norms, and the Ayatollah/revolutionary approach created a national identity based on anti-Western and fundamentalist Muslim norms.

Theories and Concepts

The author works within several related theoretical frameworks: namely feminism, post-colonialism, and critical theory. Related concepts include the differentiation between the public and private space, the construction of gender norms, oppression, and the failure of feminism to find a universal voice. Another core concept is symbolism and symbolic-interactionism: the way the hejab can represent identity, rebellion, and subversion depending on how it is deployed.

Main Argument

The hejab has become a symbol of the oppression of women outside of Iran, in societies perceived as Western, aggressive, imperialist, subordinate, and hegemonic. In order to proudly assert or cleave to a Muslim, Persian identity, women in Iran used the hejab as a form of protest against colonialism and western hegemony in their society.

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After the revolution, the opposite occurred. To be truly effective, feminism needs to account for the way colonialism and imperialism are mirror images of patriarchy.

Empirical Evidence

The author uses an abundance of empirical evidence from historical sources as well as from secondary scholarly sources. Neghibi (1999) includes numerous footnoted references to scholarly sources that substantiate or inspire her claims about feminism in Iran.

Structure, Interactions, Actors

The strength of this article is the way the author situates the hejab in social, political, historical, cultural, and even economic contexts. Women living during the Shah recognized that the ban on wearing the veil represented patriarchal control over their own bodies and lives, and therefore wearing the hejab became a symbol of their sisterhood, solidarity, and subversive identity. Yet just a generation later, the entire society changed after the revolution. When the Ayatollah came to power, one of the first courses of action was the mandatory hejab law, which also represents patriarchal control over the female body. The hejab plays a different role depending on the social and political context and prevailing conditions.….....

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Naghibi, N. (1999). Bad feminist or bad-hejabi? Interventions 1(4): 555-571.

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