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Judging What Women Wear

Young woman in Chador and jeans near Shiraz in Central Iran
Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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Young woman in Chador and jeans near Shiraz in Central Iran

Thank you for joining us on the High Plains Public Radio Station. My name is Jessica Sadler and I am a Science Teacher and STEAM facilitator in Olathe, Kansas. I am here with the other book leaders to discuss Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. These graphic novels are the author’s memoir of growing up a girl in revolutionary Iran. The photos in these two books, and the other book club picks, truly represent the theme Graphic Novels – Worth a Thousand Words.

Thank you for joining us on the High Plains Public Radio Station. My name is Jessica Sadler and I am a Science Teacher and STEAM facilitator in Olathe, Kansas. I am here with the other book leaders to discuss Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. These graphic novels are the author’s memoir of growing up a girl in revolutionary Iran. The photos in these two books, and the other book club picks, truly represent the theme Graphic Novels – Worth a Thousand Words.

Satrapi’s works begin by telling her story from childhood through adulthood. She was born in 1970, but began telling her story in 1980 with the wearing of “The Veil” in Iran. The veil is discussed several times throughout these novels due to its connection to women and femininity. As a child, the photos on the first page show Marjane and her schoolmates playing with their veils and making a bit of a mockery at school. However, as time progress and girls turn into women the “miswearing” of this garment can cost a woman greatly.

"They insulted me. They said that women like me should be pushed up against a wall and f***ed and then thrown in the garbage." (10.19). Marji’s mom is simply waiting for help as her car had broken down when these comments were directed at her since she was not wearing a veil out in public. The solution is “to protect women from all potential rapists, they decreed that wearing the veil was obligatory. Women’s hair emanates rays that excite men. That’s why women should cover their hair!” (10.22).

I believe this mentality towards women being too seductive and men being too carnal to ever control themselves is present in many different cultures. It is unfortunate because neither sex wins when this ideology prevails. It creates excuses to suppress individuality and make people feel shamed for features, often anatomical features, that many are born with.

There are variations of “the veil” across the world. These women in Adana (Turkey) are wearing the niqab
Marcello Casal Jr/ABr., CC BY 3.0 BR , via Wikimedia Commons
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There are variations of “the veil” across the world. These women in Adana (Turkey) are wearing the niqab

I believe there are many western civilizations who see veiling and take pity on the individuals practicing not realizing their society too is requiring sexes to veil: it just looks different. If certain parts of the female body are too displayed, there are those who would say things like “She was asking for it.” There are countless shows, magazines, you name it that are focused on judging what women wear. Through forcing clothing like uniforms or mandatory veiling, the first stepping-stone to limiting someone’s rights is being laid into place.

These amazing novels deal heavily with aspects of war and religion in Iran. Since I don’t find myself knowledgeable enough on these topics related to Iran, I wanted to touch on the novel's themes of morality and freedom. The second book ended in an abrupt fashion for me, “Since the night of September 9, 1994, I only saw [Grandma] again once, during the Iranian New Year in March 1995. She died January 4, 1996… Freedom had a price.” (38.88). At first I found myself turning for more pages.

When I realized there were no more, I went back to reread this portion several times. For Satrapi, she gained her freedom at the expense of leaving her country and family behind.

I am at a point in my life where when I travel back to the state I am from I can see the ways things have moved on without me. I by no means feel like an outsider, but many of the people that made me are gone or have reached a point where I see the frailty. I believed at one point in my life to grow up I needed to go somewhere else so I could make it my own. I moved to a new place not knowing anyone and did just that.

Like the author, the price I have paid is in the currency of memories with those I love. It is a very steep price tag.

This is Jessica Sadler, and you are listening to the High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Book Club.

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Spring Read 2022: Graphic Novels—Worth a Thousand Words 2022 Spring ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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