Skyler Simpkins ’23
We live in a world where we hear more about adulterous men than the oppression of women. I know in these last few weeks, I have heard more about Adam Levine, Ned Fulmer, and John Mulaney than the crisis currently going on in Iran, so I dedicate this editorial to the brave Iranian women fighting for their bodily autonomy.
It began when Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman traveling with her brother in Tehran, was taken by the Iranian “morality police” because they believed she was showing too much hair under her hijab—it is important to note that Mahsa was wearing a hijab that covered the majority of her hair. Her brother was informed that she was being taken away to a re-education center, purportedly educating Amini on how to properly wear her hijab. Her brother, naturally very concerned, followed the “morality police” to this re-education facility where he heard screaming. He soon saw that a woman was carried out on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance. He was constantly lied to about who was on that stretcher.
On September 16th, Mahsa Amini was declared dead. She had suffered severe injuries inflicted by the “morality police” while detained in the re-education facility. Her life was ended because of systemic female oppression from a governmental and religious system created by men who deem our bodies too promiscuous and intrinsically sinful.
Iranian women, upon hearing of Mahsa’s murder, have risen to fight this bodily oppression. They have taken to the streets in peaceful protest. These powerful women are choosing to defy Iranian law which, following closely to Islamic law, requires women over the age of seven to cover their hair and wear long, loose clothing. They have formed a united front, opposing those restrictive, misogynistic laws and bringing light to the subservient position in which Iranian women are placed. Some have tied their hair in ponytails and, upon entering the assembly of protesters, removed their hijabs and cut their ponytails off. This act is aptly poetic, following the ancient Persian tradition noted in the Epic of Gilgamesh dating back to Mesopotamia. In the epic poem, women cutting their hair was depicted when the women were in anguish: now, these Iranian women are cutting their hair, not only in anguish, but in anger. Hair in Islamic tradition is held as a symbol of beauty and, therefore, must be hidden from the wandering gaze of an unmarried male. These women are cutting their hair—an “asset” adding to their beauty—in protest of the sexualization and subsequent oppression of women in sharia law. Thus, in anger, these women are not only resisting Iranian law but resisting cultural beauty standards.
Iranian government officials have attempted to quell the protest, producing fake video evidence showing Mahsa having a heart attack in custody, but the Iranian public sees through these lies. Now, Iranian government officials have escalated their means of stopping the protestors, shutting down Internet access across the nation and brutally murdering protestors. As of September 30th, 83 people, including children, have been killed in these protests due to security firing live rounds into the crowds. Hadis Najafi, a 23-year-old Iranian woman, was killed in the protests when she was shot 20 times in the head, neck, and body. You can see her beautiful life, full of spirit and bravery, dancing on TikTok just hours before her life was taken (@hadisnajafi78). This murder does not just end on the streets, but women who are pleading for help online are being taken from their homes, pulled by their hair into the streets and publicly lynched.
Female oppression due to our sexualization by men has long plagued our world. Men have almost ubiquitously been at the forefront of state-building, meaning that our laws today reflect the opinions held by those men who, primarily, held exclusively misogynistic views of women as either nurturing mothers or tantalizing mistresses. Their views have penetrated the religious and legal world all over the globe, leaving many women, such as in Iran, without equal rights or even bodily autonomy. Further, women have always been penalized for the sexual nature of our bodies while men have been excused for their attacks on women. We are raised to be ashamed of our bodies and hide it from men because men find us tempting. This narrative needs to change. Our bodies are not something to be ashamed of, our bodies house our unbreakable spirits and remarkable character. We should not be penalized for what our bodies look like or how they may affect another person. We are not responsible for the promiscuous, lascivious thoughts of men. We are strong, independent, and intelligent human beings who deserve to be treated as such.
We need to stand with Iranian women at this time. Things may actually be able to change in this world; we may be able to expose hypocrisy in all religious doctrines relating to the treatment of women as “lesser vessels” or, in general, as subservient to men. There are many ways we can do this, and I want to share some with you. For one, you can share any videos on TikTok, Instagram, or any social medium of Iranian women speaking about their experiences in protest. This will help spread their message much farther than the Iranian government wants. Secondly, you can create your own posts spreading awareness of what is going on in Iran. You can donate to various charities supporting protests in Iran including Amnesty International and the National Iranian American Council. Lastly, you can support Gershad, an app that allows women to crowdsource information regarding the location of the “morality police” in Iran. This will allow women and protestors to avoid them, creating safe spaces for protest and, most importantly, saving lives.
We all must join together with the Iranian protesters and scream the chant lining Iranian streets with pride, “zan, zendegi, azadi.”