Rethinking Global Sisterhood: Western Feminism and Iran by Nima Naghibi

By Nima Naghibi

Western women’s involvement in Persia dates from the mid-nineteenth century, whilst woman adventurers and missionaries first encountered their veiled Muslim “sisters.” Twentieth-century Western and state-sponsored Iranian feminists persisted to exploit a dead ringer for the veiled lady because the embodiment of backwardness. but, following the 1979 revolution, indigenous Iranian feminists turned extra vocal of their resistance to this characterization.   In Rethinking international Sisterhood, Nima Naghibi makes robust connections between feminism, imperialism, and the discourses of world sisterhood. Naghibi investigates themes together with the state-sponsored Women’s association of Iran and the involvement of feminists corresponding to Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem within the Iranian feminism circulate ahead of and through the 1979 revolution. With a effective research of cinema, she examines the veiled girl within the movies of Tahmineh Milani, Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Kim Longinotto, and Mahnaz Afzali.   At a time while Western kinfolk with the Muslim international are in concern, Rethinking international Sisterhood presents much-needed insights and explores the constraints and chances of cross-cultural feminist social and political interventions.   Nima Naghibi is assistant professor of English at Ryerson collage in Toronto.

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The cnal section of this chapter will examine Western women’s evolutionary narratives about Persia and Persian women from the time lag of postcolonial contramodernity, thus attempting to e,ect a disruption of the cgure of the passive, abject Persian woman and to facilitate the emergence of an agential countercgure in Western women’s discourses about early twentieth-century Persia. Despite the many di,erences between the narratives of American Presbyterian women, British Anglican women, and the travel writings of Gertrude Bell and Ella Sykes, all of whom are writing approximately in the same historical period, there exists a shared desire in their texts for an inscription of the passive body of the Persian woman.

Many middle-class women, Christian missionaries, and secular feminists in Britain used the discourses of sisterhood, and of progress and evolution, to enable their mobility outside the bounds of their prescribed lives and to justify a more exciting life of travel and adventure for themselves. Of course, not all middle-class British women with interests in Persia aligned themselves with the feminist project or with the Christian missions, but they generally were closely a´liated with the imperializing mission.

Over half of the mission women 6 Enlightening the Other went to Iran unmarried. A few wed while on the celd, but the mission establishment discouraged this practice. . Missionary service was one of the few careers open to unmarried women, and in some respects it o,ered more freedom and opportunity than did those few choices open to them in America. (1992, 175) British and American women missionaries who went to work in Persia claimed that their goal was to work with Persian women, and their reasons for this, according to Zirinsky, were twofold: In the crst place, the missionaries believed that all women were sisters, and they acted on the principle that sisters should help sisters.

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