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Chapter 5 examines what specific cultural meanings were applied to the modern woman by virtue of the country’s youthful age structure, reconceptualization of adolescence, and generation gap during the late Pahlavi era. Within this framework, the discussion introduces "the modern girl" that hitherto was not acknowledged as an important figure in Iranian historiography, while addressing the magazines’ engagement with the beauty culture and discussions on issues like makeup, fashion, and weight concerns. The overemphasis on the female body in women’s magazines, and their excessive promotion of social values of beauty and slenderness, conflicted with their attempts to empower femininity through representations of female determination, dedication, and educational accomplishments. Iranian editors and journalists were familiar with this conflict, and their responses become evident in two distinct and equally challenging images that receive special attention in this chapter: the Teen Princess (dokhtar-e Shayesteh) elected in Zan-e Ruz’s annual flashy beauty pageant and the female volunteers who served in the Literacy and Health Corps, after completing a short military training. In the late Pahlavi era, both these programs targeted young, single, high school graduates and college students, and substantially expanded women’s entry into the formerly segregated public sphere.
Chapter 1 provides a brief review of Iranian women’s entry into journalism and the legacy of their incipient journals. Iranian women’s print media emerged in the early twentieth century at approximately the same time that perceptions about the nature and function of the print media, anti-imperialist nationalism and notions about "the modern woman," were consolidated. This chapter lays essential ground for the discussion of the connections between the print media, women and the state in the ensuing decades. It also provides a vital foundation from which to assess the continuity and discontinuity of different trends in women’s periodicals over time.
This chapter is concerned with ways in which Iranian women’s magazines conveyed the idea of "the modern woman" while presenting themselves as family guides and experts to modern day living. Appealing to the family, provided these magazines a traditional and familiar framework to present divergent notions of womanhood by a range of experts, and simultaneously debate with their audiences on them. Catering the family and the re-signification of the housewife’s status within the confines of the home by way of enhanced scientific motherhood, glamorizing technological domestic labor, and maternal nationalism, was a form of symbolic defense against perceived threats to older values and fears, especially with women entering into the salaried workforce in swelling numbers. While the magazines expressed their absolute support of women’s education, they were more ambivalent toward women’s work outside the home. Their depiction of the domestic sphere in the 1960s and 1970s continued to convey the conservative ideology of “a good wife and educated mother” that had been cultivated in previous decades. At the same time, they underscored women’s civic duties and role in the Pahlavi campaign of pre-Islamic national revivalism.
In a continuation of the previous chapter, Chapter 3, which seals the book’s first section, explores how Iranian women’s magazines of the late Pahlavi era sought to co-opt new readership—culturally, socially and economically—and how circumstances of their production, cultural trends, technological innovations, and ensuing developments in the media industry affected their efforts. Understanding the circumstances under which these magazines developed and operated contributes to the assessment not only of their content, but also their approach to various categorizations of the woman of modernity. It reveals the complex structure and process of the magazines’ representation of women, the cultural and economic formations that supported it, and the social relations involved in the production of the gendered discourse and identity in the late Pahlavi era.
The emergence of women’s press in Iran and the implications of the magazines Ettela’at-e Banuvan and Zan-e Ruz in the creation of the modern Iranian women of the late Pahlavi era have been the focus of this study. Most importantly, it was demonstrated that Iranian women’s magazines were complex, evolving enterprises to suggest they performed different social functions alongside their ideological effort, while forming main forum of negotiation over what being modern was all about. The upshot of this proposition is twofold. First, it questions a conventional tendency to disregard the historical importance of Iranian women’s magazines and dismiss them as semiofficial publications of the Pahlavi state, quintessence of westoxication, and lowbrow genre. Second, a more holistic investigation challenges the propensity in existing literature to separate the contemporary public and intellectual discourses of the late Pahlavi era from the output of the local media, and ultimately deflect the latter’s role in the cultural politics that shaped two of the most dramatic decades in Iran’s modern history.
This chapter explores the media image of the royal family and the monarchy’s crises of legitimacy by focusing on the Shah’s third wife, Queen Farah Pahlavi, who played out many of the internal contradictions embodied by the modern woman of the Pahlavi state’s modernized patriarchy. Her public representations, both in the national and foreign media, crafted her image as a mediator between traditionalism and modernity, Iranianess and globalization. Different sets of representations presented Farah Pahlavi as a young capable woman who managed both family and public voluntary obligations, while personifying a modern "middle-class" Iranian woman and mother, alongside her promotion as an international celebrity. Appraising the propagation of the former Iranian queen, the Shah and the royal Pahlavi family by crosschecking both the local and international press, sheds additional light on the fading image of the Iranian monarchy, and on the complex nature of cultural contact and exchange between Iran and the West.
This chapter shows that in spite of her dominant position in commercial magazines of the late Pahlavi era, "the western woman" was also discursively constituted as the nemesis of the Iranian woman in the competition over the heart of the “eastern man.” The discussion in this chapter is framed by the heated public debate evoked by a 1965 bill to cancel the passports or revoke the citizenship of Iranian students who married foreign women. Backed by a trove of popular materials from the 1970s (including literature and films), the chapter addresses the cultural formation of "the western woman” and "the modern Iranian man” in the context of Iran’s brain drain, fears of cultural assimilation, and the sense that educated, modern Iranian men were being lost as a result of mixed marriages. This discussion is especially intriguing considering the fact that Mohammad Reza Shah’s first marriage to a foreign princess, Queen Fawziya of Egypt, was followed by his second marriage to Soraya, daughter of a German mother and an Iranian father.
The sweeping victory of Hassan Rouhani in the Iranian presidential elections of 2013 was followed by high-profile declarations of his commitment to recover Iran’s relationship with the West, improve its economy, and resolve the country’s social dilemmas. On various occasions since he was elected, Rouhani has articulated the significance of equal opportunities and rights for women, the need to eliminate gender discrimination, and an effort to loosen government censorship of the internet and the press.1 These declarations did not prevent his government from taking legal actions against the magazine Zanan-e Emruz (Women of Today) in September 2014, only four months after its launch. Accusations were made against the editor, Shahla Sherkat, who previously edited Zanan (Women) for 16 years until it was shut down in 2008 for promoting un-Islamic ideas and feminist views that were harmful for the public’s mental health. Sherkat was once quoted saying that “journalism in developing countries is like walking on a tight rope. You have to be careful where you step, otherwise you will fall.” Notwithstanding the obstacles, women journalists still believe that the pen is mightier than any other weapon.2
Chapter 2 examines the conjectural circumstances that prompted commercialism, popular culture, and women’s magazines in Iran. Addressing the Iranian media structure, the discussion focuses on three major dimensions in the local media system: the development of the popular print media market, with particular emphasis on circulation; moves toward journalistic professionalism; and the nature of state intervention.
Between the 1963 'White Revolution' and the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the position of women in Iran experienced a number of fundamental shifts. Policies and reforms were introduced, including land, suffrage, education and dress reforms which the Pahlavi regime claimed would advance the position of women and would lead to a swift modernisation of the country. In this book, Liora Hendelman-Baavur examines these changes, looking at the interactions between global aspects of modernity and notions of identity in Iranian popular culture. By focusing on the history of Iran's popular print media, with emphasis on women's commercial magazines, Hendelman-Baavur challenges familiar western assumptions about the complexities of Iranian popular culture. Her analysis situates Iranian women's magazines within their broader economic, social, political and cultural context, demonstrating how representations of the modern woman in Iranian popular culture were influenced by the intricate nature of cultural contact and exchange between Iran and the West.
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