Writing about discrimination against Iranian Women

Here is a seemingly important article on “Iran’s women footballers banned from Olympics because of Islamic strip“. (It seems The Guardian has taken down all links/urls/copies of this article. Anyone with additional info, please share it in the comments.)

This [Iran-women-Olympic-strip] article/news story involves a very important matter as regards individual Islamic women (or teams of them) who cannot do something such as play a sport because of how they choose to dress, especially if that dress is something as important to them as their understanding of their religion. Perhaps some significant percentage of the women do not choose this form of dress, as Iran requires something like it. We do not know because the article appears not to say or to address this issue of choice. (Even oppressed women who have internalized sexist norms in a great many cases nonetheless have substantial autonomy and agentic skills.)

I regret that this news story is cast in terms of a focus on Iran. Perhaps a focus on Iran is required for the story to use the Olympics as a main example. The problem with that use, however, is that Islamic women in many places suffer discrimination for using this kind of dress in all kinds of sports venues besides the Olympics – I can think of many unfortunate cases of female high school athletes in the U.S., for instance.

Of course, I wish more people would read and understand Irshad Manji on such matters. One might think that my two paragraphs above are not sufficiently feminist because of how sexist the Islamic religion is. However, all forms of western monotheism are incredibly sexist (among other bad things) and I really do not see Islam as particularly bad for western religions as regards feminist concerns.

Ideally, if I were writing newspaper stories/articles I would write about how Iran massively oppresses women. I would also write about the oppression of women with regard to discrimination against them in the field of sports.

What I would NEVER do is write a story/article about Iranian athletes that does not even seem to mention, let alone strongly emphasize, how badly the Iran state treats women. (People go to jail all the time in Iran just for signing a peaceful petition saying that they support democratic reforms! And the lawyers in Iran who represent people who go to jail in Iran for doing something like signing a peaceful petition in support of democratic reforms are themselves sent to jail or worse.) It pains me to read the article with which this post began given the concern expressed in this paragraph and in the context of this entire post.

For related comments threads to two posts that document Iran state oppression of women, see:

What Do Iran And The U.S. Have In Common?

interested readers might especially want to check out comments numbered 12 through 20 at the post above

and

Urgent Petition To Save Sakineh

interested readers might want especially to check out comments numbered 5, 6, 8, 18, 19, 39, 45, 46, and 49 at the post above

Why We Need Women in War Zones

An excellent article here dealing with Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Egypt.
Women can cover the fighting just as well as men, depending on their courage.

More important, they also do a pretty good job of covering what it’s like to live in a war, not just die in one. Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.

Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

There is an added benefit. Ms. Logan is a minor celebrity, one of the highest-profile women to acknowledge being sexually assaulted. Although she has reported from the front lines, the lesson she is now giving young women is probably her most profound: It’s not your fault. And there’s no shame in telling it like it is.

(Thanks, David!)