Cultural Construction of Gender

In Iran, the two gender categories of male and female are recognized. The term hamjens parast, or those who are sexually involved with the same sex, refers to homosexuals, but they are nevertheless seen as males and females. Eunuchs likewise were seen as males, but as males unable to procreate. In Iranian Muslim culture, males are seen as stronger, intelligent, wiser, virile, able to control their emotions, just and moral, and fit to handle political and economic affairs. Women are seen as weaker, emotional, susceptible to the pull of personal ties, nurturing, and unable to control their sexuality. Males used the perception of women as weak and foolish as a rationale to forbid them to gain literacy, education, and employment. Men often see women as a whole as manipulative, conniving, and unreliable. However, many men think very highly of their mothers, feel great affection for their sisters, and rely upon their wives. Women often see men as aloof, unable to control their anger, sexually promiscuous, and socially less competent. Because women are viewed as strongly sexed and unable to contain themselves sexually, they are required to veil in order to avoid arousing men sexually, thus leading to family and societal instability.

Iranian men wore a form of trousers, and women wore long skirts over loose trousers and a scarf, although men often also wore ethnic or regional hats. Affluent men could afford to veil and seclude their womenfolk at home, thus demonstrating their status. However, hardworking tribal and peasant women did not wear veils. Reza Shah Pahlavi forcibly removed women's veils—policemen tore off their scarves and veils—to symbolize Iranian modernity and westernization. He encouraged Western dress. Men took on Western clothing: trousers, suit jackets, ties, and hats. Women more often retained ethnic, tribal, or regional dress. Men wear their hair shorter and might have beards and mustaches. As infants and toddlers, mothers dressed girls and boys similarly in homemade shirts and pants, and only began to put dresses or skirted pullovers on girls, rather than boys' shorter pullovers, after the age of 2 or 3. People believe that girls should cover their hair by the age of 7, although girls might beg for a scarf or veil before then. At an early age, girls are expected to stay at home and not roam around the neighborhood with friends, as boys do. Use of make-up visibly marked the transformation of a girl to a married woman. Particularly during the time of Mohammad Reza Shah, middle- and upper-class urban women took to Western fashions, make-up, nail polish, and beauty shop hair care. In the 1960s and 1970s, girls wore uniforms to school, and generally teachers did not wear veils. Upper-and middle-class women, especially professionals, often did not wear veils except when attending religious gatherings.

All of this distressed Shi'a Muslim clerics. Soon after the 1979 Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini began to restrict clothing, social integration, and behavior of women. It became illegal to go without veiling or to wear make-up (Moghissi, 1999; Tabari & Yeganeh, 1982). Women were required to wear a veil or a scarf covering all their hair and a long raincoat-like outer garment. Men should wear long sleeves and long, rather loose pants, and to demonstrate that they were "Islami" wear a beard or stubble and avoid the Western tie. Currently, women can show hair under their scarves, and wear make-up and nail polish. Covering tunics are becoming briefer. Particularly for younger females from less conservative families, they may be tailored to fit the form snugly, fall just to cover the hips, and button only to above the waist, allowing the front to swing open and reveal tight pants underneath.

Standards of female beauty have changed drastically over time. Not many decades ago, females were to be plump, with long thick black hair. Now females want to be slender. Middle- and upper-class women may go to the gymnasium and aerobics classes to attain a toned slim body. Many women dye their dark hair lighter colors. Many females have plastic surgery to have a smaller nose, and some even restructure other parts of their faces and bodies.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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