Leisure Recreation and the Arts

Men have generally enjoyed more leisure time than females, as women are responsible for endless household tasks, childcare, and hospitality. Several decades ago, very few women had opportunities for leisure and recreation outside of socializing with family, relatives, and neighbors. Women interacted with other women at family and life-cycle gatherings or as individuals. Sometimes women sang and danced together, especially at wedding celebrations. Some women might excel at singing or drumming to entertain family and friends. Men often sought out the company of other males, sitting and chatting in sunny spots or teahouses, and perhaps hiking and picnicking outside of settlements. Since the 1960s, some females participated in performances and sports, and might even attend scout camps. With modernization during Mohammad Reza Shah's rule, some females began to attend movies, travel with families to hotels along the Caspian Sea or other tourist areas, travel abroad for education and enjoyment, and participate in the arts and a wider selection of sports. Now, Islamic Republic officials require strict sex segregation during sports and outings, except for family members. Males are not allowed to watch female sports, nor do females attend male sports competitions. However, women have forced their way into the stadium during an international male soccer match. Women have struggled for equal access to sports facilities, and have obtained women's hours at government-run gymnasiums. Many Iranian women have become sports enthusiasts. Women are coaching, teaching, and serving as referees in women's sports. Women hike, ski, and ride bikes, although in smaller numbers than men.

In general, girls and women tend to spend more time in domestic settings, whereas boys and men are freer to move out of the house for company and entertainment. Even in old age, women busy themselves with household tasks, while old men are at leisure. Outside activities, other than family outings, must be sex segregated. However, urban middle- and upper-class people may host integrated parties behind closed doors. People read novels, magazines, and newspapers, listen to tapes and CDs, watch television and smuggled film videos, log on the internet, and talk on the phone within Iran and to friends and relatives living abroad.

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