Society “masculine” may have a different meaning in one

constructs and interprets perceived differences among humans and gives us
“feminine” and “masculine” people. For a girl, you might have heard someone say
to you, “that’s not lady like,” or “only boys can do that.” Have you ever just
wanted to yell back at them, saying “who cares?” What those people don’t know
that gender is embedded in culture and the various forms of knowledge
associated with any given community. “Feminine” and “masculine” may have a
different meaning in one culture than the other. People growing up in different
societies and different parts of the world throughout times of history may
perform different gender expressions. For instance, Marjane Satrapi, who wrote
a graphic novel about her life from when she was 10 years old to early
adulthood. Throughout the novel, Marjane explains that she went through life
with people telling her how to live and how to act. She tries to live a life
full of freedom and adventures even when people are looking or talking about
what she is doing. In today’s society, we are told what to do with our lives
every day. Imagine having someone tell you what things you can and cannot be
attracted to. From the day we are born, we are growing up around the norms of
male and female. If you are born as a female, your parents may receive gifts
that are mainly pink with princess references. If you are born a male, your
parents may receive gifts that are mainly blue with super hero references. We
teach children to follow these rules in order to fit in and be like everyone
else. In a way, we are being like the Shah from Persepolis. He is the king that
makes up laws and regimes for people to follow and if they don’t then they will
be punished for their actions. We need to teach children that it is okay to be
attracted to things that aren’t the norm. We are born with a Gender assignment
that determines male or female by our physical body type. Gender Identity then
concerns how one feels internally about one’s own gender. If a woman wants to
act and dress like a man then she is expressing Gender Expression. This all
comes into play with Persepolis because Marjane is a young girl growing up and
trying to find herself and is taught that she must obey laws about covering her
body and act a certain way in order to please men. However, Marjane is not your
typical “girly girl,” she expresses that she is in a way more like a “tomboy.”
Her parents allowed her to grow up any way she wanted to and I think that this
helped Marjane really try to find her true self by the end of the novel. Society
tries to control how you act and what you do by state, religion, and school.

            During this course, we learned about
Gender Socialization which is the process of learning the social expectations
and attitudes associated with one’s sex (Chegg). In the beginning of Marjane’s
childhood, 1979 a revolution took place called The Islamic Revolution. In 1980,
it became obligatory to wear a veil at school. However, this veil would be worn
only by women and was very constricting. A lot of the girls in Marjane’s school
didn’t want to wear it especially because they didn’t understand as to why they
had to wear it. In the novel, Marjane portrays the veil as dark and looks
almost as heavy. The first page of the book, there is a picture of four girls
that are wearing the veil and it almost looks as if the veil is weighing them
down. You can see the sadness in their faces as they are wearing it. As for
having to wear the veil, the schools also became segregated. Boys and girls
could not attend the same school and this caused children to be torn apart from
their friends. Marjane had a lot of issues when it came to being herself in
school. When she told her teacher that she wanted to become a Prophet, they
gave her a weird look as if she was crazy. They ended up calling in Marjane’s
parents to question them about their daughter and raise concerns. Marjane’s
parents didn’t see this as a problem but when they asked her what she wanted to
be when she was older, instead of saying a Prophet, Marjane said a doctor. (Satrapi)

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            School is a place for education and
for children to be themselves. Marjane felt constricted when it came to school
because they were Gender Socializing her and she would get laughed at and made
fun of because of what she believed in. To have to wear the veil at a place of
education and learning seemed to be degrading women. Gender Socialization is teaching
young women that their body needs to be covered up in order to not distract
boys from learning. Marjane and her mother didn’t believe in the veil but had
to wear it for their own protection. If they didn’t obey the rules, then they
would have to face the consequences of being tortured and beaten. Out of
school, Marjane was at the grocery store with her mother and as they were
leaving, a man came up to Marjane’s mother and told her to fix her veil.
Marjane’s mother snapped back and said maybe if you would ask more politely and
the man snapped back with a very offensive and disgusting comment that makes
women seem that if they don’t cover up then they are considered to be whores.
Later in life, Marjane was attending college and getting an art degree. During
one of her classes, she was drawing a woman but the woman had to be covered up
by her veil. Marjane spoke out at an assembly that was organized to tell the
students that veils had to be longer and women could not wear makeup. Marjane
said that since she is an art major it is very hard for her to draw with the
weight of the veil before and now that it has to be longer, this will just get
in the way more of her and her learning. Also, in order to practice drawing the
human body, she needs to be able to draw more than a woman in a veil.

            A woman shouldn’t have to feel that
if she is showing a little bit of skin, that it is offensive to men. Why do
women have to live their lives pleasing men? We live in a world where men can’t
seem to control themselves and look to making women change for their needs
instead of men changing their actions. By wearing a veil, it represents
honoring men that have sacrificed their lives for women in war. Women are
taught to act and dress a certain way so that men won’t act like animals. Later
in the book, Marjane is told multiple times to fix her head scarf by men that
feel offense to her scarf being a little off. She is stopped by men telling her
not to run anymore because they could see her butt jiggle through her robe.
Marjane then says that maybe they should just stop looking at her. This is very
true especially when it comes to today’s society and school. Girls are being
sent home from school because their shoulders are showing and their shorts are
too short. Schools are saying that their body parts are distracting boys from
learning and affecting their studies. We teach girls to change themselves in
order for boys to live a better life but we never teach boys to treat girls
with respect. It seems that in Persepolis, men don’t have respect for women and
will treat them like trash while women are covering up and not living freely
for them.  

            Religion plays a very big role in
Persepolis. In the beginning of the novel, Marjane talks about how she wanted
to become the Last Prophet. In the novel, you see a section where a group of
men are saying that having a woman as a Prophet is impossible and not ordinary.
Marjane has a strong relationship with God and even talks to him on a daily
basis. Since Marjane wanted to be a Prophet, she made a holy book that
consisted of rules. It was filled with ideas that she wanted to bring to
everyone’s attention. Marjane wanted to celebrate Zarathustrianism holidays,
wanted everyone to have a car, and all maids should eat at the table with
others. She also believed that old people shouldn’t have to suffer anymore. All
Marjane wanted while growing up was to be justice, love, and the wrath of God
all in one. From a young age, Marjane described herself as deeply religious
while her parents were very modern and avant-garde. The Islamic Republic of
Iran regulated behaviors on strict religious means and didn’t allow anything
that seemed to be Western and American. The Satrapi family would find
themselves living behind closed doors and smuggling Western and American ideas
and practices into their home. When they were outside their home, they had to
act a different way and seem like they were devoted to religious values defined
by the Shah in order not to suffer from the consequences of torture and
beatings. On some cases, it would even lead into execution.

            With Iran becoming more Religious
under Islamic Republic, the government would force their religious beliefs and
practices on people who would then start losing their own personal beliefs. Mrs.
Nasarine, the family maid, was concerned about a key that was given to her son
at school. The key was a symbol that boys were told that if they went to wear
and they were lucky enough to die, which was very likely, they would need the
key in order for them to get into heaven. The government is using religion as a
gateway to children to convince them that in order to go into heaven they have
to die in war. Nasarine then explains that she has been faithful to the
religion but now doesn’t know what to believe in anymore. With the Islamic
Republic telling people to believe in this and that, they are starting to lose
themselves and what they actually believe in.

            Marjane’s recent actions of her
lashing out at her teacher because before her teacher told her that the king
was chosen by God and now since the king has been terminated, they must rip out
the king from there textbooks. Marjane’s mother ends up sending her to board
school in Austria. When Marjane gets there, she is overwhelmed by the freedom
that women have in Austria. Marjane portrays life in Austria for women to be
much more free and easier. Women could have relationships with men and be very
open and public which would’ve been disgraceful in Iran. Marjane begins to grow
up and mature with the Austrian and Western European influences that she had.
She begins to reinvent herself as she begins to lean and enjoy more open-minded
way women are treated. When in Iran, Marjane never had the choice to express
her feelings and thoughts through clothing. They had to be covered by the veil
in public at all times and this didn’t allow much freedom. With wearing a veil
that covers mostly your entire face, you can’t even show people what you look
like under it. You’re not allowed to express your personality in Iran if it
doesn’t meet the expectations of the law. You can see that Marjane is living a
fuller and more exciting life in Austria but does face some struggles

            When Marjane was in Iran, she
couldn’t be herself if it wasn’t behind closed doors of her home. She had a
great personality and was into a fashion look of punk style. Women weren’t even
allowed to wear a lot of makeup because this would again, attract men and make
it hard for men to resist. Marjane emphasizes the lack of freedom that women
have in Iran and how it’s not far for them to be treated so unfairly. You could
see in the book that Marjane has a different enclosed personality in Iran but
then when she gets to Austria, it’s like she is truly finding herself and
experimenting in ways that she would get tortured for in Iran.

            Ever since Marjane was a young girl,
she expressed her outlook on religion and how women are treated. It never said
in the book that Marjane was a feminist but I think that she is in a way and
represents a lot of traits that express feminism. Before she left from Iran to
Austria, her grandmother told her to always be yourself and never forget where
you came from. Sometimes she would forget about what her grandmother told her
and would tell people that she was French. Until, she heard a group of girls
talking about her and how they knew she wasn’t French just by the way she
looks. She ended up speaking up for herself and said that she was from Iran.
She felt proud of herself for being comfortable with her heritage and herself.
Marjane found it difficult sometimes to keep going in Austria because of some
things that made her think a different way about life. She ended up meeting a
man who seemed to like her and then told her after they tried to have sex that
he might be gay. He would then tell her that if it didn’t work with her then it
won’t work with any other girl.

            Marjane didn’t have good luck when
it came to dating because I don’t think she was ever taught about it in Iran
and things to look out for. She then started dating another guy who ended up in
bed with another girl and Marjane walked in on it. Even though Marjane suffered
a lot in Austria, she knew it was better than home. However, she ended up
sleeping on the streets and in a hospital where she then called her mother and
told her that she needs to come home. On page 245, as she is putting on her
veil getting ready to go back to her home, she says “and so much for my
individual and social liberties…I needed so badly to go home.”

As she is making her journey home
with her veil on her head again, a man makes a comment about her needing to fix
it. (Satrapoli 246) She responded with saying, “yes, brother.” Brother and
sister are the terms used in Iran by the representatives of the Law to give
orders to people, without offending them. It’s like as soon as she got back
home, she already had a man start telling her what she is doing wrong and
telling her to fix herself. When she got back home she went walking around her
town and noticed all the murals saying that being a martyr is good. She
compares it to how in Austria she would just see murals and signs for best
sausages, you really get a feeling of no freedom in Iran. Marjane then begins
to feel like as if she is walking through a cemetery because all the street
names were changed to names of martyrs.

Marjane believes that when something
is forbidden, it takes on an unequal importance and that people making
themselves up and wanting to follow western ways was an act of resistance on
their part. However, I do believe that in the beginning of the book, Marjane
had to follow these certain regimes in order not to be punished. For her safety
and her parent’s safety, she had to wear the veil, not wear her western clothes
outside of her home, and a lot more restrictions. During this course, we had to
read an article called Wrestling with
Gender by Deborah H. Brake. In February of 2011, a high school boy captured
national media attention when he refused to wrestle a girl at the Iowa State
wrestling championship tournament. Joel Northrup was paired up against Cassy Herkelman.
He decided to forfeit the match rather than wrestle a girl. Girls who stay in
contact sports like wrestling, must overcome negative cultural stereotypes
associated with women in the sport and weather a variety of forces that
coalesce to suppress female sports participation in early adolescence. This
article connects with Persepolis because men tend to see women as weak and lesser
to men. In Iran, women are supposed to do things in order to please men. If a
women’s veil was a little off, men would tell women to fix it in a degrading
manner. From the beginning of the novel, Marjane portrays a young girl who is
full of confidence even though it may be hard especially in Iran. When she
travels to Austria, Marjane learns that women have a lot more freedom in
Austria than they do in Iran.

Another article that we had to read
was called The Cult of Virginity by
Jessica Valenti in 2009. This article starts off by talking how she lost her
virginity and how she felt afterwards. The idea that virginity (or loss
thereof) can profoundly affect women’s lives is certainly nothing new. When
Marjane went to Austria, she had lost her virginity and was still trying to
find herself. She ended up dating a guy and having sexual encounters with him
but then he ended up sleeping with another girl and Marjane walked in on it.
Men these days treat women as sexual objects and I don’t think they take losing
their virginity as serious as women do. Besides from the pain a woman goes
through when it’s happening, she gets an emotional attachment to her partner.
This isn’t a bad thing at all but when her partner doesn’t have the same
emotional attachment, this can cause him to leave her or cheat on her whenever
he feels like it. Society tells women that if they have multiple sexual
partners than they are considered to be a “slut” or “whore.” When a man has
multiple sexual partners, he is praised. Women are looked upon to be sexual
objects that men can just use once and throw away which is what we are teaching
girls as they grow up. We teach them to cover up their bodies and not portray
any sexual meanings because that may provoke men. Shaming young women for being
sexual is nothing news, but it’s curios to observe how the expectation of
purity gets played out through the women who are supposed to epitomize the
feminine ideal. If you are not a virgin then you are labeled a whore,
whereabouts if you aren’t a virgin then you are label to be a prude to men. In
a way, women can never just live freely without being judged for everything
they do. (Shaw 334)

            In the chapter called Dowry, Marjane
got yelled at by her principal for wearing a bracelet that her mom gave her.
Her principle yells at her to take it off and Marjane refuses. The principle
then tells her that if she’s wearing it tomorrow then she will have to suffer
the consequences. The next day, the principle asks Marjane to show her wrist
and she refuses. The two-start yelling back and forth until Marjane ends up
striking the principle with a forceful punch. Marjane starts apologizing for
her actions but she ends up getting expelled. By Marjane doing this, she is
resisting the socialization. She is saying that she will not change what she
wears and does because someone tells her to. She wants to be able to be herself
and not let anyone tell her to be follow the regimes. Intersectionality plays a
role here because since it is called for analytic methods, modes of political
actions, and ways of thinking about persons, rights, and liberation by
multiplicity. Considering lived experience as a criterion of meaning:
intersectionality focuses on how lived experiences can be drawn upon to expose
the partiality of normative modes of knowing and to help marginalized groups
articulate and develop alternative analyses and modes of oppositional
consciousness both individually and collectively. (Shaw 79)

            During the novel, we learn about
gender socialization and individual agency especially from Marjane. She is a
courageous young woman who grew up going through some experiences that may have
been hard for her but in the end, made her a strong woman who can encounter
anything that comes to her. Marjane teaches her readers that no matter what
someone tells you what you should be like, you should always try to be yourself
and not let anyone dictate how you live. Individual agency teaches people to
live your life in freedom. When it even comes to eating food out of a kitchen
pot in front of the TV and one of the Nuns yells at her, she sticks up for
herself and doesn’t take crap from anybody. Marjane, to me is a feminist is so
many ways because in a school assembly, she stands up and starts saying how
girls here can never wear what they want. From lipstick to jewelry, they aren’t
allowed to do anything that doesn’t meet the regimes of the Shah. As if it wasn’t
already hard enough being a woman, but she a woman, living in Iran, surrounded
by men who think and act as if you are nothing, must be very difficult to live
life.  Women that live in the United
States face sexism and gender socialization every single day. We are taught to
live by the social norms that are around us and if not, we are not accepted and
to be looked at as weird. Marjane is very inspiring and I think young girls
growing up should read this book and think about how they, themselves, can
stick up for other girls around them and instead of trying to knock others
down, build each other up. Marjane went through a lot of ways to try to find
herself. From wanting to become the Last Prophet to deciding to leave Iran for
good. Marjane ends her novel with talking about how if a guy kills ten women in
the presence of fifteen others, no one can condemn him because in a murder
case, women can’t even testify. Men have the right to divorce and even if he
gives it to his wife, he has custody of the children. Marjane ends with saying
that she has had enough of living life in a trapped bubble and how she wants to
live the country. She packs her bags for the last time to leave her family.
Marjane is taking this opportunity to go live life to the fullest without being
told you can’t do this and you can’t do that. Marjane ends her novel with the
saying, “Freedom had a price” because she left her family behind but now she
finally has to the chance to embrace her body, personality, and her life in any
shape and form that she wants.