Instead of protesting against Trump, let the leftists support the brave Iranian women! Such is the manner of exploiting an event and striking at ideological adversaries by ascribing them one’s own shortcomings.
“Iran's female protesters show how vacuous American feminists are,” read the headline in the Washington Examiner. Right-wing journalist Nicole Russell explains that “Iranian men and women have been actively and vocally speaking out against their oppressive regime for the last few days. The women, in particular, have provided a sight to behold: Many are removing their hijabs, protesting the Iranian dress code, and literally shouting against Khamenei in the streets.”
And the reaction of progressives is strange, even illustrative. Almost none of the self-described feminists showed support for the Iranian women loudly protesting against the dictatorship that would rather see them dead than with their faces uncovered.
Fox News offers an identical thesis in the column, “Women are leading in Iran. Where is their voice of support from the left?” The author, Stephen L. Miller, stated, “Iranian women are not wearing pink knitted hats or costumes resembling female genitalia … No, these brave women are caught on videotape and in photographs for the world to see, and the women’s movements have yet to barely offer so much as a tweet or a Facebook post of support.”
Two Images: Icons
Aside from an evident — in Polish politics as well as abroad — manner of exploiting every event to strike at ideological adversaries by ascribing one’s own shortcomings to them, we are also dealing here with a misunderstanding that comes from the fact that we’re looking at the world through social media increasingly more often. Fake news is obviously a problem, but even real news, if taken out of context and reduced to one picture or 140 characters, can falsify reality.
There are two iconic images which the world is using to illustrate the Iranian protests. The first one depicts a girl in a cloud of tear gas covering her nose and mouth with a napkin and raising a clenched fist. The second picture shows a woman standing above the crowd with her head uncovered, wearing a mask, her white hijab fluttering on a stick held in her hand.
Comments on the photos made comparisons to Rosa Parks, an African-American woman who refused to sit in the spot reserved for “colored” people on a bus in 1955 and became a symbol of the resistance against racial segregation.
However, the picture is not from the recent protest. According to the BBC, it appeared online a day before the first demonstrations.
It was posted by Masih Alinejad, an activist living in the U.S. and founder of two groups on women’s rights in Iran: “My Stealthy Freedom” and “White Wednesdays.” The first group encourages Iranian women to publicly photograph themselves without hijabs, the second group encourages Iranian women to dress in white every Wednesday. (The default color of Iranian woman’s attire under the rule of Ayatollahs is black.)
The Least Feminine Protest in Years
It is true that women participate in protests in Iran — or at least they did, since recent reports suggest that the authorities managed to pacify them. They can be seen in some of the pictures, sometimes with their heads uncovered (and faces covered), and a recording is floating around online in which an Iranian woman screams, “Death to Khamenei!” But contrary to previous mass demonstrations in 1999 and 2009, this time, women’s appearances are only marginal. Students in Tehran were the force behind these past revolts; now protests come from poor provinces, where women have more reservations about public activity.
“This is the least feminine protest moment of recent times,” Iranian writer Azadeh Moaveni told Newsweek. According to “Voice of America,” there are only a few women among the several hundred people that have been arrested.
The Most Welcome Alternative — Rebutting the Ayatollahs by Force
There is another misunderstanding about whether or not Iranian women require the support of American feminists. Experts on the subject such as Narges Bajoghli, an anthropologist at Brown University, claim that they don’t need American feminist support at all. Bajoghli points out that Western feminists, “especially those tied to the right,” are trying to utilize the resistance of Iranian women against authority in their own agenda.
This, might I add, puts wind in the sails of neoconservatives, who would gladly see the Ayatollahs rebutted by force along with Israel.
Meanwhile, support from the United States is the kiss of death for any Iranian oppositionist: It gives the authorities a pretext for labelling him (or her) a traitor and for persecution, which is why tweets supporting the demonstrators from Donald Trump, who is hated by the vast majority of Iranians, could do more harm than good.