chapter  8
28 Pages

Women’s Press and the Gendered Nature of the Public Sphere

Two supposedly confl icting ‘worldviews’, Islamism and Orientalism, have coincided in seeing Islam as the driving force of history in the so-called ‘Muslim society’. ‘Islam’ has been regarded as the determining factor in the role that women are ‘allowed’ to play in public life. ‘The woman question’ has been a central concern of the historical debate about the boundaries of the public sphere and the fault line between ‘public’ and ‘private’. The issue over the extent or limits of ‘visibility’ of women in public life has been one of the main battlegrounds in modern societies and a contentious issue among varied social interests and political projects. For centuries women’s emancipation has been central in ‘modernisation’ projects and is usually associated and equated with ‘national progress’ (Gole, 1997). This project is aimed at creating a ‘modern society’ built on the rubble of ‘tradition’. Similarly, the project of ‘Islamization’ has focused its attention on the ‘women’s question’, and the nature and role of women in public life has been one of the key components of its policy. If the Pahlavi dynasty tried to announce its arrival at ‘modern times’ by introducing and imposing ‘deveiling’ (1936), the fi rst act of the Islamic Republic, which replaced it, was to introduce and impose ‘re-veiling’ (1980). The fi rst act was celebrated as the ‘passing of tradition’, and the second as the ‘passing of modernity’. The script could not have been written better!