I just came across this article about the way women are represented in Iranian TV, A ‘Decent Woman’ Through The Lens Of Iran’s State TV. What I thought was interesting is how similar the representations are to those I have seen numerous times in Latin American soap operas.
Some examples of “a decent woman” as seen on the state television in Iran:
- A woman who chews gum is either a trafficker or a prostitute.
- A decent woman always wears a men’s shirt at home.
- A decent woman is a woman who in the morning emerges from another room (not the same room as her husband) and bids her husband good morning.
- A decent woman is a woman who wears clothing that is three or four sizes bigger than her actual size.
- A decent female anchor never reveals her first name.
- A decent woman only smiles at wedding parties; men are allowed to clap their hands a little.
- A decent married woman stays at home; if she’s single, she’s allowed to work.
- A decent woman is a woman who will marry the man she met in a car accident by the end of the soap opera.
- A decent woman doesn’t wear sunglasses, she has an Arabic name, if she’s over 40 she’s either washing the dishes or sewing a dress; a decent woman is never reading.
- A decent woman wears only black, gray, and brown.
- A decent woman is a woman who forgives her husband who has married a second wife by the end of the film.
I would contend that these are not representations in an Islamic state per se, but more portrayals of women in a traditionally patriarchal society. Actually, minus the “second wife” part, I could possibly match, item by item, the portrayals with those I’ve seen growing up, watching Argentinian, Colombian, Venezuelan or Mexican soap operas. In the case of the “second wife”, I guess we could replace it with “A decent woman is a woman who forgives her husband who has had a mistress for the past x number of years”. From what I’ve seen lately, Latin American soap operas have been moving away from these stereotypes and although media representations of women over there still leave a lot of room for improvement, I would say that, together with the advent of international mass media, they are slowly moving away from these stereotypes.
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