In this article, Hakimeh Saghaye-Biria, assistant professor at Tehran University, focuses on how and to what extent the identity of women has been sexualized in capitalistic societies.
In countries and societies that are governed by capitalistic logic, both economically and culturally, women have undergone serious and drastic changes in terms of the different aspects of their existence. In this article, Hakimeh Saghaye-Biria, assistant professor at Tehran University, focuses on how and to what extent the identity of women has been sexualized in capitalistic societies.
Women in the West: Social presence but of a sexualized nature
For about one hundred years now, the West has been experiencing a form of women’s presence in society that is intertwined with sexualization. In such a society, if a woman wants to be socially active and successful, she is asked to appear in that form, that is, a sexualized form. This issue is seen to a great extent in Western societies. It is in such a way that it has become a kind of obsession in those societies, because the capitalist system takes advantage of the attractions that exist in life. The sexual and physical attractions that exist, especially in women, become an easily-acquired capital that is at the disposal of this system, and they use this in the name of freedom. However, the most important harm that comes from this system is the harm that is inflicted on women, and as a result on the family.
The result of this hundred-year form of liberal freedom in the West is not a secret to anyone. There has been much talk about the statistics and figures related to the difficulties women face in such a society, from sexual harassment and assault to the pressures that are on them in the name of equality. But Western social reformers (social reformers meaning the experts in the sciences, sociologists, psychologists, and even politicians) mostly focus on the fact that in such a system, women suffer a kind of identity crisis to the extent that even they themselves come to believe that their appearance is the most important thing defining their intrinsic value. Social reformers use different terms in this regard, such as “self-sexualization” and “self-objectification.” These issues harm the human qualities of women, as the impact of their presence in society decreases and their concerns become more limited. This brings about inequalities between men and women. That is, even the goals of the “women’s liberation movement” that is pursued in the West become unattainable due to this form of women’s presence in society.
In this process, women and girls who have become used to this way of looking at themselves experience an identity crisis. They suffer from personal difficulties such as depression, anxiety, and various other psychological problems and harms. School-aged girls suffer from an educational decline, and women who are working face an occupational decline. Therefore, women are harmed both as individuals and in society. Obviously when women are harmed, the family is also harmed and falls apart. This process shows that the capitalist system has not been successful. Now, social reformers are looking for a way to save society from these shortcomings. But since this system views human beings and freedom as tools, it cannot easily offer a solution to this crisis.
If we want to see whether this model of women’s empowerment or freedom has been successful or not, we must look at the issues raised by social reformers in Western countries. They say that it is as if the society is walking on the edge of a cliff and something must be done about this to prevent the society from falling completely. The capitalist system cannot provide a suitable solution, because capital and profit are the most important things in this system. There are talks about equality and freedom, but undoubtedly, the freedom of capitalist companies is much more than the freedom of ordinary people in these societies.
Three stages leading to a fall
Western societies have gone through three stages that have brought them to this point. First, the whole society has been overwhelmed with a sexualized view of women. That is, you see people have such a view with regard to women wherever you look. In the media, in the Hollywood industry, in movies, and wherever women have been shown, this sexualized view has usually been shown there too. Imam Khamenei said once that culture is like the air you breathe. This situation that has arisen in the West, where such a representation of women has spread and there is no escape from it, is like the air they breathe.
Then it shows itself in people’s lifestyles and their social interactions, and the expectations that people have from each other show themselves in a sexualized form. A woman wants to go to work to be among her friends and acquaintances, yet she will only be acceptable there if she has become sexualized.
In the end, she reaches self-sexualization. That is, she acquires such an identity and spends all her time and energy to reach an unattainable standard of beauty in order to have a special appearance in society. The enemies are trying to artificially implant this view in other societies too, especially in Muslim societies and Iran in particular.The Islamic Revolution has provided Muslim women with a third model. For this reason, the enemies are unable to overwhelm the public opinion with a sexualized view of women. So in the first stage, they try to make such a culture available to the general public using the media they own, through satellite networks, and in the internet, so that the air that people breathe becomes poisoned. In the second stage, they want this to extend into people’s lifestyles, and we sometimes see how this is hurting relationships. In the third stage, they try to make women themselves want such a lifestyle and feel that their identity is tied to more sexualization.
A clash of two models
The clash that exists between these two models in society is due to the fact that the Arrogant Front is trying to keep the failed model of colonization alive in the Islamic Republic. Advertising companies and companies linked to various industries that profit from the sexualization of women use the lever of their power to prevent any change in favor of women. Various Western governments have pursued certain policies to try to convince Muslims that being a Muslim is merely a portion of their identity and that they must accept the Western lifestyle as the more important portion of their identity. They are pushing to increase this viewpoint in all Muslim countries, especially in the Islamic Republic, because the West has been hit the hardest by Muslim Iranian women. The reason for their fierce enmity toward Muslim Iranian women is that they saw that if women had not had such an effective presence in the Islamic Revolution, the Revolution would not have started at all let alone come to fruition. If it was not for the resistance that the third model of the Islamic Revolution brought for Muslim women, without a doubt, the Holy Defense would not have ended in victory. The continuation of the Islamic Revolution also hinges on Muslim Iranian women maintaining their Islamic identity, which is derived from a modest lifestyle.
Hijab versus self-objectification
Hijab is a way of dressing that women are expected to observe when they appear in society. If this system is implemented properly, everyone will benefit from it. People will have security in society, it will bring psychological security, and women will be more successful. In such a situation, women do not obsessively keep checking their appearance and do not suffer from self-sexualization and self-objectification. “Tabaruj” is an Islamic keyword related to “self-sexualization.” Perhaps it may be said that the opposite of “Hijab” is “Tabaruj.” A person who accepts this modest lifestyle enters a social domain that is far from showing off and obsessively checking one’s appearance. More important goals are pursued in society as a woman’s concerns become broader, and she is able to be much more effective in society.
This lifestyle affects both women and men. Men will also look at life, women, and society differently, and their view toward women will be one of respect, rather than a sexualized view of women. Of course, this is the ideal situation, and only when society truly reaches this maturity of accepting this modest lifestyle will this order and lifestyle be widely implemented in society. In our own society, we definitely see damages that have been primarily caused due to the fact that since the beginning of colonialism there has been a clash between the colonial model of women and the Islamic model. This clash is still ongoing and has not yet come to an end. With the passing of time, the other side expands its methods and pressures, and it increases its propaganda in order to keep the colonial model alive. Sometimes we see traces of the sexualization of women’s identity even among women who believe in hijab. Efforts should be made to raise awareness so that these traces disappear too and the Islamic identity of women becomes stronger in each and every individual in society.
The third model of women: On the path to growth
We do not believe that the third model of the Muslim woman has been fully realized in our society. This is a path like a revolution, which we regard as a living creature. Therefore, we see this model to be like a living, growing creature as well. A revolution has an embryonic period, then it achieves victory, and it is born. Next, it grows and matures, and then we should see its fruits. We should also look at the third model of women, which is one of the fruits of the Islamic Revolution, in the same way. That is, it should be a dynamic model that becomes stronger and loftier as time goes by and helps women to achieve increased capacities so that they can have an impact in the various fields that have been opened for them through the Islamic Revolution.