Arrested by the Fashion Police

Check out these Iranian policewomen:

On one hand, these women are pretty badass. On the other, they’re police officers for an authoritarian government in a country rife with human rights violations. So while I think it’s fantastic that these women are working (especially in a traditionally male-dominated occupation) and that this video challenges all kinds of stereotypes about passive women in chadors (or hijabs or burkas or other religious coverings), I wish they were doing it for a better cause. Then again, you work with what you’ve got, so I certainly can’t fault them.

Also interesting is the fact that policewomen in Iran are active members of the “fashion police” — the people who chastise, harass or even arrest women who aren’t sufficiently covered. It’s always depressing to see women promoting the oppression of other women, but so it goes.

When one woman, Nazanin, 28, was stopped last month in Vanak Square, she thought she had dressed more modestly than usual, she said. But she was told that her coat was tight and showed the shape of her body.

“I just joked with them and tried to stay calm, but they told me to sit so that they could see how far my pants would pull up in a sitting position,” said Nazanin, a reporter. She was told by the police officers that they wanted to help her look modest so men would not look at her and cause her inconvenience, she said.

She received a warning about her large sunglasses, her coat, her eyeliner and her socks, which the police officers said should be longer. She was allowed to go after she signed a letter, which included her name and address, saying she would not appear in public like that again. The police have said the letters will be used against violators in court if they defy the rules a second time.

If too-short socks are causing men to “inconvenience” her, perhaps we should deal with the men and tell them to get the hell over it — or recognize that the more we force women to cover, the more any exposed bit of skin will be a “temptation.” But considering that blaming women’s dress for (among various other things) inciting men to sin seems to be something of an international asshole pastime, I don’t have high hopes for this changing anytime soon.


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21 comments for “Arrested by the Fashion Police

  1. Linda Flores
    May 4, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Maybe those poor, suffering lads at Rebelution should see this as a solution to the problems caused by the lascivious strumpets here in the U.S … anyone care to propose it to them? (Of course, we’d have to be properly dressed in “modest” but not “ostentatiously modest” clothing, and not be too confident (but not flaunt the fact that we’re not confident) and of course not sit on any sofas with our arms spread on the backs of the sofa while we do so.

  2. May 4, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Wouldn’t large sunglasses (covering more of the face) be a good thing to these people?

    *confused*

  3. lConservativel
    May 4, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    wow

  4. May 4, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    You know, I don’t know where the stereotype of meek women in chadors or burkas comes from.

    I’ve never, ever met a “meek” Muslim woman. Especially not a meek Arab Muslim woman. Granted, I’ve only known these women after they’ve moved to or grew up in the US, but still.

  5. pigeon
    May 4, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    i second vanessa on that.

  6. prairielily
    May 4, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    I used to live in the Middle East, and I can third Vanessa.

  7. May 4, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    (Of course, we’d have to be properly dressed in “modest” but not “ostentatiously modest” clothing, and not be too confident (but not flaunt the fact that we’re not confident) and of course not sit on any sofas with our arms spread on the backs of the sofa while we do so.

    Actually, we mustn’t sit on any sofas, period. You see, if we sit up straight, we’re displaying the curve of our lower backs, which is a Stumbling Block, and if we lean back against the sofa, we’re being unladylike, not to mention that our back and shoulders are against a soft cushion, which would lead men to think about us lying on a bed. Which of course, only sluts do.

  8. May 5, 2007 at 12:08 am

    Which of course, only sluts do.

    Speak for yourself! The curve of my lower back has never tempted anyone, because I’ve been careful to hide it. Harlot.

  9. Thealogian
    May 5, 2007 at 9:42 am

    I want a t-shirt that references “International Asshole Pastimes” and then lists Fundies’ of all stripes favorite attempts to control women. That would be super cool.

    Also, regarding the Iranian Police Women, before institutional structures can be changed there has to be a certain degree of conformity to that intra-structural culture. This is a first step, but ten years down the line it might be more hopeful than one might currently think. Remember how there’s an all woman peace keeping force (Indian women) in Liberia right now? How cool is that, but first women had to be integrated into the military. An all woman peace keeping force won’t be demanding sex for food as male-dominated peace keeping forces have been known to do in famine regions.

    peace

  10. Bitter Scribe
    May 5, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    So while I think it’s fantastic that these women are working (especially in a traditionally male-dominated occupation)…I wish they were doing it for a better cause. Then again, you work with what you’ve got, so I certainly can’t fault them.

    Oh, Jill, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with you here. How can you be so sanguine? Phyllis Schlafly is a woman—did that justify her leading the effort to demolish the ERA? These women are oppressing other women. They’re no more worthy of respect than the kapos of World War II.

  11. May 5, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    God I hated this post. Hated it.

    No, you don’t support sex integration of a police force that is a repressive as the Iranian security appartus. This “reform” isn’t even slightly progressive.

    Not only does the Iranian police force try to enforce sexual apartheid, they torture, jail and murder of trade-unionists, students and leftists organization. Gays are also abused and sometimes killed. This level of repression is completley systematic and not the result of a few religious yahoos committing abuses here and there.

    A progressive or even radical position should be support the elements in Iran the are struggling against the Iranian state.

    And historically speaking more stringent dress codes came into Iran following the revolution. It was accompanied with the widespread repression (meaning murder, torture jail, exiling) of the Iranian left that had foolishly aligned themselves with the Islamists against the Shah.

  12. May 5, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Oh, Jill, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with you here. How can you be so sanguine? Phyllis Schlafly is a woman—did that justify her leading the effort to demolish the ERA? These women are oppressing other women. They’re no more worthy of respect than the kapos of World War II.

    I’m not justifying it — I have huge problems with it. I’m just recognizing that this is one of few options for them, and for individual women, this may seem to be a good choice. I still think it sucks. I still think it’s horrible. I just think it’s an extremely complicated situation, and I’m sure that the women in the police force have varying reasons for being there. I don’t know what those reasons are, and so I’m not quite ready to paint them all as horrible people, even if I think they’re doing horrible work.

  13. RobW
    May 6, 2007 at 12:25 am

    I’m not quite ready to paint them all as horrible people, even if I think they’re doing horrible work.

    Agreed. If and when Iran finally does start to moderate, as was happening before Bush handed the hardliners their best years ever, these women will probably be a most effective force for change. Tehran has a huge problem with street crime, they need all the cops they can get. If a significant portion of the police suddenly decide to stop wearing the hijab and enforcing the dress code, it could force significant change. Or if a progressive revolution occurs, they could be really useful that way.

    I bet that a bunch of fundie/hardliners’ dicks shrivel every time they see one of them on the street.

  14. RobW
    May 6, 2007 at 12:26 am

    oops. should have just used tags…

  15. mythago
    May 6, 2007 at 10:59 am

    I’m just recognizing that this is one of few options for them, and for individual women, this may seem to be a good choice.

    Well, sure it is. It has always “seemed to be a good choice” for many oppressed people to collaborate with the oppressors and throw their own under the bus.

    Really. WTF? Your whole post is ‘well, they’re women and they’re enforcing patriarchy but oh well’.

  16. Morningstar
    May 6, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    A nice sample of views from women in Iran:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/6596363.stm

  17. Cecily
    May 7, 2007 at 12:46 am

    That video scared me. For some reason they reminded me strongly of the Handmaid’s Tale, even though there wasn’t such a color/class of women in that. If I dream tonight that black-shrouded ninja-Aunts break into my bedroom to drag me off to bear children for a Rich White Guy, I’m blaming this post.

  18. May 7, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Cecily — I thought the exact same thing.

  19. May 7, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Cecily, probably because the whole point of The Handmaid’s Tale was the ways in which women, willingly or unwillingly, support patriarchy. The Aunts are women who rigidly police other women, training and forcing them to obey patriarchal rules.

    I suppose if Jill reviewed THT she’d timidly suggest that at least the Aunts were “badass”, it’s “fantastic” that they were able to work in a society that valued women primarily for their wombs, but she can’t fault them because they’re just working with what they’ve got. :P

  20. May 7, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Jill, are they asking / excited to go into clothing-related positions within the police forces? Or are they being unfairly encouraged to go into those positions because they’re women?

    Anyway, that’s if, like for some reason your article made me think, the “clothing police” are sort of separate like “mall police” and “park police” and “transit police” are here.

    If the “clothing police” are not separate from ordinary “There’s a robbery at our restaurant! Come chase the criminal!” police, the question becomes, are they asking / excited to spend their time on clothing enforcement the way our police officers often prefer to work on motorized vehicle speed enforcement than many other crimes.

    If they’re not just really excited to, as you put it, enforce oppression of other women, then why are they doing it? Are they 1) deciding it without recommendations by other people who hire and fire and supervise them, yet deciding it because they’re given fewer arms or given different authority in the heat of the moment than male police officers? (Perhaps allowed to shoot under different conditions…) Are they 2) deciding to do it because men in the government and/or their departments are enforcing policies in line with beliefs that most women, even with police training, aren’t good enough to do the full gamut of police work?

    I would like to see a followup front-page article answering these questions if possible!

    Thanks for the post.

  21. Sina
    May 7, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Yeah, I have to agree that this post bums me out. I can’t celebrate the fact that these women are fervent believers in the oppression of women as a class, and are using the force of the state to do it, even if it means that they’re working (Side note: is it even common for Iranian women not to work?). I appreciate thinking about the complex lives of women in other nations, and especially women in the middle east and Iran, but I bet you anything that feminist activist women in Iran disagree with you vehemently here. The reporter you quote above, saying that she joked with the fashion police and tried to stay calm, must have had her heart pounding in her chest as she did so, knowing that women stopped by the fashion police are at risk for being fined, jailed, beated, and worse for being in the possession of breasts or asses or hair, inadequately hidden, in public.They don’t get a pass from me for enforcing these norms, even while being in possession of these attributes themselves.

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