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You may smother my voice, but you will hear my silence: An autoethnography on street sexual harassment, the discourse of shame and women's resistance in Iran



Employing the method of autoethnography, I narrate my lived experiences as an Iranian woman to illustrate how women negotiate their survival from sexual harassment on a daily basis in the streets of Tehran. Grounded in the theoretical and methodological approach of institutional ethnography, this paper illustrates how textually mediated social institutions subjugate women's everyday experiences of sexual assault, and how women's silent reactions to these experiences is both the result of such subjugation and also a strategic form of resistance. Social interactions encourage women to remain silent about the harassment through reinforcement of the culture of shame, and this expected silence encourages women to resist harassment and negotiate their survival not through words but with their performative reactions. This article argues that Iranian women's responses to public sexual harassment should be considered as both an agentic and a subjugated response. © The Author(s) 2014 Reprints and permissions:
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DOI: 10.1177/1363460713511097
2014 17: 176Sexualities
Fae Chubin
women's resistance in Iran
autoethnography on street sexual harassment, the discourse of shame and
You may smother my voice, but you will hear my silence: An
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2014, Vol. 17(1/2) 176–193
!The Author(s) 2014
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1363460713511097
You may smother my
voice, but you will
hear my silence: An
autoethnography on
street sexual harassment,
the discourse of shame
and women’s resistance
in Iran
Fae Chubin
Independent scholar, USA
Employing the method of autoethnography, I narrate my lived experiences as an Iranian
woman to illustrate how women negotiate their survival from sexual harassment on a
daily basis in the streets of Tehran. Grounded in the theoretical and methodological
approach of institutional ethnography, this paper illustrates how textually mediated
social institutions subjugate women’s everyday experiences of sexual assault, and how
women’s silent reactions to these experiences is both the result of such subjugation and
also a strategic form of resistance. Social interactions encourage women to remain
silent about the harassment through reinforcement of the culture of shame, and this
expected silence encourages women to resist harassment and negotiate their survival
not through words but with their performative reactions. This article argues that Iranian
women’s responses to public sexual harassment should be considered as both an
agentic and a subjugated response.
Iran, resistance, shame, silence, street sexual harassment
Corresponding author:
Fae Chubin.
at UNIV OF SOUTH FLORIDA on November 8, 2014sex.sagepub.comDownloaded from
It is 2001. My mom and I are walking down one of the old streets of south Tehran.
Timeworn craft stores, lined up on the both sides of the road, and gray haired business
owners, who every now and then show up to supervise the work of the young men they
keep under their wings, have maintained the perennial image of these neighborhoods
over the years. Narrow alleys, that parallel avenues to each other, separate the resi-
dential area from the business site which appears to be the domain of the masses of
workers. As my mom and I walk across the street, my eyes follow two men walking
down the same road to where we are headed. Maybe it is the fast pace of their walk,
the silence between them or the way they look as if they are on a mission that draws
my attention. They turn into an alley a few moments before we pass by it. And
suddenly I hear a scream. My mom and I – shocked for a moment – have paused
to see the source of the cry. A woman runs out of the same alley screaming and
cursing. I have no doubt that it was those two bastards; they must have done some-
thing to her. She is crumbling, rage and tears jumping out of her eyes. This all happens
so fast, paralyzing me in agony and fear. I’m waiting for my mom or anyone to
approach her for help, but in my shock my mom only pulls my hand so we move
away faster. The woman composes herself and also walks away in silence. People get
back to their work, not that they had interrupted it for more than few seconds. I can
feel my mom is painfully pleased that I finally got to see what she had warned me
about. None of us, however, acknowledges what just happened. It is not to be brought
up, ever. No one approaches the woman, I think, for the same reason. Walking down
the street with my mom, my mind wanders around, attempting to comprehend the
negligence and laxity I just witnessed. I can’t believe no one approached her asking if
she was okay, if she needed help. I could feel, however, the tension in the air, the
shame eating women’s souls in silence, and the unspoken code of conduct turning
people’s heads away from the embarrassing moment the woman couldn’t escape
from. All in my mind is the moment that the woman’s and my eyes met for a
second. The humiliation, rage, and powerlessness I saw in her eyes have stayed
with me since. But I believe I learned the lesson I was supposed to learn, there is
only one legitimate feeling after such incidents – shame; and there is only one legit-
imate reaction – walking away in silence.
My personal narratives of living in Tehran, focused around experiences of sexual
harassment, are used to ‘‘connect the personal to the cultural’’ through the method
of autoethnography (Ellis and Bochner, 2000: 739). This study utilizes autoethno-
graphy as a methodological practice of moving between inner vulnerable experience
and outer social, historical and cultural experiences. It incorporates personal reflex-
ive dimensions to search for deeper understanding of the connectivity between self
and other (Ellis and Bochner, 2000). I demonstrate how my personal narratives and
experiences of sexual harassment are constructed through social interaction in a
patriarchal culture, and can therefore inform sociological questions regarding the
construction of meaning around sexual assault and performative reactions of
women to such experiences. It also reveals how ‘‘sociology involves important pol-
itical questions and life issues that we as relational, embodied beings confront both
personally and sometimes, vicariously’’ (Ettore, 2010: 286).
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Use of one’s own emotional experience, Ellis (1991a, 1991b) argues, is a legit-
imate object of sociological research to be examined, and theorized. ‘‘Because
researchers have fluctuating levels of absorption and emotional involvement in
their work on any given project, this view offers significant insight into how various
participants in settings might be emotionally experiencing their social world’’
(Rambo Ronai, 1992). Use of ‘‘emotional narratives’’ by sociologists, written
from a biographical subjective point of view, reveals how emotions are experienced
in the context of everyday life and, when theorized, can describe and interpret the
social world (Ellis, 1991a; Rambo Ronai, 1992). Furthermore, when the subject of
study is sexual harassment in the culture that encourages silence around the issue
(Ghandehari, 2006), the act of telling a personal story is particularly important.
Making intricate details of one’s life accessible to others in public discourse can be
‘‘a way of giving voice to experiences that are shrouded in secrecy’’ (Ellis and
Bochner, 1992). These sentiments encapsulate the aim of my article, which is to
shed light on a phenomenon that has been mostly absent from Iranian academic
research or social dialogue. Furthermore, the threat of sexual harassment remains a
constant in Iranian women’s lives (Ghandehari, 2006), and the necessity of speak-
ing up about these incidents is central to raising awareness on such experiences.
The analysis of sexual harassment has been often confined to the study of
misogyny which focuses on the perpetrator and his action, the spaces and different
forms of harassment (Bowman 1993, Pryor 1998, Pryor and Meyers 2000,
Lahsaeizadeh and Yousefinejad 2012, Gardner 1995). Other studies have investi-
gated the physical, emotional, and mental effects of harassment on women
(Fairchild and Rudman 2008, Bowman 1993, Parish et al 2006) and others have
identified a dichotomy of active and passive responses from women (Krahe 2005,
Hickman and Muehlenhard 1997, Gruber 1989, Fitzgerald 1990, Magley 2002,
Fairchild and Rudman 2008). This study, however, diverts from these conventional
studies to investigate the silent and performative reactions of women to the experi-
ences of harassment as an active and meaningful response.
This study examines institutional relations that coordinate women’s performa-
tive reactions in the streets of Tehran; but it moves beyond the conventional socio-
logical practice that often excludes the individual who experiences and
accomplishes the everyday life. The significance of a sociological study ‘‘that
does not transform people into objects, but preserves their presence as subjects’’
(Smith, 1987: 151), has been acknowledged by many scholars who find the stand-
point of the researcher integral to research (Collins, 1990; Crawley, 2012; Hartsock,
1999; Smith, 1987). It is by examining Iranian women’s personal troubles and
through disclosing these experiences as lived that I explore social and political
processes that create and perpetuate the experiences of street sexual harassment.
The person, according to Cahill (1998), is a topic for sociological study for it
embodies the Durkheimian notion of social fact. In this perspective, it is through
the everyday routine production and recognition of actions that institutional reali-
ties are maintained. The person is produced in situated contexts, through catego-
rical identities, and as individuals engage in methods of collecting and compiling
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information about each other (Goffman 1963). Notions of ‘‘facts’’ or objects of
knowledge are created through these processes, however, it is ‘‘discourses of truth’’
that decide what is socially credible information (Foucault 1980). The person, as is
produced through these processes, can be a site for exploring institutions and
Similarly, Smith (1987) argues that common grounds of oppression can be
analyzed by examining actual everyday practices of reasoning, interpreting, and
rendering what has happened accountable. Autoethnography specifically allows for
the active and visible role of the researcher (Crawley, 2012) whose standpoint can
explore what has not been considered ‘‘observable-reportable’’ in traditional soci-
ology (Smith, 1987: 165) such as women’s silence toward experiences of sexual
assault. Dorothy Smith’s institutional ethnography reminds us of the importance
of a study that challenges the ‘‘observable/reportable’’ subject of the conventional
sociological study. Women’s reactions to experiences of sexual harassment in the
Global South, especially when the reaction is silence and thus considered non-
existent, have been mainly overlooked. Sociology for people illuminates the signifi-
cance of such everyday practices that appear trivial, if they appear at all, to the
explication of the social and ruling relations that construct and reproduce them. In
the case of street sexual harassment in Iran, I explore textually mediated institu-
tional relations that create the ongoing and constant experiences of Iranian women.
According to Cahill (2001), one of the difficulties in feminist theories of sexual
violence is the risk of constructing women solely as victims. The problem with such
victimization is twofold: on one hand, the lengthy discussion of sexual violence
imposed on women perpetuates women’s powerlessness and, on the other hand, the
destruction and violation of the victim will be understood as that self’s final devel-
opment. Approaching sexual violence in terms of women’s bodily experiences
allows for the possibility of understanding a victim of sexual violence as not
only a victim, ‘‘but as a person whose experience of victimization is a crucial
element, among many crucial elements, of her being’’ (2001: 9). In this sense, we
have to understand the feminine body as marked and constructed by larger dis-
courses, a site for the inscription of a misogynist culture, as well as a fluid and
indeterminate set of possibilities (Cahill, 2001). Such dual understanding allows for
perceiving victims of sexual violence as victims and agents at the same time; it is to
understand the imposition of power on the body, and also the interaction of the
two. Following Cahill’s approach, I speak of street sexual violence as an embodied
experience and a persistent reality in women’s lives without constructing it as all-
powerful or necessary. It is to understand woman’s body as a social product, cul-
turally coded as the site of violation, paralleled to being socially and sexually
experienced as one. Borrowing from Cahill’s definition of sexual violence, I
speak of publicly available discourses about sexual assault ‘‘not as something a
man does, but something a woman experiences’’ (145).
September 1999. It is my first year in high school and it is the beginning of a new
era for me. For the first time, I take city buses to commute between home and school. I
have also started trying different looks. I let my scarf to get loose around my neck so a
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string of my hair would slip out. I roll up my sleeves so I can show some skin. I
sometimes dare to put on some makeup when I go to school, a light lipstick or a little
bit of mascara, which has couple of times caused me trouble in school. As any other
teenager, I’m trying to be me – shifting away from my mother’s beliefs and repelling
authority. On a busy afternoon on my way home from school, way too tired to wait for
the next bus, I get into a packed bus. Getting on these crammed full buses usually
requires more skill than one thinks. You have to push yourself in not to get stuck
between the doors, but not too hard to hurt yourself or others. You may also need to
manage the space around you more thoughtfully when you are in your philanthropic
mood to open space for others to get in as well. There is a horizontal iron rod
separating women’s and men’s spheres on the buses as you enter the door. As I get
in, I hold on to the rod so I won’t fall down. Everyone is squeezed around the rod, both
men and women, and most do their best to avoid unpleasant contact. I’m immersed in
my own thoughts, glancing at the fast pace of life running in the bus window, when I
suddenly feel a man’s hand on my buttocks; my heart starts beating hard, and my face
reddens in rage and confusion. There is way too little room to move, and I’m facing
too much shock and confusion to react. I feel disgusted and have no word in my
vocabulary to translate this little incident. I move myself back and his hand is still
on the rod, hoping for any puddle or bump on the road that would lead to other
inevitable touches. I get a glimpse of his face; he has a reddish rural look which I
assume is the sign of being an immigrant working-class who reside in Tehran. I feel
revolted by his wicked horny smile, and the way he pretends all the touching is an
innocent incident. My rare experience of street assault and the classism I have
been raised with help me associate street sexual harassment with these types of
people. I jump out of the bus on the next stop, and rush home and then to my bed.
Rage and guilt is all I can feel. Unable to define the incident, the same way I could not
define the experience of being molested years before that, I know I have to keep
another secret that I feel responsible for. I start beating myself up for letting this
happen to me again.
I was born a few years after the Islamic revolution of 1979 – in the middle of the
Iran-Iraq war. The Islamic government came to power as the ‘‘government of the
oppressed’’, not only to save the impoverished but to eradicate the country from its
‘‘sinful’’ state. All the efforts of the Islamic community, then, had to be directed
toward a single goal, constructing ummat – a homogeneous society in which indi-
viduals shoulder the grave responsibility of upholding Allah’s grand design
(Shahidian, 2002). The educational system, media or any other institution and
organization, then, should prioritize obtaining knowledge about God, his rules
and maintaining the Islamic moral system over any other obligation. Learning
womanhood, therefore, was also in the light of religious conceptions of gender,
sex and sexuality. ‘‘Doing gender’’ (West and Zimmerman, 1987), or publicly
appearing as belonging to the correct gender, was also a testimony to the person’s
loyalty to Islamic fundamentals. Strict imposition of the hejab, even in exclusively
female spaces such as all-girls’ schools, indicates the Islamic government’s intent to
make the hejab a constitutive element of womanhood (Shahidian, 2002: 197).
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By the most Islamic fundamentals, women are told that an honorable woman is
so solemn that she discourages male strangers; she is protective of her modesty by
wearing clothing with styles and colors that do not stimulate the eye. Her walk
ought not to draw attention, and while walking she must avoid casting sinful
glances (Mohammadinia, 1992). These extreme notions still comprise part of the
Iranian gender discourse and cultural gender ideals. According to Shahidian
(2002), the survival of gender as a social institution necessitates projecting
models of ideal manhood and womanhood. The picture of an ‘ideal’ woman, as
it pertains to modesty and domesticity, not only establishes hierarchal relations
between genders but also among women.
Creating the notion of an ‘ideal woman’ is necessary for preserving gender as a
social institution. My movements, my clothing, my glances, and my makeup there-
fore determine my faith walking down the streets for they reveal my place within
this gendered hierarchal system. As sex and sexuality are central to post-colonial
Islamic states, and as there is an overwhelming fear of women’s sexuality, control
on women’s public appearances becomes central to political narratives of the state.
In patriarchal Islamic narratives, similar to those of the West, women’s morality
and worth are tied to their sexuality and their appearances. Blame of rape and
sexual assault is on victims who do not dress ‘‘properly’’ in accordance with gender
ideals of modesty. Such discourses open spaces for legitimatizing harassment of
women who are labeled as ‘‘sluts’’ for not conforming to gender ideals. While the
dominant discourse imposes such values on women, Mahdavi (2009) has illustrated
how Iranian young women intentionally avoid compliance with gender ideals by
the way they dress and perform femininity as a form of resistance. Disruption of
gender and performances of femininity and masculinity has been identified as a
form of resistance (Crawley, Foley and Shehan 2008) and so sexual harassment and
its legitimization by the state can be understood as a form of backlash to changes in
traditional notions of femininity. Women’s ‘‘chastity’’ and ‘‘virtue’’ are essential
elements of Iranian cultural gender identity (Shahidian, 2002). In the Iranian patri-
archal discourse, masculinity is defined by protecting and controlling women’s
sexuality. In the culture in which control on the virtue of women determines the
honor and virility of men, an assault on a woman’s virtue is an assault on the honor
and reputation of the family. Although this perspective finds its roots in reification
of women in the Islamic kinship system, it also has significance in the discussion of
sexual harassment when any sort of insult or harm to a woman’s reputation is
considered reprehensible and shameful (Ghandehari, 2006).
Shame has been conceptualized as a signal of ‘‘a threat to the social bond’’
(Scheff 2003) and so analyzing the social component of shame is necessary for
the study of social systems. The relation between shame and taboo indicates the
significance of shame for the maintenance of social order and as a mechanism of
internal social control. Feeling of shame and embarrassment plays a significant role
in sustaining individuals’ commitment to social organization and values (Heath
1988). Emotional/relational structures, then, work alongside economic, legal, and
political structures to maintain dominant relations of power (Scheff 2003).
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The feeling of shame operates through dynamics of racial, gender, ethnic and class
relations and is dominantly experienced by women, racial minorities, and powerless
groups (Howard 1995). As shame can be constructed around the taboo of sexu-
ality, and as shame is experienced by shame about shame (Scheff 2003, Kaufman
1989), the feeling of shame often accompanies guilt and also silence to deny its
July 2006. I have gazed at the road and the fast pace of my walk makes it seem as
if the sidewalk is moving under my feet. The sun is relentlessly shining over my head
and directly into my eyes, making me scowl even more than I’ve planned to. I walk
down this long, wide usually crowded street of North Tehran, avoiding glancing at the
kaleidoscope of colorful dresses displayed behind each shop window. I, again, hope-
lessly search into my big messy brown bag to look for my sunglasses and to realize for
the second time that it is not there. ‘‘It’s ok’’ I think to myself as I make a ninety
degree turn into a bizarrely uncrowded street to take a detour, ‘‘it would ruin the plan
anyways’’. You see, it is part of the plan; not to look around, walk kind of fast, show
this intense sour look while you frown a little, making everyone know you are not the
type of woman they can joke around with. This is the walk I have designed and
developed through these years; the one that, so I think, would help keep me out of
trouble in the streets. But I haven’t walked long before I realize I’m being followed
again. I know very well my created walk might keep some but not all away. ‘‘Why so
fast sweet ass?’’ His nasty voice rings in my head. I walk faster and so does he. I have
promised myself that I would not listen. I have heard enough, I’m disgusted enough,
and he keeps talking. Over these years, I have decided to just hear the voice, estimate
the dirtiness of the tone, and guess the possibility of physical touch so I know how to
react. I keep thinking if I walk faster he would leave me alone, he would satisfy
himself with the filthy words he throws at my body. What else can I do? I don’t
want to embarrass myself by yelling at him in the street, and hear him denying
everything. I’m crumbling out of frustration; no matter how much I try I still hear
him, I hear what he says, what he wants to do to me, I hear him saying he can ‘‘eat my
pussy all day’’, that I ‘‘shouldn’t miss the best damn fuck I can ever have’’. The words
get into my ear, seep into my brain and I swallow hard. I tell myself if he doesn’t stop
this crap I’m going to turn back and yell. But he seems so out of control that I’m
afraid of having a fight with such an asshole. I walk faster and I keep telling myself if
he doesn’t leave me alone I would turn back and really yell this time. And I finally yell;
not because he doesn’t shut up but because the bastard grabs my butt. ‘‘You fucking
bastard! Filthy animal! Go away! Go to hell jackass!’’ I know I have to yell so he
would walk away. My heart is jumping out of my chest but I give him this nasty, mad
look that is determined to say I’m not afraid of you. I look at him and his face is one
of shock but not of surprise, he starts walking ahead of me, looking back with a
dreadful smile. A young man passes by us right in the middle of this; he stops for a
second confused whether he should meddle, but the second passes by and so does he.
He walks as if the embarrassing moment I’ve created should end right there. I walk
my quaking body on my shaky knees for two more blocks. I get into the house and feel
relieved that no one is home yet. I jump on the bed and sob until my body calms down.
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I do again what I have been doing all these years; my humiliating secret stays with me,
and I review the incident over and over again in my head. But this time, I turn back
and yell before his filthy hands can touch me, and I hit him in the crotch; I hit him
really hard this time.
Silence is often understood as the absence of voice, passivity, lack of action, tacit
acceptance of one’s condition or merely the background to speech. Linguists and
others studying human communication systems, however, have pointed out that
silence is essential to speech. It is the state of being colored by meaning, existing
‘‘actively’’ along with the dominant discourse. Silence can often speak louder than
voice as the conventional images of ‘‘thick’’, ‘‘deafening’’, ‘‘heavy’’ or ‘‘resound-
ing’’ silences seem to imply (Zerubavel, 2006). Furthermore, silence involves more
than lack of action since the things we are most silenced about are deliberately and
actively avoided. Silence often entails actively refusing to acknowledge and avoid-
ing subjects and situations that beg for attention (Zerubavel, 2006). Attention to
silence, then, makes us aware of the ruling relations that turn our heads away from
the conspicuous matters. Silence is also understood as a form of resistance applied
by those marginalized groups who find their voices subjugated by the whims of
external powers (Parrillo, 2008). According to Foucault (1978), when a discourse is
institutionally sanctioned, it can become powerful because it positions the subject
in relation to what and how something is said; thus, when the powerless use silence
to avoid conflict, it is not an absence of language but a counter-language of cri-
tique. Silence, thus, is contingent upon the individuals’ relationship to power, insti-
tutional structures and what Dorothy Smith (2004) calls ruling relations.
Sex is often considered a somewhat threatening and embarrassing subject
(Zerubavel, 2006). The silence around issues related to sexual encounters is espe-
cially loud when such issues relate to sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. It
is a subject to be avoided and often silenced. Such socially encouraged silence, and
the extent to which it is encouraged, speak of ruling relations that coordinate and
concert everyday/everynight activities and conditions of individuals (Smith, 2004).
The concept of ruling relations refers to a complex of objectified relations arising
from the historical development of social consciousness. These relations coordinate
the activities of people whose subjectivities are shaped by those relations
(Smith 2004).
Ruling relations also mark the bodies. Embodiment refers to the active processes
by which the body is realized and made meaningful (Waskul and Vannini 2006),
and so the body is the site for the inscription of meanings. Furthermore, roles and
relations are created through physical bodily accomplishment of gesture, move-
ment and gaze in situated contexts (Atkinson 2006). Body, therefore, is performed,
staged and presented when peformativity is the inscription of identity on the body
(Butler 1990). The performative and bodily reaction of women to sexual harass-
ment, such as, silence, walking away or performing modest femininity, thus, needs
to be analyzed as a site that reveals the ruling relations that form the body.
Women’s performative and silent reactions to experiences of sexual harass-
ment should be examined with respect to both the institutional processes that
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create them and the ways by which such silence sustains those processes. To
speculate Iranian woman’s silence solely as a product of suppressing power
relations, however, is to be involved in the imperialist maneuvers that deny
her subjectivity. The ‘Third World’ woman constantly negotiates the experiences
of violence and marginality, and her agency—although fettered—is constantly
denied by the western victim/agent binary (Spivak, 1988). Under the post-colo-
nial conditions of globalized culture, the subaltern subject, however, challenges
such a binary (Bergoffen et al., 2011) by envisioning herself as a complex subject
‘‘who is simultaneously exploited by normative arrangements, and is disruptive
of these arrangements’’ (Kapur, 2001: 879). To understand Iranian women’s
responses to experiences of sexual assault, then, one should consider them
through their own lenses.
Mernissi (1994) explores the so-called ‘‘suppressed’’ spaces of silence as they are
experienced in their social and cultural context. She argues that there are hidden
desires and motivations that guide our actions, but those motivations might contra-
dict our actions. To read silence as lack of resistance and lack of speech, Mernissi
argues, is to ignore those hidden desires. She states that the silence of women in the
non-western world should not be understood as a sign of passivity but as a strategic
and productive tool for resistance and transformation. Western feminism’s claims
for the importance of autonomy, assertiveness, ‘‘bringing forward women’s voices’’
so they are heard loud and clear are challenged by Mernissi’s project of listening to
both voices and silences. The practice of autonomy in western societies, with liberal
values of freedom of expression, encourages a verbally assertive behavior and a
clearly visible position of protest. But, autonomy in non-western societies can be
expressed and practiced differently. Different forms of resistance and rebellion that
do not match the western standard of out-loud, self-assertive and aggressive protest
might easily be glossed over.
According to Mernissi (1994), silence and the role of the audience is specifically
important to be listened to. That silence expressed in the form of ‘‘I will not listen’’
or ‘‘I will not speak’’ can imply an action by the person who wishes to exert some
control over her own behavior and over the situation. As I walk down the street
and encounter verbal sexual harassment, my silence by which I imply ‘‘I will not
listen’’ is the way by which I actively protest. Remaining silent about these victi-
mizing experiences is also a way to avoid further victimization and the perpetuation
of powerlessness. Such forms of protest, however, as they are limited by culturally
practical and appropriate forms of resistance, should be understood as a form of
‘‘patriarchal bargaining’’ (Kandiyoti, 1988). Patriarchal bargaining speaks of
women’s active and subtle practices that give them a sense of power and control
in their everyday world but, at the same time, reproduces and recreates patriarchal
relations through such practices. Women’s silence, therefore, both originates from
and sustains patriarchal institutional processes. Such silence can perpetuate and
sustain those institutional processes as women’s silence towards sexual harassment
is deemed by men either as a sign of a tacit consent, or that women themselves
think they are part of the blame (Ghandehari, 2006). While silence is meaningful,
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it is often not heard; just the way loud subjugated voices that exist along with the
dominant discourse often remain unheard.
In any analysis of gender, the idea of silence(s) and of ‘‘subjugated’’ voices has
particular significance. The western feminist literature has explicated the charac-
teristics of the overwhelming masculine discourse that has silenced women’s voices
(Breckenridge, 1999). Subjugation, on the other hand, refers to processes that
subordinate and discount specific experiences by either ignoring or reinterpreting
them (Foucault, 1980). As one group’s knowledge or its way of understanding is
privileged over another group’s, subjugation occurs. In the example of sexual vio-
lence, when victims’ experiences are located further down the hierarchy of belief
and status, their understanding is disqualified either as inadequate or simply false
(Breckenridge, 1999). My objection to sexual harassment, thus, is rendered of little
significance as the dominant discourse insists on its interpretation of women’s
responsibility. In hierarchical social structures there is a rigid division between
speakers and listeners. The voice of the one who speaks from the position of
authority is heard and acknowledged. This does not imply that those marginalized
on the basis of gender, sexuality, age, race, class and/or ethnicity are all repressed
and do not speak. On the contrary, their voices may be louder and their screams
desperate and they are of course ‘‘heard’’, but maybe one turns off one’s ears. It is
not acknowledged and it drowns in its own noise (Sajed, 2006). So as we under-
stand that silence is in possession of meaning, it can be seen that we are now
dealing with two forms of an exhaustive representation: discourse that silences,
and silence that discourses (Sendbuehler, 1994).
It is 1994. I’m 9 years old and in third grade. In a typical school day, after playing
in the yard, Mrs. Nazemi comes over and fixes our headscarves – gently caressing our
hair back under the scarf. ‘‘There you go!’’ she smiles at us leading us to the class-
room. Although it’s an elementary girls’ school, having an appropriate hejab and
learning about the importance of it is no less important than learning math or science.
We can usually take off our maghnae
when we are in the class, but I always keep it
on. It does not bother me and I just hate my hair and the way it looks after Donya, the
girl I share my bench with, takes off her maghane and shows off her long beautiful
golden hair. Today is the day our teachers are supposed to prepare us for the big
ceremony for third graders, Jashne taklif, which is coming up in a few days. We are 9
and it’s the age, our teacher tells us, we turn into women and we can no more be
careless about our veils. The ceremony is in fact the celebration of this transition to
womanhood. ‘‘Listen my dear girls’’ our teacher says, ‘‘Now that you have grown up,
if you don’t cover your hair or body you have committed a sin; now you are old enough
to know that. You shouldn’t show your beauty to any man other than the ones who are
to you’’. I feel wise that I already know everything about the importance of
hejab, and I’m secretly thrilled that I can play grownup easier from now on. Our
teacher explains that there will be a clergyman coming to the ceremony and he will
answer all of our questions about the hejab. But I already know what the clergyman
would later say – how Satan can live in my hair and shoot sinful arrows to men’s eyes.
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As any other child growing up under a strict religious teaching, my mind is very much
occupied with right and wrong and how it would determine my eternal life in hell or
heaven. I hear one of my classmates whispering about what her elder sister had told
her, ‘‘those who do not wear the veil will be hung with their hair in hell forever!’’ For a
second I envision my aunts—who live abroad and do not wear veil – hung by their hair
when fire is burning their bodies. Picturing them in hell always brings tears to my
eyes; but I pray to God each time for his mercy, for guiding them to the right path.
My friends and I, in spite of all the horror stories we have shared, are just excited
about the ceremony and the white dresses we will be wearing on this day. Maryam
says her dress is going to have wings and she is going to look just like an angel. My
dress has enough glitter and sequins to keep me happy.
We were taught in schools that the hejab is the responsibility of an ideal woman
in the Islamic state, by which we would not let the blood of martyrs go to waste.
But being a woman, we were also taught implicitly, could potentially be a harm to
society. The satanic arrows that would jump out of my hair and target innocent
Muslim men was the ultimate lesson. ‘‘Sin is the sword of Domacles in the world
according to Islamists, hiding in every corner, able to sneak upon the unsuspect-
ing’’ (Shahidian, 2002). According to Cahill (2001), the way women experience
their bodies is related to internalization and materialization of the belief in feminine
culpability. The evidence, she argues, is in the many measures women take against
the prospect of being sexually violated which mostly involve the limitation of their
mobility and tailoring of the feminine bodily comportments. Although these acts
are not shared by each and every woman, they carry powerful messages concerning
women’s responsibility for their own victimization.
This patriarchal understanding of women’s sexuality constitutes important com-
ponents of popular analyses of sexual harassment and violence against women in
the Muslim world. According to Mernissi (1975), woman’s power is seen as ‘‘the
most destructive element in the Muslim social order, in which the feminine is
regarded as synonymous with the satanic ...the social order then appears as an
attempt to subjugate her power and neutralize its disruptive effects’’ (33). It is why
in the fundamentalist Islamic discourse, to sustain the social order, it is necessary to
restrict and control women, their body and their sexuality. Alongside this implicit
theory of sexuality, Mernissi indicates, there is also an explicit theory of women’s
sexuality. This theory is the prevailing contemporary belief that women are passive
individuals who seek pleasure in being chased by men. These contradicting notions
of sexuality put women in a more vulnerable position in Islamic societies. Wearing
the veil according to implicit theory of sexuality was my effort to impose control on
my vicious nature, but according to the prevailing belief was to symbolize my ‘‘self-
sacrifice’’ and my modesty. The simultaneous existence of these two different the-
ories of sexuality is what makes understanding and explaining sexual harassment
and the one who should be blamed for it intricate and complicated in Iranian
society. Violence against women and their victimization is a well-known subject;
but if women are those responsible for immorality and sin in society, how would
men ever be responsible for violating women? My self-consciousness toward my
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bodily practices and my attire each time I step outside the home offers a clue to the
understanding of how Iranian gender ideology relates women’s victimization to
performances of ‘ideal’ femininity. These performances determine a woman’s social
persona, so the blame of being sexually harassed is understood to be on the woman
who might appear in a way that excites or motivates a man to approach her.
The absence and impracticality of protective legal rights that can support
women in cases of victimization is another institutional relation that adds to
women’s silence toward experiences of street harassment. Public spaces are key
sites for reinforcing the second-class status of disadvantaged groups. In her ethno-
graphic study of public harassment, Gardner (1995) illustrates how the experience
of being situationally disadvantaged in public spaces is shared among women
regardless of the diversity of their social statuses. Thus, study of public sexual
harassment as a gendered social problem necessitates an analysis of the way a
woman’s body is understood and interpreted in the public space. The continuously
repeated patriarchal discourses around gender and morals by the Islamic state,
somewhat through the gender policies they take, help make the justification of
violence and harassment against women an easy job for the predators. The exist-
ence of the so called ‘‘Guidance and moral patrol’’ – implementing the policy of
arresting women for having improper veiling – reinforces the discourse that sees the
female body as a threat and responsible for social problems in society. Such policies
blatantly problematize the presence of the woman’s body in the public sphere and
therefore reinforce its disadvantaged status.
Fall 2007. We are laying on the orange sofa we bought two years ago. Sahar keeps
giggling and poking me with her toe trying to bring me out of the bad mood I have
found myself stuck in. The old sofa squeaks with each move and Sahar keeps imitating
the squeaky noise looking for a funny reaction from me. Narges is sitting on the area
rug, surrounded with CDs, reorganizing her massive movie collection she holds deeply
dear. She does this each time something upsets her. We all have met in college and
after these years have become inseparable. Their new apartment is our safe haven.
After sharing a small room with two other students in a dorm they couldn’t be happier
to have their own place. This small two-bedroom apartment, furnished with cheap but
nicely designed decorations, is a safe place for us to be ourselves. We live our secret
life here; we meet our boyfriends, smoke, drink, and have parties, experiencing the
most amazing feeling: fearing no judgment. Narges and I are back from shopping and
are exhausted and frustrated after the incident we had in the cab that took us home. It
is funny and sad at the same time; that we still get upset over something that happens
almost all the time. In Tehran you have to share cabs with other people and there is
always a guy who sits next to you and knows no respect. And this time I was disgusted
to look at the way we had sit in the cab, Narges and I had squeezed ourselves to
occupy the least amount of space and this guy, as most other guys I have seen, did not
bother to think he can keep his legs a little bit closer together. I had kept my purse
between us, as a technique I had learned over these years, so our hips won’t touch. but
I hate it, I hate to see how he thinks he owns the space, how he doesn’t mind to display
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the most masculine body figure when sitting next to us – Keeping the legs open,
widening the shoulders and keeping arms loose and comfortable. Can I yell at him
accusing him of rubbing his body to mine? Isn’t it just the way men sit? Don’t men
always occupy more space than us? I have always seen this and have always been
silent. It is almost like the nightmares in which you keep screaming and no voice
comes out. The way I find myself mute when one of these assholes leans on me or rubs
his thigh to mine, when I walk in the street and I just can’t turn back and yell ‘‘shut
up’’ to their nasty comments on my body. All the rage and revulsion just never finds a
pore to come out; my shame has become this concrete wall disarming my body,
zipping my mouth closed. Why is it that I can’t react until I feel a serious physical
threat? And there comes one day when you can’t hold it in anymore, especially when
you know you have the support of a friend who is sitting next to you. So as I gathered
all my energy today to protest, to say a word, to stop this pathetic situation that is
eating my soul, all my rage and disappointment left my body in a soft, apologetic voice
when I realized how powerless I am in such situations; I asked, ‘‘Would you mind
sitting a little bit further so we can be more comfortable?’’ The guy said not a single
word and moved himself a little bit away. Not that we all didn’t know he would be
back where he was after a sharp turn and this time I would not repeat the same
hopeless sentence.
Narges’s and my frustration over this incident, for the first time, opens a new
conversation among the three of us. We decide to take shots of vodka as we share
our story of the cab with Sahar who is now really confused over our grumpy mood.
It’s not too long until all of us feel comfortable sharing our frustrating stories of
being sexually harassed on the streets. Knocking back the shots, we curse the bas-
tards and tell more stories. ‘‘What the hell do they think? Why do these assholes let
themselves act this way?’’ I again ask the question that is bugging me over these
‘‘When I once yelled at a guy who was rubbing my thigh in the taxi ...’’, Sahar
pauses, takes another shot, and tells the rest of the story, ‘‘The driver told me ‘now
that you are servicing men with the way you dress, what’s wrong with servicing them
this way.’ Can you believe he took his side?’’ We look at each other in despair, and nod
our heads meaning that we all know a similar story.
‘‘Exactly!’’ Narges tells her story to prove the same point, ‘‘Once my friends and I
were on a minibus after a school day, and there were a group of workers on the bus
sitting right behind us. They started talking dirty and one of them grabbed my boob. I
yelled out and as I expected their supervisor to yell at them, he just looked at the guys
and told them, ‘didn’t I tell you not to do this to buzz killers?’ ’’ Sahar, Narges and I
started laughing out loud at the nonsensical, stupid comments of these guys we had
carried in our memories for years. We almost couldn’t believe someone would actually
think this way. We laughed harder and harder until tears were coming out. We wiped
our tears pretending, even to ourselves, the tears were the result of laughing hard.
After several moments of heavy silence I pulled the DVD we had bought that day out
of my bag, ‘‘Let’s watch a movie!’’ I suggested to ease the pain I felt was growing
inside us. I leaned back on the couch, however, with a smile; I lit my cigarette and
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enjoyed the almost freeing feeling of exoneration watching the trace of the smoke
vanish somewhere around the ceiling. It was as if the iceberg of guilt I had been
carrying on my back all these years, freezing my bone marrow, was melting down.
‘‘I knew it was not me’’, I thought to myself, ‘‘It really happens to everyone’’.
The events in which individuals are so powerfully absorbed that they are left
without an interpretive framework to make sense of their experience are referred to
by Denzin (1988) as epiphanies. Many narratives depicted in this article were
experienced as epiphanies as I was dealing with them mostly as experiences that
are only to be handled skillfully. I was so engaged in dealing with and avoiding
them on a daily basis that I almost never thought of them as a research project. The
experience of sharing them with my friends was the beginning point of thinking
about them as a social problem that many women experience, rather than ‘‘my’’
experiences in which I might be complicit. I struggled for a long time to make sense
of the hypocrisy of protective masculinity when it almost always accompanied
violation of itself. Our laughter to ‘‘nonsensical’’ comments and actions of men,
as my friends and I recalled them, was the outcome of sheer bewilderment. It was
not until I grasped the dynamism of patriarchy that I understood how it facilitates
such contradictions.
Through exploring these narratives, I attempted to understand and illustrate the
significance of everyday practices as they reveal social and ruling relations that
construct and reproduce them. Following Cahill (2001), I explored the feminine
body as a social product, culturally coded as the site of violation, paralleled to
being socially and sexually experienced as one. As patriarchal discourses connect
morality with sexuality, performances of ‘‘ideal’’ womanhood, or their lack thereof,
determine women’s worth in the hierarchal system of values. Such connection
justifies violation of women who do not conform to performances of ideal femi-
ninity by labeling them as ‘‘sluts’’ or ‘‘whores’’ whose victimization is primarily
their fault. Such ruling relations also construct women’s understanding of their
bodies and their bodily reactions to experiences of victimization.
I explained shame and silence as embodied experiences of ruling relations. The
dominance of patriarchal discourses and emotional structures create experiences of
shame in victims when the blame of assault is rendered on them. While shame is one
explanation for the silent reaction of women to experiences of sexual harassment, the
power relations embedded within and operating through silence necessitates a sub-
versive examination of silence that does not imply passivity. Silence can be under-
stood as a form of resistance applied by those marginalized groups who find their
voices subjugated by the whims of external powers (Parrillo 2008). The suppressed
spaces of silence within dominant discourses is the source of resistance that always
accompanies power, is never in the position of exteriority, and is always working
from the inside of the power network (Foucault 1978). In this sense, silence does not
mean passivity, lack of action or the acceptance of power, but it exists actively
alongside the dominant discourses. The subjugation of the voices of women, then,
can create conditions in which women would use silence as a form of resistance.
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Muslim women’s oppression is often understood to be accompanied by their
compliance with oppressive relations. Imperialist and colonial projects have been
involved in creating a victim/agent binary according to which the Western woman
is constructed as educated, modern, in control of her sexuality and her body and
the ‘‘third-world’’ woman is constructed as ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-
bound, domestic and victimized (Mohanty 1991). Such colonial and Eurocentric
theorizations have failed to understand different forms of resistance that do not
resemble the western perception of it. However, silence of women in the non-
western context can be a restricted but strategic and productive tool for resistance
and transformation (Mernissi 1994).
According to Ellis and Bochner (1992), telling and sharing a personal story can
become ‘‘a social process for making lived experience understandable and mean-
ingful’’. I write my story, however, not only to make sense of what happened to me,
but also to explain it as a social problem within a patriarchal culture, and to
provide a window into the lives of women whose experiences are to be silenced.
Committing these details to paper, presenting myself as a victim of what I learned
to be a humiliating experience, remembering the details of incidents that for a long
time I tried the hardest to forget put me in a vulnerable position in the field of my
research. If I am writing for any reason, it is to give voice to experiences that would
remain a constant if not examined and spoken out. It is also to encourage the
western audience not to understand women’s silence as a passive compliance and
to acknowledge the way Iranian women try to turn that silence into means of
resistance. It is, most importantly, to open a door to creation of a discourse that
would co-exist alongside the dominant discourse that wishes to silence it.
1. The author’s name has been changed to protect their identity.
2. Maghnae is a special type of headscarf with an opening for the face, which is mandatory
to be worn in schools and some offices in Iran.
3. In Islamic sharia, a mahram is an unmarriageable kin with whom sexual contact would be
considered incestuous. The term is mostly used in regard with dress code practice of
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Fae Chubin is pursuing a PhD in sociology with a focus on gender, sexuality,
sociology of resistance and social movements. She has a Master’s degree in
Women’s and Gender Studies and her main research interest continues to be
exploring discourses of gender and sexuality in Middle Eastern countries and spe-
cifically Iran. Her theoretical approach is that of a critical theorist and she applies
innovative qualitative research methods in her research.
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... Contemporarily, the Iranian city is a space of perpetual conflict between the gendered powers. Violence and sexual harassment in public spaces are mechanisms by which men reinforce their dominance in the space (Chubin 2014). Moreover, street and sexual harassment are prevalently experienced Serial Acid Attacks in Iran and present in the lives of women in Iran (Lahsaeizadeh and Yousefinejad 2012). ...
... Except for public toilets, public transport, and sacred sites such as mosques and shrines, urban spaces are usually inhabitable-albeit not equally-by men and women in Iran. Women use different mechanisms, from silence (Chubin 2014;Rahbari 2014) to confrontation, to taking a stand against different forms of violence from street harassment to state violence. In public transportation, women usually hold their purses in such a way as to protect themselves from offensive action (Ghandehari 2005, 374-5). ...
... The results obtained from the focus group are particularly useful in supplying information about how people think, feel, or act regarding a specific topic collectively (Freitas et al. 1998). The focus group encourages individuals to share their narratives, and telling personal stories is particularly important when the culture encourages silence around a specific topic (Chubin 2014). While the focus groups are artificially set up situations, they have, at times, the capacity to approximate real-life conversations. ...
In the autumn of 2014 in the city of Isfahan, a series of acid attacks targeted women who were driving in urban public spaces. The violence raised public fear among inhabitants of Isfahan. The Isfahan serial attacks were widely perceived as systematically organized and politically motivated. As a result of the attacks, Isfahan’s female inhabitants’ everyday life was disrupted, and the public spaces, once perceived as partially safe, turned into spaces of terror, limiting women’s movement and activities. This qualitative research explores Isfahani women’s experiences and perceptions on and reactions to the attacks.
... For instance, the strongly embedded tribal structure of the camp community has created a bond among the ex-Gazan refugees and kept the knowledge of their history alive. On the other hand, this tribal characteristic has propagated a kind of culture of shame about admitting to being harassed and forbids discussion of this sensitive issue out loud, which leaves many children vulnerable to rights violations (Chubin, 2014;Li and Craig, 2019). While mothers were more open to expressing their worries about harassment, fathers were more in denial, despite showing concern about their girls and reporting several instances of girls having to drop out of school after 10th grade (at the age of 15 years), so they would not have to travel a long distance to a school located outside the camp. ...
Introduction: Despite the growing global interest in the safety of school children over the past decade, the safety of school routes in vulnerable populations, such as those in refugee camps, has not received enough attention from the global research community. Therefore, this qualitative study contributes to the limited literature on this issue by attempting to shed light on the safety challenges faced by schoolchildren aged 6–15 years old who travel independently inside refugee camps. Methods: Through a thematic analysis of the output of two focus group discussions involving refugee parents in Jerash Camp in Jordan, the study identifies key issues and threats that concern parents in refugee camps regarding the safety and security of their children when walking to school. Results: The analysis of the FGDs yields three themes: (1) safety and security issues (2) factors influencing exposure to hazards; and (3) suggestions for safety improvement. It also generates sub-themes related to safety and security issues such as traffic collision, crime risk and animal attack. Other sub-themes that represent the factors associated with exposure to safety hazards were grouped into four categories: built environmental factors, socio-cultural and economic factors, demographic factors and behavioural factors. Suggestions for improving safety of school routes included three main sub-themes, these are: providing a free transport service to school, improving road infrastructure and pedestrian facilities; and providing adequate education to increase awareness of safety issues. Conclusion: This study highlights the critical level of safety and security inside refugee camps, and thus draws the attention of international organisations and policymakers and emphasizes the need for safety programmes intervention focusing on children in refugee camps.
... Laughter, in this context, performed the function of lightening the sombre atmosphere, creating a comfortable ambience which enabled opening up and discussing experiences. The effect of laughter in invoking a feeling of empathy and camaraderie is discussed byChubin (2014) where she refers to a similar context of friends sharing experiences of street harassment. The mood in the hostel room (above) was one of shared catharsis and camaraderie. ...
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In this thesis, I employ a feminist poststructuralist approach to study the perspectives and experiences of young migrant women living in a hostel in Chennai as they navigate competing discourses on womanhood in neoliberal India. Based on 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork done across two stages, this thesis delves on the experiences of young women, particularly around four themes of contemporary significance, namely safety and street harassment; dowry; relationships, sex and marriage; and practices and ideals of beauty. Rather than positioning women with respect to binaristic categories such as traditional vs modern this thesis strives to situate women within the complexities and contradictions of their daily lives.
... Sexual harassment in the Iranian context has attracted less attention among the Iranian scholars, investigating the phenomena in some settings rather than the higher educational setting, such as street sexual harassment (Chubin, 2014), premarital sexual relationship (Farahani et al., 2011), and college students' experiences of sexual harassment in public places. However, faculty members' sexual harassment of female college students has not been examined, or at least the researcher has not been able to find any related studies up to the time of doing the research. ...
Consensual sexual harassment on Iranian campuses is getting prevalent; however, this phenomenon has not been examined yet. This study contributed to the area and investigated the sexual relationships shapes, the behaviour of Iranian faculty members and female college students, and the consequences of sexual harassment for the victims, even in its consensual form. Hence, the phenomenological qualitative method was applied to explore the experiences of 10 female graduate students. The data were collected through online in-depth interviews due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with the theoretical framework proposed by Terpstra and Baker (1986), the interpretive phenomenological analysis revealed three themes of Onset, Sexual treatment, and After effects. According to the results, the basic needs of the females and the professors' leering seduced the females to enter into sexual relationships. The results also reflected the academic and psychological consequences of sexual harassment on the victims' future. The findings have some implications for higher education policymakers, university chancellors, and governmental officials.
... After reading her autoethnography, I was quick to realise that what she termed 'harassment' was actually sexual abuse and violence against women. She identifies the paradox of Iranian females who were expected to be "an honorable woman [who] is so solemn that she discourages male strangers… [and] protective of her modesty by wearing clothing with styles and colors that do not stimulate the eye" (Chubin, 2014, p. 181); yet at the same time if she was a victim of any kind of assault, she should feel shame and responsibility (Chubin, 2014). She states that "it is by examining Iranian women's personal troubles and through disclosing these experiences as lived that I explore social and political processes that create and perpetuate the experiences of street sexual harassment" (Chubin, 2014, p. 178). ...
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The topic of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) remains a prevalent issue globally and despite the best efforts of welfare organisations, it would seem that as a society we are no closer to a resolution. CSA is a topic that is discussed in vague terms, but the real impact of CSA on the child is rarely divulged, except behind closed doors. This autoethnographic study traces the life and experiences of CSA of the author and how she used literature and writing as a coping mechanism. Using this powerful methodological tool, the author has been able to expose the implications of the sexual abuse and the use of writing as a place to hide and feel safe. The value of autoethnography is illuminated by demonstrating that poignant and potent data can be collected and then shared in a way that has more impact than other research methods. Second, the value of the researcher as the researched can be viewed as an authentic way of analysing difficult and taboo societal issues such as CSA, where hopefully the results can lead to more insightful and honest discussions about how to confront this problem.
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This article analyses the experience of Kurdish women's silence based on their understanding and interpretation of gender and their position in the fields of work, family and education. The aim is to show the social and semantic complexities of the phenomenon of Kurdish women‘s silence. This study was conducted using theoretical sampling and individual interviews with 20 Kurdish women, as well as focus interviews in a group of six, in the framework of interpretive-constructivist approach and the thematic analysis technique. The results have been framed under the two main themes of hegemonic silence and strategic silence, and also sub-themes. They show that women give different meanings to their silence by their silence in different situations while using different strategies. The consequences of each of these types of silence can include those silences that re-establish or disrupt the hegemonic meanings of gender and domination. This study shows that the experience of silence lies in a range of subjugation on the one hand, and subjectivity and agency on the other. Moreover, the boundary between victim and agent cannot be considered as a clear and inflexible boundary.
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According to statistics and media coverage, street sexual harassment is a prevalent form of gendered violence in Morocco. Yet, research about sexual harassment in the public space is underestimated and understudied, and its reasons and consequences remain apparently imperceptible to the daily interactions of men and women. The article seeks to explore the social meaning of women’s experiences of street harassment through qualitative interviews with individuals and focus groups. Women’s narratives are analysed, from a feminist and critical perspective, in order to represent and interpret emerging discourses about harassment. The objective of this research is to highlight the responsibility of religious, political and economic institutions, as well as the role of the family and mothers in particular, in legitimating gender inequalities and fostering violent behaviours and practices towards girls and women. The results of investigations reveal the cultural normalisation of sexual harassment, the sexual objectification of the female body and the negotiation of concepts of culpability and apology within gendered norms. That said, the study confirms that street harassment is indeed a manifestation of power relationships, a device of social control and a symbol of gender discrimination.
This article seeks to ameliorate the current imbalance in the study of tourist-oriented crime, between the predominant macro-level quantitative studies and the relatively scarce micro-level qualitative studies. I deploy a variant of the autoethnographic method to gain insight on aspects of crime against tourists which are not generally noticed in the literature, owing to the difficulty of directly accessing either the perpetrators or the victims of particular tourist-oriented crimes. By a detailed description of four cases of robbery/theft which I have experienced in the course of my own travels, I point to several significant but under-researched micro-level issues, such as, on the one hand, the conduct of the perpetrators and their techniques in committing the crime, and on the other, the tourist-victims’ experience and reaction to the crime, their quest for assistance, and the crime’s consequences for them. The article concludes by pointing to the absence of supportive frameworks for tourist-crime victims in host countries, which leaves them on their own to deal with the impacts and consequences of the crime.
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The body and experiences of embodiment have generated a rich and diverse sociological literature. This volume articulates and illustrates one major approach to the sociology of the body: Symbolic interactionism, an increasingly prevalent theoretical base of contemporary sociology derived from the pragmatism of writers such as John Dewey, William James, Charles Peirce, Charles Cooley and George Herbert Mead.The authors argue that, from an interactionist perspective, the body is much more than a tangible, corporeal object - it is a vessel of great significance to the individual and society. From this perspective, body, self and social interaction are intimately interrelated and constantly reconfigured.The collection constitutes a unique anthology of empirical research on the body, from health and illness to sexuality, from beauty and imagery to bodily performance in sport and art, and from mediated communication to plastic surgery. The contributions are informed by innovative interactionist theory, offering fresh insights into one of the fastest growing sub-disciplines of sociology and cultural studies.
This chapter provides an anthropological survey of high-risk behavior among the contemporary Iranian youth, focusing on high-risk sexual activity and opiate use. It argues that while preliminary statistics show a rising HIV and drug problem, little is known about the settings and motivations behind such initiations into high-risk practices by urban Iranian youth. Through qualitative and ethnographic research, the chapter throws much light on the circumstances, networks, social environments, and motivations surrounding these initiation events. Moreover, it assesses the level of knowledge of highrisk behavior among the youth (e.g., knowledge of transmission of HIV or sterile injection paraphernalia). The findings of this research will be particularly beneficial to the development of educational materials with regard to sex, HIV/AIDS, and the risk reduction campaign in Iran.
Paul Atkinson utilizes a dramaturgical framework to analyze the embodied craft of opera performance. Atkinson clearly illustrates a dramaturgical body which is fashioned of gesture. Based on his ethnographic work with the Welsh National Opera, Atkinson illustrates how, through tedious repetition, opera embodies gesture to stylistically convey meaning in a performance that is both a visual and musical: “Words, music, and bodies are brought into conjunction, and bodies are coached to move and interact in the physical space of the stage.” Atkinson’s analysis informs much more than opera, it is a lens into “the complex relations between embodied gesture, intentions and motives, emotions and reactions, characters and actions.”.