The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

Chadors, Feminists, Terror : The Racial Politics of U.S. Media Representations of the 1979 Iranian Women's Movement
Sylvia Chan-Malik The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 2011 637: 112 DOI: 10.1177/0002716211409011 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Chadors, Feminists, Terror: The Racial Politics of U.S. Media Representations of the 1979 Iranian Women’s Movement

On March 8, 1979, Iranian women took to the streets of Tehran for International Women’s Day. This article examines American media representations of the weeklong protests and explores how the event occasioned the emergence of a distinctly American—and deeply racialized—“discourse of the veil,” in which “Islam” was rendered a national catchphrase for terror and the figure of the “Poor Muslim Woman” entered U.S. cultural discourse as a symbol of a new world order. Through analysis of U.S. media coverage, this piece tracks how discourses of second-wave feminism, a post–civil rights rhetoric of racial and cultural pluralism, and late–Cold War logics of secularism and liberal democracy intersected to create a racial-orientalist discourse of the veil, which would subsequently be deployed to justify U.S. military aggression in the Middle East while perpetuating state violence against women, immigrants, and people of color throughout the 1980s and into the post-9/11 era. Keywords:  Islam; Iran; race; feminism; Muslim women; U.S. media representations; “discourse of the veil”

ran’s “Green Movement” of 2009 might be called the first of the popular uprisings for democracy currently sweeping the Middle East. Instigated in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection in June 2009, the movement arose to protest what many claimed was Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent election and his corrupt antidemocratic regime. In the weeks that followed, “prodemocracy” supporters protesting Ahmadinejad’s rule, driven by social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, clashed with the president’s supporters, who claimed the opposition was being fueled by Western imperialist, pro-Zionist forces seeking to derail the will of the Iranian people.
Sylvia Chan-Malik is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her recent publications are featured in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion; The Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History; and The Encyclopedia of Women and Islam. She received her PhD from UC Berkeley in 2009.
DOI: 10.1177/0002716211409011


112 ANNALS, AAPSS, 637, September 2011
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In the American media, many immediately noticed the similarities between 2009 and 1979, when political tumult had swept through Iran following the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise to power. As Hooman Majd of Newsweek wrote, “It was the summer of the ‘Twitter Revolution,’ it was 1979 redux, it was the beginning of the end of the 30-year Islamic regime in Iran” (Majd 2010). At the same time, the 2009 protests also immediately summoned a flurry of media confusion surrounding precisely what the protestors were fighting for, as many in the Western media framed their efforts as a pro-Western revolution to throw off a theocratic “Islamic fundamentalist” regime. Central Green Movement leaders continually opposed such characterizations, stressing that their agenda was far more focused on attaining electoral transparency and civil rights, as opposed to a complete overthrow of their current political system. Such confusion has long marked the U.S. media’s engagement with Iran. In this article, I focus on American television and news coverage of the Iranian women’s revolution of March 1979, an event that produced very similar forms of ideological and political mystification as the Green Movement has in our contemporary moment. Yet while the U.S. media response to the Green Movement can and should be contextualized in the frameworks of post-9/11 global order and U.S. engagements in the Middle East, I argue that the 1979 Iranian women’s revolution cannot be viewed simply through the lens of a nascent rise of orientalism and Islamophobia that would gain ground throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Instead, I describe how U.S. media framings of the Iranian women’s protests and their demands for “freedom” were deeply shaped by American discourses of race, gender, class, and sexuality and reveal the contours of the types of misunderstanding and appropriation that continue to characterize our understandings of the Middle East, and in particular Iran, to this day.

“Blissful Detroit”
In Betty Mahmoody’s 1987 memoir Not without My Daughter, Betty’s courtship with Sayyed Borzog Mahmoody begins in a hospital in Carson City, Michigan, in 1974, where she meets “Moody,” as he is called, while undergoing treatment for severe, debilitating migraines. Moody, an Iranian Shiite Muslim doctor pursuing his studies in the United States, is the therapist assigned to her case, and immediately his treatments become the “bright spot” of her stay (Mahmoody 1987, 47). Betty describes Moody as “the most caring doctor I had ever encountered” (Mahmoody 1987, 47), and as her final therapy session ends, Moody asks for her phone number and plants a gentle kiss on her lips. “I had no way,” Betty recalls, “of knowing where that simple kiss would lead” (Mahmoody 1987, 47). Betty’s statement implies that she was, at the time, unaware that this “simple kiss” would bring about her and Moody’s eventual love affair and marriage; the birth of their daughter, Mahtob; and most important, the horrifying and now well-known story of her and Mahtob’s captivity and subsequent escape from Iran following Moody’s transformation from “caring doctor” to violent, misogynistic,

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ethnic festivals. which left forty-three dead and 467 injured. where the now-married Betty and Moody’s relationship is strained due to the events of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis—they move to a small town in Michigan named Alpena. Thus. Moody goes. finding a position at a medical clinic the very next day. for Betty Mahmoody. and a city unable to survive the constant shifts of an increasingly global economy.1 However. leading many to characterize the city the way the title of an 1971 anthology put it: A City in Racial Crisis (Gordon 1971). for all intents and purposes. 345). becoming the very symbol of the “rust belt”—a site of empty auto factories and unemployed workers. 345). and the federal government’s rollback of 1960s civil rights gains would gut the city’s economy and produce the conditions that served as catalysts and context for the host of social ills the city experienced during this time: the crack cocaine epidemic. the period in question reflected a decidedly different reality—a moment in which the city (and almost all of the American Midwest) entered a severe recession from which it would never recover. racial tensions continued to fracture the state. where the kiss immediately leads. a city of their blossoming and (later) rejuvenated love.sagepub. the mass incarceration of African American males. where the couple continue their love affair while Moody completes a three-year residency at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital. [Moody] was a good part-time father to my children. wide-scale Downloaded from ann. and Moody realizes that “his professional future lay [in Detroit] in one capacity or another. Together we took Joe and John [her sons] on outings to the zoo or on picnics. is Detroit. 2013 . and the two return to seeing each other only on weekends. it seems. where love blossoms and wealth grows. a time of which she writes. the globalization of industry.114 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY abusive. still stands as one the deadliest in the nation’s history). tyrannical Muslim fanatic during the family’s visit to Tehran. and minimal racial bigotry? What discursive strategies allow Betty to describe Detroit from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s with such fondness and in such an overwhelmingly affirmative light? Indeed. She says little else about Detroit until later in the text. when—after a rocky stint in Corpus Christi.” due to how “he found much less bigotry in the metropolitan environment” of Detroit than anywhere else he and Betty had lived (Mahmoody 1987. For most of Detroit’s actual residents. steep rises in drug-related violence and property crimes. Thus. “a routine that was deliciously reminiscent of our courtship years” (Mahmoody 1987. 51). and reluctantly. Betty orders him back to Detroit to find a job.2 Additionally. however. their relationship is rejuvenated. Betty stays in Alpena. where Moody suddenly finds himself out of work. and often to ethnic festivals in Detroit where we were introduced to eastern culture” (Mahmoody 1987. Betty and Moody’s attraction solidifies into a full-blown relationship. “Our lives were busy and blissful. Texas. Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s is a site of opportunity and happiness. long after the string of race riots that rocked Michigan and the rest of the country at the close of the 1960s (the 12th Street riot in Detroit.3 Then what to make of Betty and Moody’s harmonious Detroit. During this at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. the Detroit Betty describes in Not without My Daughter reveals none of the era’s harsh realities and does little to reflect an era in which white flight.

Furthermore. Such a subjecthood. an exotic anomaly who teaches Betty “Islamic cooking” and instructs her on the basic tenets of Islam. dismisses the presence of Muslims and Islam within the United States. thereby providing the vision of America necessary to stand in contrast to Islam and Iran—that of a tolerant. TERROR 115 poverty and unemployment. Christian nation. and second. her America—is a place where interracial romance at RUTGERS UNIV on January upper-class American woman writing through the historical lens of the 1970s and 1980s. The multilayered history of Islam within various immigrant and African American communities does not exist in Betty’s America—only the singular image of a violent. and conspicuously not graphic. I contend. middle.g. and unproblematic intercultural and interracial connections. FEMINISTS. Yet Moody stands as the text’s prime example of a “Muslim American”: a resolute foreigner from the Middle East who claims to love the United States and partakes in all of its privileges while secretly harboring the mind and soul of a fanatical fundamentalist. as well as being the birthplace and a central headquarters for the Nation of Islam (NOI). has been crucial in determining the discursive contours of post9/11 American orientalism and Islamophobia. while Mahmoody’s text goes on to provide consistently graphic. first. Thus. I suggest it is this subjectivity that enables the production of Betty’s “blissful” Detroit. I consider the “domestic” logics of American orientalism Downloaded from ann. 2013 . and where an urban center like Detroit is a hazy. her characterizations of the American landscape are void of detail. little prejudice. and irrevocably foreign Moody. I am interested in exploring how such a vision of America—an America whose “freedoms” are continually posited in contrast and comparison to the consummate “unfreedom” of Islam and Iran—is irrevocably rooted in a national subjecthood like Betty Mahmoody’s: that of a white. dreamlike paradise of readily available employment. where Islam is foreign and far away.” the focus has generally been on the inaccuracy of portrayals of the Orient and the Islamic Other. from Betty’s perspective.sagepub. feminism. By the early 1980s.CHADORS. however. which I assert are steeped in liberal late–Cold War discourses of civil rights. the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982). detailed. In the standard Saidian critique of American orientalist portrayals of Muslim misogyny and the “Poor Muslim Woman. In an alternative method of orientalist critique.. where one lives the global resonances of Detroit not through poverty or prison. and meticulous descriptions of the religious practices of Islam and the filth and corruption of Iran. Detroit had already become home to a large diaspora of Muslim immigrants from the Middle East (including many Iranians). Moody appears to be the only Muslim in Michigan. two-faced. in effect. but through ethnic festivals and exotic food. a perspective that. and citizenship that emerged in the United States at the close of the 1960s and crystallized into national “common sense” by the close of the 1970s. Betty’s Detroit—and. harmonious. a time in which the formal language of “equality for all”—namely for minorities and women—was rendered a rhetorical mainstay in the formal language of the state. elides the ravages of racial inequality and the mass production of social death so pervasive during the historical instances she takes up in the “American” portions of her text. and anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment (e. unfailingly celebratory.

and cultural insensitivity—all crucial components to understanding the long and complex history of Islam in America. Eight months before the saga of the Iranian hostage crisis. Souad 2004). had been an indispensable ally of the United States). In this racial orientalist dialectic between global orientalism and American racism. From that moment on. grasped hold of a specific explanation of why Khomeini was a tyrant.S. the language and ideology of second-wave feminism in the United States have played. and is. the plight of the Poor Muslim Woman has been taken up time and time again within the mainstream American publishing industry in a substantive corpus of literature documenting the abuse of women under Islam and Islamic terror (Brooks 1995. White American feminists took up the cause of the women of Iran en masse in 1979. 2001. an ardent supporter of Pahlavi’s regime (while Pahlavi. and second-wave feminism taking place at the time. Sasson 1992.sagepub. while the context of a global orientalist narrative as tied to the trajectory of Euro-American imperialism was. 2013 .116 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY that shaped national perceptions of this country’s first encounter with the issues of gender and Islamic terror: the Iranian women’s movement of March 1979. culture. anti-black racism. why Iran was in turmoil. magazine. and ultimately viewing the events in Tehran as. it is also important to understand that current conceptions of Islam and the Middle East emanating from the United States must be seen through a decidedly racialized orientalist lens—to be called racial orientalism here—in which transnational logics of orientalism and imperiality are also understood as always working in relation with domestic neocolonial legacies of white supremacy. 96). staging protests against Khomeini. media coverage of the women’s movement in Iran ushered in an orientalized conception of Islam as a symbol of an irrevocably foreign and oppressive religion. “the beginning of a new unity . and anti-immigrant xenophobia. Goodwin 1994. What was striking about the zeal and passion with which these feminists took up this “internationalist” cause is that it took place amid a maelstrom of criticism directed at them by black and third-world feminists in regard to “domestic” issues of racism. . Latifa 2003. a crucial role in constructing a contemporary “discourse of the veil. rallying against the veil.4 Since that time. the Iranian women’s protests marked a moment in which the U. and more than two decades before the events of 9/11. nation-state. for international feminism” (Kelber 1979. Taking place shortly after the overthrow of Shah Reza Pahlavi and after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise as the Supreme Leader of Iran. Thus. “women’s rights” became a rallying call that could be employed by the United States to explain the ills of the Middle East and the “terror” of Islam.” pitting “feminism” against “Islam” on opposite ends of the orientalist divide. The American media coverage of the Iranian women’s movement recast the longstanding orientalist narrative of the Poor Muslim Woman on distinctly American intersections of discourses of nationalism. in the words of Ms. 2004. and continue to occupy. Concern for the Poor Muslim Woman’s fate has enabled political alliances Downloaded from ann. civil rights. certainly a crucial framework in understanding how those such as Mahmoody have constructed their images of a free United States versus a barbarous Islam. and political ideology that endures until this at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. in turn. and why Islam was the enemy. elitism. .

and equality. I turn to the press’s coverage of American feminist Kate Millett’s trip to Iran to march in solidarity with the women of Tehran. gender equality. and what Mary Dudziak has called “cold war civil rights. Millett’s “feminist” presence in Tehran functioned as proxy for the “American” values of progress. I track the narrative’s construction in relation to the enemy of Islamic terror from the end of the 1970s and into the present by considering the nation that came to meet the women of Iran in March 1979. In the first section. less than a month after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rise to power. In an examination of the mainstream media coverage of the protests. the Ayatollah Khomeini. Bush and former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in their calls for the continuation of the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (Hirschkind and Mahmood 2002).S. and how feminist discourse has subsequently come to occupy an uneasy space in this American racial orientalist discourse of Islam.-based second-wave feminist activism could “go global. and Islam (Dudziak 2000. the same “story that led ultimately to the conclusion that. a means by which the nation could assert its superiority through noting the incompatibility of “feminism” and “Islam. press constructed a distinctly American discourse of the veil by refracting the age-old orientalist narrative of the Poor Muslim Woman through liberal discourses of pluralism. freedom. in spite of it all. TERROR 117 between such unlikely bedfellows as the Feminist Majority and former first lady Laura Bush. In the second section.” As such. March 8. that remains to this day. I contend.5 To explore the racialized and gendered structure of this racial orientalist national narrative.S. both on television and in print. 2013 . Constructing an American Discourse of the Veil On Thursday. this article proceeds in three parts. I consider how the “plight” of Iranian women suffering under militant Islam was employed as a means though which U. However. in particular the assertions of black and third-world feminists and the raced history and presence of Islam in the United States. In the third and fourth sections.CHADORS. 1979. and it was featured prominently in the post-9/11 speeches by former president George W. America was a great nation” was used to declare American superiority over Iran.sagepub. in this instance. in other words.” and I argue that this move was partially premised on mainstream American feminists’ inability to deal with “domestic” issues of race. FEMINISTS. 46). Iranian women took to the streets of Tehran for Downloaded from ann. the “cold war civil rights” notion of a racially harmonious nation joined with the notion of a country committed to the ideals of gender equality and women’s rights in the project of asserting American dominance—an ideological union.” in which racial progress was championed by the state to assert American superiority over the Soviet Union (Dudziak 2000). I investigate the discursive strategies by which the U. I suggest that Millett’s presence enabled the deployment of “feminism” as an ideological stand-in for the nation. I examine the ways in which white American feminists themselves constructed the issue of Islam and the women of at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3.

rallies. nor had they thought veiling would become an official policy of the newly installed Islamic state.6 Wearing the chador had been a means of displaying the unity of the opposition during the revolution. fall under the sway of a holy man Downloaded from ann. to Khomeini’s triumphant return on February 1. through the shah’s forced departure from Iran in mid-January. 2013 . As such. On April 2. The American media had closely followed the events of the Iranian revolution.7 In piece after piece. with its oil and strategic situation between the Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf. and as late as December 13. many of the women felt not only anger. the media described the shah as a dedicated reformer who modernized Iran. Smith 1978). but betrayal over the ayatollah’s remarks. such criticisms “hardly had the sound of ringing condemnation. including a reported remark in which the ayatollah stated that all working women should be required to wear the black head-to-toe covering of the chador. most women had not expected to continue wearing it after the shah’s downfall. most of whom had traveled extensively or been educated in Europe or the United States and would most likely not veil otherwise. frustrated that a revolution that had seemed to promise women so much had yet to follow through on its word. brought immense wealth to the nation.” as William Dorman and Mansour Farhang (1987. whose regime had come to be viewed as corrupt. While the marches.118 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY International Women’s Day. During the revolution. 1978. between Europe and the Middle East. bewilderment toward the events in question: How could Iran. the American press expressed a deep skepticism that the revolution would succeed. 1979. seemed to fuel a maelstrom of anger among many of the women in Iran’s capital city and brought them out en masse in the day’s heavy snows to voice their objections to the clergyman’s views. and a puppet of the American government. and speeches of the day had been planned well in advance. the paper cited President Jimmy Carter as “asserting that the Shah of Iran would be able to overcome his present difficulties and maintain power” (T. And while some reporters did challenge and criticize the shah’s rule. progressive and leftist middle-class Iranian women. constantly stressing the ragtag nature of Khomeini’s supporters and the power and might of the shah’s military. a spate of recent actions and comments made by Khomeini on the status of women in the newly minted Islamic republic. from the early rumblings among the anti-shah forces led by Khomeini (who had been living in exile on the outskirts of Paris in early 1978). Throughout these reports.8 A question posed by the New York Times Magazine aptly described general U. Up to thirty thousand women joined the day’s protests. and liberated women. had taken up the chador as a sign of solidarity with their brothers and sisters in struggle. while his challengers were named “the strangest revolutionaries ever to challenge a ruler” (Gage 1978).com at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. the New York Times reported that “the Shah looks secure in his nearly absolute power” (Hoffman 1978). authoritarian. 1978.sagepub. many of whom belonged to “progressive” and “leftist” organizations and had been central organizers and participants in the revolutionary struggles that had overthrown the monarchy of Shah Reza Pahlavi. 147) write in their study of American press coverage of Iran between 1951 and 1978.S.

it was delegated to a quick news item or short article to run down the day’s details. Throughout the week. the coverage ebbed and flowed as bursts of reporting followed the major demonstrations staged by women in Tehran between March 8 and March 13.”10 In major newspapers across the country. the “hysteria of the revolution”. the Washington Post. American journalists also explicitly used the rhetorical trope of the veil to frame their reporting on the events. a monarch who commanded more tanks than the British Army. a symbol of modesty and a station inferior to men. Jack Smith. more helicopters than the United States First Calvary in Vietnam. FEMINISTS. “Iran’s simmering post-revolutionary tensions. A handful of papers such as the San Francisco Chronicle. 2013 . put it. NBC news anchor David Brinkley’s introductory remarks for the network’s March 8 report typified the standard orientalist assumptions that characterized the coverage early on: The chador is the traditional veil and cloak worn by women in conservative Moslem countries. modernizing shah and “under the sway” of a religious madman. In Iran. (Apple 1979. TERROR 119 out of the mists of the 13th century? How could the Shah. On some days it was the lead story. the story broke more gradually. as ABC’s Tehran correspondent. at least the women who work for the government. were the manifestation of.” mostly with hair uncovered and wearing Western-style clothing. several thousand of them went to the prime minister’s office to protest. the whole thing must seem mad. italics added) Such sentiments preempted and thus framed the coverage of the women’s movement from the very start: a notion that Iran had fallen from the hands of the enlightened. Powers echoed the emphasis on the chador when he characterized the situation in Iran as Downloaded from ann. to get back into it. the Ayatollah Khomeini has ordered. 19. Today.9 while the procession of protesting women marching in the day’s heavy snows for “women’s rights” and “freedom. Los Angeles Times reporter Charles T. In addition to the barrage of footage of women in chadors in every report. and that the protesting women were the first in the nation to “come to their senses” about what was going on.CHADORS. Those accustomed to Western clothes don’t want to. the three major news networks—CBS.11 Both the TV and print coverage early in the week were quick to focus on the chador as their central image.12 This equation between the veil and “a station inferior to men” was apparent in the print media’s coverage as well. On television screens across the nation. be pressured so neatly out of power? To many Americans and Europeans. ABC. and the Los Angeles Times ran lead stories on the protests on March 9. These narratives detailing the ayatollah’s “madness” and demonstrating how enlightened Iranian women were “coming to their senses” became quickly apparent when the story of the Iranian women’s protests broke on American television the evening of March 8. while the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune reserved the bulk of their coverage for their March 11 Sunday editions. and NBC—displayed images of hordes of chador-clad women and a grave-faced Khomeini to at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3.sagepub. on others. in the words of CBS reporter Mike Lee.

The Chicago Tribune spoke of “a conceptual gap” between Khomeini’s followers and the female protestors. and that these customs were the fundamental reasons for the general and comprehensive backwardness of Islamic societies” (Ahmed 1992. Orientalist discourse that used the issue of the veil to paint a firm dividing line between Khomeini’s “Islam” and “modernity” flowed readily and easily throughout all of the media’s coverage. as the moral and political power in Iran.” asserting that the revolution had occurred due to the shah’s efforts to “bring his country too rapidly into the twentieth century” and arguing that the ayatollah “had better yield women the equality they are winning almost everywhere else in the modern world” (San Francisco Chronicle 1979a). After the very first day of the protests. “a shapeless. “skirts and jeans” (Ibrahim 1979). “is whether an Islamic revolution means a step backwards in time” (Powers 1979). concluded reporter James Yuenger. a “full-length cloak” (Randal 1979c). the main idea of which was that “Islam was innately and immutably oppressive to women. the immediate public fascination with the chador and the issue of veiling and the media’s reliance on orientalist tropes was to be expected. that the veil and segregation epitomized that oppression. In hindsight. full-length Moslem veil” (Chicago Tribune Wire Service 1979b). a gap that “seems unbridgeable” because. Every article provided a definition of the chador—“a black wraparound garment” (Powers 1979). The discourse of the veil had long been an expression of the West’s orientalization of Islam. the San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial characterizing Khomeini as gripped by “righteousness” and “religious fervor. “the head-to-toe veil orthodox Islamic custom dictates” (San Francisco Chronicle 1979b). 152). especially on the op-ed pages of papers across the country. A San Francisco Sunday Examiner (1979) piece on March 11 called the protests “an unveiled threat” to Khomeini. The aforementioned piece by Charles Powers in the Los Angeles Times terming the events a “battle of the veil” characterized the conflict this way: “The basic question” wrote at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. the colonial feminist ideology of those such as Lord Cromer and the Victorian male establishment who had Downloaded from ann.120 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY one in which “the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. 2013 . “Veiled Warning: Modern Iran Women Cool to Holy Edicts” (Powers 1979) read the headline on Powers’s Los Angeles Times piece.” while headline after headline employed the veil as its central trope.sagepub. it made sense that it would also absorb the imperial discursive legacies that had undergirded the colonial principles of its European predecessors in regards to Islam and the Middle East—namely. and “blue jeans and jackets” (Randal 1979c). “the traditional head-to-toe covering of Moslem women” (Jaynes 1979a)—and often offered stark orientalist oppositions between “the medieval principles of old Islam” (San Francisco Chronicle 1979a) and the modern female protestors dressed in “tight jeans or Western dresses” (San Francisco Chronicle 1979b). while the New York Times Sunday magazine ran a feature titled “Iran’s ‘New Women’ Rebel at Returning to the Veil” (Ibrahim 1979). “it spans centuries” (Yuenger 1979). The media’s coverage demonstrated that standard orientalist discourse of the veil as a signifier of Islam’s oppression of women would be a primary logic through which Americans came to understand the events in Iran. has embarked on the battle of the veil. As post–World War II America assumed the helm of Western global power.

” Westerneducated. These were. as one might say the Bush administration did after 9/11.” In piece after piece in the print media. it is first important to note that the central figures in the saga of Khomeini versus the women of Iran were. As such. involved in an active colonizing mission. beyond the continuous spotlight on the chador. how every march that was staged “took place in defiance of [Khomeini’s] government” (Randal 1979a). ABC illustrated this dynamic on the opening night of its coverage by showing the image of a lone. women the media consistently portrayed as wearing jeans and skirts. how the “defiant. Television coverage offered Downloaded from ann. ideologically. demanding “liberation.S. most significantly. terms. as nineteenth-century Great Britain was. and culturally—was vastly different and reflected a very different construction of “empire” than that of its predecessors.S. markets (all of which were central factors in President Jimmy Carter’s attempts to broker the Egypt-Israel treaty) might constitute the beginnings of the current U.Israel alliance. and fur-collared coats. 2013 . FEMINISTS.S. and ideas employed by Lord Cromer and his associates. gesticulating Iranian men. bareheaded woman arguing passionately while surrounded by a group of angry. while the American discourse of the veil that occurred around the women’s protests in Iran certainly mimicked many of the discursive legacies of British colonial feminism. The images that emerged from the protests generally depicted the women of Iran with their hair uncovered and wearing stylish Western attire. To comprehend the imperial locale from which this neo-orientalist discourse of the veil emerged. in fact.sagepub. such as Jackie O–style sunglasses. TV and print reports described in detail ferocious standoffs women encountered with male religious fanatics and Khomeini supporters. fist-waving women threatened further demonstrations” (San Francisco Sunday Examiner 1979). and. how “thousands of Iranian women [were] defiantly marching on Prime Minister Mehdi Barzagan’s office”. reporters spoke of how “thousands of women in Iran marched in Tehran in defiance of the veil” (San Francisco Chronicle 1979a).CHADORS. Yet in March 1979. the “modern. reports showed women engaged in passionate debates with men on the streets of Tehran and pumping their fists in the air. and undoubtedly utilized much of the same orientalist lexicon of phrases. On television. “and how the women were all “dressed defiantly in anything they wanted to wear” (Los Angeles Times 1979b). In fact. acting unambiguously “defiant” in the face of Khomeini’s edicts and Islam’s religious strictures. TERROR 121 espoused the language of feminism to promote British expansionism in Egypt— utilizing the same discursive tactics to initiate their own colonizing mission in the region. as mentioned at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. the nation was not. for all intents and purposes. flared jeans. holding hands with their boyfriends. the U. neo-imperialist occupation of the Middle East. and unveiled women of Iran. demonstrated through pictures of “fanatic” mobs of screaming. and a general desire to expand U. the context within which it was deployed—historically. the most frequently featured item in all the week’s coverage was the “defiance” of the female protestors. while one could make the case that oil politics. snarling Iranian men seemingly surrounding the protesting women at every turn—for example.13 while television images emphasized that the women were under constant threat.

 . Khomeini had turned “against women” and was now “a dictator” and “a fanatic. lingering shot of a heavily made up blond female protestor whose eye shadow. A cover story for the New York Times Sunday magazine on the issue of women and Islam in Iran featured as its central image a photograph of a woman named Susan Kamalieh. and unmistakably “defiant” second-wave feminists currently involved in their own “battle of the sexes”—for example. jeans. However. on the March 12 NBC News broadcast.” often “slip[ping] one bare foot out of a sandal and scratch[ing] the back of one calf with her toes.122 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY sound bites of young Iranian women telling the camera in flawless English that they were marching for “freedom”14 and “liberation”15 and saying that since the end of the revolution. and painted “in a pair of sandals. and feathered hair almost rendered her an Iranian version of a Charlie’s Angel. . reporter Youssef Ibrahim (1979) quoted an unnamed Iranian female technician at the protests expressing her frustration at the constant comparisons the “religious fanatics” were making between the female protestors and women in the United States: “They are calling us American dolls because we don’t want to wear the chador. those white. lived with her boyfriend. the Iranian women featured in the TV coverage and newspaper photos filling the streets of Tehran could almost be mistaken for those American women who had marched in equality drives and “Women Power” protests throughout the earlier part of the decade—protests that had fueled a “revolution in the status of women” (as a New York Times [1970] editorial called it) Downloaded from ann.” The women were also often shown with their fists raised in the air—reminiscent of the salute that had become the symbol of the Black Power movement in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They say our moral character is flawed because we wear Western clothes. Gloria Steinem. In fact. the protesting women of Iran looked. middle-class. In fact.sagepub.” Liberal Western morals and “feminist” values like Kamalieh’s figured prominently in most American media accounts—in another New York Times article. one of American television’s most popular shows at the time. drank beer with her friends. straight-haired Iranian women featured in American television news reports and print media looked far more phenotypically white. according to reporter Gregory Jaynes (1979b). educated. thought. the segment on Iran featured a long. as had women featured in popular depictions of postrevolutionary women in Algeria in 1962 (who had also employed the veil as a symbol of opposition to French colonialism and struggled with a return to “traditional” Islamic values and gender roles following their revolution). . glossed lips. a sandy-haired “liberal” Iranian female painter who. Betty Friedan. nor did they even look particularly Arab or Middle Eastern. For example. and a denim shirt. the female protestors featured in the American media’s images were definitely not black. many of the fair-skinned. or more recent images of women in Iraq and Afghanistan in our contemporary at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. 2013 . and Kate Millett—who had spearheaded the feminist movement and sexual revolution in the United States throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s. and acted a great deal like American women circa 1979— in particular. Doesn’t [the ayatollah] know that his Islamic women can also fool around under the chador?” Thus. it seemed that in the eyes of the American media. loved skiing.

Khomeini” (San Francisco Sunday Examiner 1979). no discrimination in political. antagonisms. Tabari 1980. inherently “antifeminist. as the press uniformly did in March 1979. but also a way of asserting nationalist pride in the face of fundamentalist Islam. and certainly represented legitimate demands in the face of Khomeini’s edicts. hunger.” In this way. but in a new binary of “Islam” versus “feminism” in which the two concepts became diametrically opposed. As such. . However.” or “male chauvinist pigs. and lack of opportunity) (Moallem 2005. and goals that had characterized the women’s liberation movement in the United States just a few years earlier. became not only a means of supporting “feminist” ideals in general. the American media represented the Iranian women’s movement by explicitly rehashing the terms. and female autonomy)—save for the occasional woman in a chador or bearded mullah at the edges of each image’s at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3..” reported the Washington Post (Randal 1979b). the fact that in 1979. While all of these demands undoubtedly did reflect the true desires of many of the Iranian female protestors. 1986).CHADORS. divorce. abortion rights. an equivalence that would become increasingly deployed in the years to come. social and economic rights. few news reports discussed how the lives of the vast majority of Iranian women who lived outside the urban centers—mostly poor. 2013 . while all who opposed the protests or supported Khomeini’s views were. as well as rights of “education. but sexism and male dominance as sanctioned by fundamentalist Islam. and then by implicitly iterating the widespread acceptance of the ideology of equal rights feminism as an accepted part of “our” nationalist discourse.” “antiwoman. women were marching “to protest the increasingly antifeminist overtones of Iran’s fundamentalist Moslem revolution” (Randal 1979c) and mounting “a growing feminist revolt [as] a direct challenge to . the postrevolutionary struggles of the women of Tehran were cast not only in the binaries of East versus West and Islam versus modernity. the “enemy” was not only the structures of sexism and male dominance American women had rallied against.” reported the New York Times (Jaynes 1979a). in this case. and employment. In other words.e. abortion. and a guarantee of full security for women’s legal rights and liberties. whether they knew it or not. supporting the “feminism” of the women of Iran. child-care. working-class peasant women who worked in the fields and rural industries—were still plagued by the same issues they had struggled with before the revolution (i. the idea of Downloaded from ann. . poverty. portraying the protesting women of Iran as the international doppelgangers of “liberated” American women. FEMINISTS.sagepub. Demands for “equal rights” were listed in almost every news report as the central goal of the women of Iran—Iranian women were repeatedly reported as wanting the same things as women in the West: “equal civil rights with men. Kate Millett versus the Ayatollah Khomeini Such discursive equations between “feminism” and “nation” were enabled by the historical moment at hand—in particular. TERROR 123 by advancing the tenets of second-wave “equal rights” feminism (gender equality in all spheres.

and two major cities—San Francisco and Chicago— were headed by women (Dianne Feinstein and Jane Byrne. detention.” if not in actual practice. and labeling Freudian psychology as a counterrevolutionary force infused with “male Downloaded from ann. This widespread appeal of popular feminism spurred a great deal of public interest in radical feminist activist and author Kate Millett’s journey to Iran. In the cultural arena. decrying the traditional nuclear family as “patriarchy’s chief institution” (Prial 1970). the success of films with decidedly “feminist” storylines. Millett made headlines again a few days later when news outlets learned of the Iranian government’s plans to expel the feminist from Iran. twenty thousand delegates had gathered in Houston. in 1977. and her general portrayal in the mainstream media was that of an aggressive renegade who had positioned herself as “a high priestess of the current feminist wave” (Prial 1970) by advocating for the complete abolition of sexual difference. in particular in the print media. 2013 . respectively). as well as how the public was hungry to see portrayals of how “feminism” was reshaping the contours of American lives. Kramer (1979) and Norma Rae (1979) and the following year’s Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) and 9 to 5 (1980). which ordered the establishment of a National Advisory Committee for Women. Texas. President Carter had issued Executive Order 12050. a statement that was roundly repeated in the U. for the first federally financed conference on women’s rights. the American feminist quickly became a focal point for the American media after reportedly commenting that the Ayatollah Khomeini was a “male chauvinist pig” on March 11. a story that comprised a significant portion of the week’s news coverage of the women’s protests. and abortion rights had moved out of the realm of the “radical” and into the space of national “common sense. press on March 12. a piece in the New York Times dubbed her the “Karl Marx of New Feminism” (Bender 1970). Millett. banned employment discrimination against pregnant women). while Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (which.sagepub. and in early 1979.17 Prior to her Iran coverage. reflected the ways in which notions of shifting gender roles and female empowerment—as well as the anxieties surrounding them—were at the forefront of popular national consciousness. the author of Sexual Politics. Millett’s profile in the press had been decidedly unflattering.16 had long been involved with the Committee for Artistic and Intellectual Freedom in Iran (CAIFI). While Millett’s initial arrival in Iran in early March did not make the news. For example. and subsequent ejection from Tehran. In 1978. an Americanbased anti-shah organization. as its name suggests. she was invited by a group of Iranian feminists to speak in Tehran for the events of International Women’s Day. Following the publication of Sexual Politics. such as Kramer vs. then at least through mainstream cultural rhetoric and the formal language of the state. and women’s studies departments were being established across the country. the 1970 text often regarded as the first and most prominent manifesto of the American women’s liberation movement.124 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY feminism was enjoying a moment of widespread public acceptance in the United States in which issues of gender equality at work and at home. sexual autonomy and freedom. after which the press closely followed the events of Millett’s arrest.S. at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3.

FEMINISTS. we should avoid banal phrases” (Reuters 1979).CHADORS.sagepub. Millett had replied that although “it would be germane . although in reality. she was often described as a courageous patriot—a far cry from the portrayal of almost a decade prior when she had been compared to Marx and Mao. . save for a few accounts that did so to demonstrate Iranian and/or Muslim women’s inability to comprehend the benefits of Western feminism. . We can talk for us. And. . edition. as one article described Millett. journalists delighted in Millett’s characterization of the Ayatollah Khomeini as a “male chauvinist pig. It included a quote from George Stade. our own demands. Time magazine featured Millett on its cover. Millett’s full comment had actually discouraged use of the term. (Kifner 1979) Yet the reporting of such sentiments was rare. Yet as already discussed. 1970.” citing Millett’s words in their headlines (e.S. Millett was described as a typically “unfeminine” feminist. it would be a simple idiot way of describing him” (Randal 1979b). .” Portrayals like these reflected early national attitudes toward and opinions of the women’s liberation movement as a radical fringe group of man-hating women who had traded their “femininity” for. in 1979 such views appeared to have evolved since the start of the at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. a woman who swore “like a gunnery sergeant” and worked as a sculptor in a Bowery loft in New York (Prial 1970). “when we are dealing with something as serious as this. when people’s lives are at stake. 2013 . “U.g. For example. a “casual dashiki-workpants-sandals lifestyle” (Time 1970b). . TERROR 125 supremacist bias” (Bender 1970). The lack of context in reporting Millett’s comment demonstrated the press’s desire to depict the events of the women’s protests in distinctly American terms. We have our own tongues. I do not know what she is doing here. Asked by a reporter at a press conference she organized to introduce her Iranian feminist colleagues whether she thought the phrase could be applied to Khomeini. As one Iranian woman commented. Calling her “one of the few Americans daring to speak up publicly in what has become an extremely anti-American revolution” (Reuters 1979). the cover story called her the “Mao-Tse Tung of Women’s Liberation” who had come along to take on the role of “ideologue to provide chapter and verse for [second-wave feminism’s] assault on patriarchy” and whose 1970s text had supplied a “coherent theory to buttress [feminism’s] intuitive passions” (Time 1970a). . She does not know us. a professor at Columbia. Feminist Calls Khomeini ‘Chauvinist’”) and on air (David Brinkley of NBC and Walter Cronkite of CBS reported on Millett’s comment in their broadcasts on March 12 and March 15. She and no one else who is not Iranian can say anything that we should listen to about Iranian women. who said that reading Millett’s work was “like sitting with your testicles in a nutcracker. she continued. In its August 31. .. downplaying the fact that many left-leaning liberal women of Iran were actually wary of Millett’s presence in the region. respectively). I think [Millett] has no right to talk for Persian women. . the Washington Post reported on March 12 that at the press conference in which Millett made the comment Downloaded from ann. In addition. a shift that was apparent in the press’s later assessment of Millett. From the beginning of the coverage of Millett’s journey to Iran.

where she discussed the recent report that Iranian Deputy Premier Abbas Amir had said she would be expelled from the country for “provocations against the revolution. in the space of a week. “xenophobic postrevolutionary times.” “Iran Expulsion Terrifying. the Post explained. the Chicago Tribune Wire Service (1979a) reported that Millett told ABC News that she was “absolutely terrified” and could “not understand why I have been treated like this. the American press transformed Kate Millett from a brash. on March 18.” read the headline on the second page of the Los Angeles Times on March 19. convention of 1848. Three weeks after her expulsion.sagepub. “talking out problems—and the techniques of consciousness-raising—have not caught on in Iran” (Randal 1979b). during which she had been deported from Tehran to Paris. New York. her “hands . at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. in an item that quoted Millett as telling the Associated Press that she “had never been so terrified in my life. employment in the professions—all the things we have fought for since the commencement of the women’s rights movement in 1847—are in great jeopardy in this society” (Randal 1979b. being thrilled by the insurrection and the hopes of a democracy in Iran.” not the fact that Millett seemed to continually speak of the goals of Iranian women as nothing more than an offshoot of the American women’s movement. where she had been scheduled to hold a press conference. . 1979. when Millett was detained by the Iranian government and ordered out of Iran. at one point saying at a press conference. The women had declined. the first women’s rights convention in the United States. I’m still in a kind of state of astonishment” (Rivera 1979).” and that the experiences of the last 24 hours.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Millett appeared flustered and tense throughout her interviews. telling her that she did “not have the right to decide what is happening in Iran. Says Kate Millett.126 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY about Khomeini’s chauvinism. abortion. 2013 . . she had magnanimously invited those women who had been heckling her to join her on the podium. Millett told Los Angeles Times reporter Nancy Rivera that she was still bewildered: “I never did anything illegal or even impolite. divorce.” Three days later. On March 15. outspoken feminist who had come to Iran to defend the nation’s women from Khomeini into a terrified and defeated victim of fundamentalist Downloaded from ann. Millett’s citation of 1847 as the beginning of the women’s rights movement was a reference to the actions that led up to the Seneca Falls. I came in friendship to help my sisters. “had made her understand the true meaning of human rights” (Pabst 1979). Millett was refused entry to the Intercontinental Hotel in Tehran. . After being formally asked to leave by the hotel’s manager. Millett decided to hold the conference instead on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. because. The hostility toward Millett’s opinions was contextualized within the mood of anti-American. child-care. . “Our rights of education. and thus inadvertently ignored and dismissed any feminist movements that might exist beyond a Western/American historical paradigm. Of course. I had gone there in peace and in the best will in the world. shaking in nervous reaction to the confrontation in the lobby” she had just had with the Intercontinental’s manager (Los Angeles Times 1979a). The paper then went on to report that a single Iranian woman “heckled” Millett as she spoke. italics added). .

the coverage seemed to at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. in the 1960s and 1970s. from here on out. a subjectivity that had become part and parcel of “our” national identity and came to characterize the nation’s direct opposition to fundamentalist Islam. an ideology that could make even an iconoclast like Kate Millett shudder in its wake. Like Betty Mahmoody. with the best of intentions.” and “feminism” would receive in the Islamic Middle East. exotic zealots with mystical motivations” (Spiegel 1979).20 As discussions of feminism far overshadowed any discussion of Islam’s significance in the context of American racial politics. Muhammad Ali. and black nationalist radicalism (McAlister 2001). captured. Millett’s story was a harbinger of the captivity narrative of the hostage crisis that would come to grip the nation at the close of the year: that of an American caught. “Islam” functioned as a significant cultural trope for black American communities. and ultimately rejected Millett and her feminist ideals.sagepub. anticolonialism. held. however. and terrorized by radical Islam. Islam had long held very different meanings. as Melani McAlister has argued. Except in this case.” “equality. despite the intense media attention on a religion that had just one decade earlier been primarily known in the United States as that of black American Muslim figures such as Malcolm X. these enemies of Western/American modernity and freedom terrorized. once considered by white Americans as “the hate that hate produced. and Elijah Muhammad—perhaps the only “Muslims” the American public had ever known before 1979. Indeed. Millett was a white American woman who seemed to have begun her affair with Iran and Islam. but a white American “feminist” subjecthood. like the Soviet Union.18 “The Beginning of a New Unity” Race was rarely mentioned in the week’s coverage. and provided ample justification that “Islam” should.”19 a group one judge who had presided over a 1965 case involving black Muslims called “the personification of Lucifer—dangerous. the only brand of “militant Islam” most Americans had heard before that of the Ayatollah Khomeini was that practiced by the Nation of Islam. TERROR 127 Islam. FEMINISTS. irrevocably jettisoned from the domestic terrains of the nation’s racial politics into the realm of foreign Downloaded from ann. a symbol of antiracism. 2013 . Such was the power and barbarity of Khomeini’s brand of Islam. only to be thwarted by malicious foes gripped by fundamentalist ideology and religious fervor who were unable to stomach her “modern” ideas about women’s rights and international feminist solidarity. what had happened to Kate Millett appeared a clear indication of the type of treatment “American” values such as “democracy. the true prisoner was not Millett. Islam became quickly and effectively de-linked from blackness in national public discourse. this time in the form of her involvement with CAIFI. In a sense. be viewed as a dangerous and formidable enemy of the United States. As Americans looked on at the events of that week. For most black Americans. Instead. confused and trembling over how her good intentions toward the people of the region could have been so misconstrued.CHADORS.

reflecting all that America was against and/or was not. (Chicago Tribune 1979. Bakke anti–affirmative action case and what would soon reveal itself to be a steady rollback of the civil rights gains of the 1960s. class. Iranian women have no choice but to make it abundantly clear they will not surrender their hard-won rights and freedoms in the name of religion or revolution and dewesternization. black women and other women of color had been defining and Downloaded from ann. such as a Chicago Tribune editorial published after the end of the protests. and publications themselves. in the eyes of the Tribune’s editorial staff.21 A year after the Regents of the University of California v. classism. I want to consider how the Iranian women’s protests were constructed in Ms. “we” Americans could move on to the project of sympathizing with and supporting the women of Tehran.sagepub. the only discussion of race that appeared in the coverage of the protests was through the persistent language of “equal rights” that pervaded the news of the women’s struggles. in particular the way in which racism no longer seemed a viable issue of national concern.22 Indeed. and anticolonial thought fell (perhaps forever) out of the national eye. black Americans were no longer “being forbidden to participate” in all aspects of American civic life. and as black militancy and nationalism. this elision of the raced history of Islam in the United States coalesced with changing attitudes toward race. and postcolonial feminists critiquing the racism. italics added) Thus. but by prominent feminist activists. the struggle for African American civil rights was a battle that had already been won. Instead. such as the preeminent publication of the American feminist movement. They deserve the sympathy and support of all who value human rights—and who would be protesting in their behalf if they were blacks being forbidden to participate in major areas of national life. organizations. Since the early 1970s. Thus. radicalism. and thus. 2013 .128 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY policy. and sexuality that had been spurred on by the writings. No longer would mentions of the religion elicit images of black men in bow ties or discussions of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ms. third-world. and in relation to the racialized contexts in which discussions of feminist activism were taking place at the time. middle-class feminism untouched by the ferocious internecine debates about issues of race. magazine. and direct challenges of African American.” a white. it seemed that “Islam” in national public discourse would be forever transformed into an orientalized trope. which concluded. Yet such a construction was not advanced only by the mainstream news media. activism. and homophobia of mainstream second-wave white feminism at the time. This discursive transfer of Islam’s significance from the realm of black domestic politics onto the global stage was further buffered by the fact that the feminism deployed by the national media during its coverage of the women’s protests in Iran was also conspicuously “un-raced. antiracism. black and third-world feminists had become increasingly vocal in their criticisms of the mainstream—and overwhelmingly middle-class and white—feminist leadership and their political agenda. theory. By the close of the at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3.

Downloaded from ann. at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. Yet the publication of Wallace’s text was accompanied by no other black feminist perspectives.” and summed up the text as “nothing more nor less than a divisive. the list of black women’s organizations. FEMINISTS. Calling it “the book that will shape the 1980s. as Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thornton Dill have written. such as that of poet June Jordan. Feminists of color like those of the Combahee River Collective challenged. sexual. In her review. The February Ms. and class oppression” and operated on the central principle that “the major systems of oppression are interlocking”—was “the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women face” (Combahee River Collective 1978). 2013 . at the start of 1979. fractious tract devoid of hope or dream” (Jordan 1979). 3). The extended excerpt.” the magazine ran an eight-page excerpt accompanied by a list of black women’s groups in the United States. TERROR 129 developing their own definitions of feminist principles. the young black American woman writer who had just published Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. 3). Jordan wrote.” in which they declared that while black feminist organizing and principles had certainly developed in relation to the second wave of the women’s movement. 321). and stated on its table of contents page that this issue of the magazine would “inaugurate a series of special reports by and about black feminists that will feature personal voices and contemporary perspectives on the sexual politics of black womanhood” (Ms. The publication opened the year with a full-page photo on the front page of its January issue featuring Michelle Wallace.23 The effects of such internal debates could certainly be seen playing themselves out on the pages of Ms. In 1977. Accompanying Wallace’s excerpt was another blurb from the editors stressing that the magazine’s focus on black women would continue: “Next month. to present itself as a publication that was sensitive to issues of race. principles that simultaneously addressed the sexism of their own ethnic and racial communities alongside the racism and elitism of mainstream white feminism. heterosexual. “black feminism”—whose practitioners were “actively committed to struggling against racial. 1979. “the hegemony of feminisms constructed primarily around the lives of white middle-class women. and the editors’ repeated declarations of commitment to the perspectives of black women revealed Ms. in 1979. “You do have to concede champion qualities to Miss Wallace’s capacity for unsubstantiated. who later that year published a scathing critique of Wallace’s text in the New York Times Book Review that ultimately accused Wallace’s text of playing into the hands of the white feminist establishment.’s pointed desire.sagepub.” taking issue primarily with unitary theories of gender that did not and could not acknowledge women’s existences “not merely as gendered subjects but as women whose lives are affected by our location in multiple hierarchies” (Zinn and Dill 1996.” the editors wrote. the controversial and now well-known text addressing the issues of black male sexism within Black Power movements and cultural constructions of black women. a group of American black feminists calling themselves the Combahee River Collective released their landmark “Black Feminist Statement.—and other issues to come—will include additional personal voices and contemporary perspectives on the sexual politics of black womanhood” (Ms. historical pronouncement. “the special report by and about black feminists continues. 1979.CHADORS.

when the magazine ran four short pieces by writers Alice Walker and Audre Lorde and activists Sandra Flowers and Christine Bond titled “Other at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. published in the September issue (Morrison 1979). Without apology or explanation. 52–56) as the premier agents of black women’s oppression—featuring no black feminist critiques that addressed the continuing legacies of anti-black racism or white supremacy in the United States or acknowledged the existence of racism within the mainstream women’s movement itself or attempted to link the feminist cause with any type of antiracist goals.” Citing a string of recent events such as the Bakke decision and the passage of California’s Proposition 13. “American mass media rolled the camera away from black life and the quantity of print on the subject became too small to read.130 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY Palpable throughout the review. Flowers.sagepub. Jordan asserted that in 1979. This desire to assert sisterhood without simultaneous self-reflection became even more clear in the magazine’s February issue. I wonder. 2013 . and for the remainder of the year. Ms. no pieces with anything to do with race ran in the March 1979 issue. women’s financial Downloaded from ann.’s desire to declare itself in solidarity with black women without engaging in any sort of sustained critique of white women’s racism. balancing a career and motherhood. perhaps even more so than her frustration with the text. ignorance in the black community. (Jordan 1979) While Jordan’s was only one opinion among many. to sweep the issue of anti-black racism under the nation’s rug: Why did Michelle Wallace write this book? And. indeed. more than ever. the magazine chose to turn its eye toward less contentious issues. this series was suddenly and unceremoniously dropped. and Lorde. one might conclude that the magazine’s singular focus on Wallace’s text seemed to expose Ms.” While all four of these featured authors were known as outspoken critics of white racism—and. Bond. and to the other ones who watch us so uneasily? . Jordan stopped just short of implying that the text’s popularity was due mainly to the desire of white feminists. was Jordan’s anger with the way Black Macho had been held up by the white American feminist establishment as a groundbreaking text in a time when. and homophobia in the black community (Walker. offered no more articles on “the sexual politics of black womanhood. “collective affirmation [and] political resistance” was needed from the black American community to counter the “swift and radical reversion to national policies of systematic exclusion and disablement of black life” that had taken place in the United States throughout the 1970s (Jordan 1979). Furthermore. . Instead. At review’s close. following the February issue. . as she wrote at the very start of her review. the racism of white second-wave feminists—the published pieces took to task only sexism in the black community. in particular cases.” unless one counted an essay on raising an only child penned by Walker for the August 1979 issue (Walker 1979) or an excerpt from Toni Morrison’s 1979 commencement speech at Barnard College. such as women in the workplace. It is something to think about. Other Moods” in what it now called its “Continuing Series on the Sexual Politics of Black Womanhood. how does it happen that this book has been published—this book and not another that would summarily describe black people to ourselves. and all white Americans.

readers of the despotism of the shah. noting from the start of the piece that “feminism” in Iran was not a Western import. and his subsequent conservatism and calls for women to return to the veil. the shah’s secret police. In addition. written by longtime feminist and political writer Mim Kelber. and the numerous rapes of Iranian women suffered at the hands of SAVAK.sagepub. little to none of the language of globalism and/or transnationalism that permeates discussion of feminism today made its way into the pages of Ms. the torture and persecution of political prisoners under his rule. “Was the revolution a beginning of Women of the World United?” (Kelber 1979. “Five Days in March” However. middle-class women and explored how such American women could live their lives guided by feminist ideals. Kelber generally offered a rich and complex portrait of the Iranian women’s movement.g. the majority of the stories published for the rest of the year addressed the grievances of white. focusing on feminism in American contexts and rarely linking the predicament of women in the United States with that of other women around the globe.. Patty at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. Barbara Walters. Kelber also attempted to avoid the simplistic characterizations that much of the mainstream press had engaged in that rendered the shah as modern and pro-woman and the ayatollah as backward and sexist. . Thus. It then posed another question to its intended audience of American feminists: “Do we know . the labor movement. On the cover of Ms.. 90). Jacqueline Onassis. fashion. opened with the question. the American CIA’s involvement in the coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and installed the shah in 1953. and feminist activists existed as early as the 19th century in Iran” (Kelber 1979. women’s colleges. the deposal of the shah.g.S. and Jane Fonda). and women’s art collectives). 96). Downloaded from ann.-based organizations and institutions (e. and analysis of the feminist movement was grounded in discussion of various U. and female health. . FEMINISTS. that Iranian feminists need our support—and vice versa?” The article went on to provide a summary of the events leading up to the protests of International Women’s Day on March 8. functioned in a decidedly “domestic” framework.’s June 1979 issue—beneath story titles such as “How to Find a Feminist Therapist” and “Dolly Parton Has the Last Laugh”—ran the headline “Iran: The Women’s Revolution Goes On. the one “international” story that did find its way into the publication that year concerned the women’s movement in Tehran.CHADORS. With titles such as “How to Get Dressed and Still Be Yourself” (Thurman 1979) and “Is Success Dangerous to Your Health?” (Ehrenreich 1979). informing Ms. circa 1979. feminism seemed a resolutely American affair. TERROR 131 independence. She stressed that women had voluntarily taken on the chador during the revolution and did not overemphasize or fetishize the significance of the veil. To her credit.” The accompanying piece. Khomeini’s rise to power. 2013 . most of these subsequent stories in Ms. Profiles and features were of American women (e. 1979—the participation of Iranian women in the revolution. that “Persian queens ruled long before the Koran.

132 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY Two central points emerged from Kelber’s piece. Such a notion once again emphasized the fundamental opposition between “feminism” and “Islam. Thus. 2013 . (Kelber 1979. revealed the Downloaded from ann.” she concluded. Betty Friedan. however. actress Marlo Thomas. 90) At article’s close. London. when asked by a New York Times reporter why she had come to Iran. had arrived did press attention begin—and only then did police protection follow.” and implied that if tenets of second-wave equal rights feminism could flourish in this “Islam world”—in particular the Middle East where feminists like Millett had thought it “would be hardest to reach”—then that was certainly a sign that Western-style feminism certainly was ready to go global. Not until Kate Millett. and author Susan Brownmiller. and for international feminism. Furthermore. Millett’s unfettered enthusiasm in her characterization of Western feminist participation in Iranian women’s struggles as “inevitable” and the events in Tehran as “the eye of the storm.” alongside Kelber’s confident assessment that the struggles “can and must” signal the start of global feminist unity. The lesson was not lost: international attention could be helpful to the women’s struggle to keep the anti-Shah revolution at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. This is the eye of the storm right now. Women all over the world are looking here. organizers called the day’s events part of an “international feminist action” that coincided with demonstrations across America and in Paris. 1979—“the first large-scale show of solidarity with those agitating for women’s rights Iran”—featuring prominent feminist activists such as Gloria Steinem. Kelber offered a resounding yes to the question she had posed at the start of the article as to whether the Iranian women’s protests signaled the start of a new phase of the feminist movement. Bella Abzug. it is important to note that the “growing fundamentalism” within the “Islamic” world provided the necessary catalyst to spur on “the beginning” of this new international feminist unity. “for women all over the Islam [sic] world threatened by a growing religious fundamentalism. and wow. Statements such as these echoed sentiments expressed by Millett at the time of her visit to Tehran. at a New York demonstration staged in front of Rockefeller Center on March 15. the Islamic world. “For the women in Iran. Kelber wrote. In addition. that demonstrated how women’s actions were directly linked to the fates of American feminists: (1) Western/American feminist involvement with this issue was central to the success of Iranian women’s goals. It’s a whole corner. as well as their belief that these “five days in March” would bear a strong significance on the very future of Western feminism. Perspectives like these demonstrated the importance white Western/American feminists placed on their own participation in an “international” feminist struggle such as the one taking place in Iran. the five days in March can and must be the beginning of a new unity” (Kelber 1979. look at it go!” (Jaynes 1979a). and (2) the struggles of the women of Iran would ultimately be a boon for the feminist cause worldwide.sagepub. “I’m here because it’s inevitable. she replied. Pinpointing Kate Millett’s participation in the March 8 protests as a pivotal moment. and Rome (Cummings 1979). the spot we thought it would be hardest to reach. 96). the guest speaker invited for March 8 by the Iranian feminists.

in many ways. 61). one that had begun with the establishment of “psychic turf” within the minds of privileged white women. Steinem’s description of the feminist movement’s desire for expansion and territory was fittingly imperial. 94) In other words. then in movement meetings and a woman’s culture that created more psychic territory. from the coming-toconsciousness experienced by many women in the early stages of the movement to the then-current popular support of almost every major feminist issue. italics added.” And while perhaps unintentional. into their own power. language. This desire to “spread” feminist ideology internationally was readily apparent in an essay by Ms. TERROR 133 sense of destiny many second-wave activists felt in regard to what was going on in Iran. As Combahee Collective head Barbara Smith pointed out in 1979. For while certain of feminism’s tenets were enjoying a moment of widespread acceptance in mainstream America in 1979. By article’s close. and the very conception of sexuality.sagepub. as “feminism” became more of a lifestyle and a way of thinking as opposed to an activist agenda—a development that would ultimately result in what Susan Faludi later famously named the “backlash” against feminism that took place in the ensuing Reagan years. in decline. a woman’s right to choose abortion. Steinem told a tale of women coming into their own sexuality. which was titled “The Decade of Women. and the question ‘would you work for a woman?’” (Steinem 1979. (Steinem 1979. Yet all of this energy and enthusiasm emanating from white middle-class American feminists in support of the women of Iran and against the fundamentalist Islam enemy contrasted with a pointed lack of energy and enthusiasm on the part of these same activists in regard to addressing issues of racism and elitism. from “the supposedly ‘easy’ ones like equal pay. and detailed how feminism had transformed every aspect of American life—from relationships and families to work and finance to at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. a portrayal that demonstrated how the movement wished to expand its borders beyond the domestic realm and claim more territory beyond national boundaries. and was now growing even more “across national and cultural boundaries.CHADORS. Steinem characterized the American second-wave feminist movement as an ever-expanding enterprise. magazine founder and original publisher Gloria Steinem in the magazine’s December 1979 issue. and equal access to education to the supposedly ‘controversial’ ones like the Equal Rights Amendment. 2013 .” Steinem’s piece detailed the ideological and cultural shifts the feminist movement had engendered among American women and within the nation throughout the 1970s. white feminists appeared “tired of hearing about racism” and.” Titled “The Way We Were—And Will Be. and finally across national and cultural boundaries. FEMINISTS. like so many post–civil rights era white Downloaded from ann. Steinem offered this synopsis of the decade in question: The ’70s were a decade in which women reached out to each other: first in consciousnessraising groups that allowed us to create a psychic turf (for women have not even a neighborhood of our own). The 1980s can build on these beginnings. women in political office. the organized feminist movement itself was. then increased through the conquering of more “psychic territory” throughout the West.

49).24 Throughout the 1980s. “The picture of a bicultural marriage under strain is instructive. few feminist critiques of the ayatollah’s edicts and fundamentalist Islam were combined with indictments of American involvement and oil politics in the Middle East—the central catalysts to the development of movements of religious fundamentalism. a cautionary tale of the dangers of cultural and religious mixing and the rampant misogyny of “fundamentalist Islam. and multicultural nation as a fundamental necessary counterpart to the decidedly unfree.” The reviews of the book were overwhelmingly favorable. In most cases. such a racial and gendered orientalization of Islam became central in enabling the Reagan administration’s initiation of Islamic Terror as the nation’s preeminent foe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. .sagepub. By constructing themselves against the enemy of fundamentalist Islam. terror.” The autobiography. In this way. 2013 . Betty’s descriptions of women’s oppression and Iranian Muslim male misogyny were Downloaded from ann. based on the seductive but often misleading assumption that culture can be acquired and discarded like an article of clothing” (Golden 1987). As a result.” wrote Maude McDaniel in the Washington Post (McDaniel 1987). the text’s description on the back cover of its 1991 edition reads. Simons has called “a schism in the sisterhood” (Simons 1979). feminist. turning away from the issue of what Margaret A. and antidemocratic ideology of Islamic Terror. Notes   1. To her horror. the national discourse on Islam. Smith 1980. and by insisting on a teleological discourse of progress in the movement in which they moved uncritically toward a “global feminist unity” premised on unitary and universalizing notions of second-wave ideology. and the “plight” of women within Islam that emerged in March 1979 left a lasting legacy in the national imaginary and commonsense understandings of “who we are” as a nation. while Marita Golden of the New York Times Book Review said that the text “can be read as a cautionary tale . from the “feminist” perspective. . and laid the discursive groundwork for the racialization of Islam that would occur in the post9/11 era. she found herself and her four-year-old daughter. . a flattering portrait of the nation once again emerged. a similar story of an American held captive in a Turkish prison). . Michigan housewife Betty Mahmoody accompanied her husband to his native Iran for a two-week vacation. “In August 1984. Their only hope for escape lay in a dangerous underground that would not take her child. virtual prisoners of a man rededicated to his Shiite Muslim faith. For those not familiar with Mahmoody’s book. one in line with the vision of a free and just America imagined by the mainstream press in its coverage of the Iranian women’s protests and the “blissful” America later imagined by Betty Mahmoody. had deemed themselves “not racist” because of how they felt they were “capable of being civil to black women . at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. white feminists at the close of the 1970s unwittingly allowed their cause to be subsequently aligned with the nationalist and racial orientalist rhetoric that would come to dominate the ensuing Reagan years and continue on into the post-9/11 era. is perhaps the most well-known American story of a woman suffering under Islamic Terror. Furthermore. in a land where women are near-slaves and Americans are despised. constructing the liberal vision of a free. written in collaboration with William Hoffer (who also cowrote Midnight Express.134 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY Americans. because I do not snarl and snap at black people” (B. Mahtob.

One consequence of that massive population loss was the increasing racial and social class homogenization of the city.   7. “committed his country to protect the vital routes of the Persian Gulf that carry more than half the oil used by Western countries.S. then–deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post published on February 1. In relation to the American occupation of Iraq. “There can be no doubt. the city has become a classic case of deindustrialization with a massive loss of manufacturing jobs.” In 1991. Over the next 40 years. . at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. in an editorial marking the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the New York Times. FEMINISTS. 110). “race-specific ideas about gender. Due to the almost unrelenting exodus of whites since the 1950s. historian Jeffrey Mirel writes. It can be argued that American unwillingness to accept the waning power of the shah lay in the monarch’s importance as a U. and races. Anne H. citizenship. Every aspect of female life is controlled or subject to ‘criticism. 2013 . as reported by Nicholas Gage in the New York Times on July 9. [Detroit’s] population continued the precipitous decline that had begun four decades earlier.   6. the city lost almost 47 percent of its population. and/or a symbol of hegemonic masculine dominance over women’s bodies. society to take account of this fact”—in other words. most of whom lived in racially-isolated neighborhoods. it has suffered from chronically high rates of unemployment. social development. named “respect for women” as a “nonnegotiable demand of human dignity” in the War on Terror and said “the oppression of women [is] everywhere and always wrong” (Bush 2002). Betteridge notes in an early account of the protests. Since the 1970s. As Minoo Moallem points out. it has since been translated into more than a dozen languages. 412). the book was made into a Hollywood feature film starring Sally Field. feminism’s roots in. citing the advancement of women’s rights in the “new Iraq” as proof of American progress in the region. U. registering just over 1 million inhabitants in the most recent census. “Wearing the veil represented a particular moral stance—morality defined positively by Islamic law or negatively by opposition to the immorality of the Shah’s regime and to the West in general” (Betteridge 1983. 2004. a project of securing “white women’s rights”—has often stripped mainstream white American feminist discourse of the nuance and insight necessary to understand that when one constantly focuses on the “oppression” of women of “other” cultures. nations. the shah.   3. it is generally at the expense of acknowledging and addressing the many layers of such “oppression” taking place at “home” (Newman 1999. and racial progress” and as a discourse “about the evolutionary advantages that accrued to white women because of their race. ethnicities. Former President George W. more than double the United States average” (Mirel 1998. by 1990 over three-quarters of Detroit’s inhabitants were African American.CHADORS.” wrote McDaniel. TERROR 135 immediately accepted as incontrovertible fact. . enjoying bestseller status all over the world. .’ from clothing to the amount of sugar in one’s tea. Furthermore. as Louise Newman has written. efforts were “helping give birth to freedom in a country that was abused for more than three decades by a regime of murderers and torturers” (Wolfowitz 2004).sagepub.” it also served to reinforce “a hegemonic masculinity and heteronormativity as central practices of citizenship” in Iran (Moallem 2005.9 million people. belonging. Bush. As late as 1992. “During the 1980s. a symbol that U.S. and a demand that power should be reconfigured in U. the United States sold more than $18 billion worth of arms to Iran and helped to organize and equip a vast state security structure that gave the shah absolute power.   5. unemployment in the city stood at over 15 percent. Detroit remained not only racially segregated but also overwhelmingly poor. while it would be a “mistake to read women’s acceptance of the fundamentalist encouragement to wear the black chador as a sign of either passivity or religiosity [for] women perceived it as rather a gendered invitation to political participation and as a sign of membership. and how such meanings circulate in shifting constellations of power determined by material circumstances that cannot be understood through the lenses of Western-based secular-liberal thought is a subject that has been taken up in recent texts such as Moallem’s and cultural anthropologist Saba Mahmood’s Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (2005). and complexity.   2. 130). In a 1998 essay. Not surprisingly. “that the condition of women [in Iran] is most unhappy.S. Between 1958 and 1978.S. The complex and multilayered meanings of the veil as a positive assertion of Islamic identity and cultural resistance and/or Muslim women’s religious piety. Mahmoody has reason to despise Iran. . Detroit had almost 1. . 1978. the adaptation of such a gendered trope as the veil as a symbol of resistance during the revolution was problematic in a number of ways. In return. For additional reading. the income from his arms purchases plus the Downloaded from ann. Of course. 183). see Sugrue (1998). At its peak in 1950. just prior to the first Gulf War. which examines the practices of the women’s piety movement in contemporary Cairo. . ally in the region.

a costume that had none of the power of an Arab robe” (Millett 1982. Homa Hoodfar writes that Sexual Politics indicated Millett’s “lack of commitment to and understanding of issues of race. Almost four months earlier. In passages such as these. March 8. reporting from the Middle East. NBC Nightly News. In a piece exploring Western perceptions of the Islamic veil. 1979.” as well as the entirety of the region. stood their ground and persisted with their protests.”  9. March 8. ABC. . oddly enough.136 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY American technology he buys to help develop his country return to the United States almost $2 annually for every $1 the United States spends on Iranian oil. 267). and fired rifles at the women. Kier was featured prominently in the press photo that accompanied the story of Millett’s ouster from Iran. . . “It is perfectly clear that what is going on in Iran has a direct effect on [the peace] talks and the ones Mr. 1979. Another fascinating aspect of the press coverage of Kate Millett that I do not have the space to discuss here is the portrayal of Millett’s relationship with her “partner. and often racist.sagepub. and the meaning of family” (Simons 1979. like death. Margaret Simons has criticized Millett’s comparison of slavery and racism to her analysis of sexual politics: “[Millett] both misrepresents the slavery experience and ignores the experiences of minority women in the analysis as well as masks the differences between the situations of white and minority women. a picture of her with Millett at Tehran’s airport as they waited for a plane to take them out of the country. which was eventually signed on March 26. Her theory relies on an ethnocentric view of women’s power. the account provides a clear idea of the orientalist. 49). in which she describes her first encounter with women in chador as “terrible. Going to Iran. Millett’s text has often been criticized for its studied ignorance of issues of race. like everything alien. making Egypt the first country in the Middle East to officially recognize Israel as a state. assumptions Millett held of Iran and Islam. . “Invariably. 17. 1979. Millett herself later catalogued her journey in her 1982 autobiography. 10. Both stories were presented as interconnected harbingers of the changing relations between the United States and the Middle East.” Called Millett’s “companion” throughout most of the press coverage. The San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle (1979) reported on “Moslem zealots enraged by the unveiled protestors”. 1979. March 8. 15. An aspect of the coverage that I am unable to explore in full detail at this time is the manner in which the story of the women’s protests was presented as an inseparable companion to the reporting on President Carter’s trip to Egypt to broker the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. Peter Jennings said at the beginning of ABC’s March 8 report. 13. while the Washington Post (Randal 1979a) described harassments from “nastier. brandished knives. as she called it. The revolution in Iran has shaken Egypt as well as Israel. March 11. of the character of sex roles. jeering. 147) continue. Millett was open about her homosexual relationship with Kier and had once lamented how the mainstream feminist movement had shunned her after discovering that she was. steadfast in their efforts to reject the chador. 391).com at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. who. “news accounts balanced discussion of the absence of even modest political freedom with a virtual litany of assertions about the shah’s social accomplishments or his general popularity. and taunting Moslem men boasting allegiance to Khomeini”. 1979.S. 12.”   8. [R]arely if ever has the American press accorded such consideration to rulers with a record like that of the shah. 16. Carter will hold in Jerusalem. March 8. including her detention in an Iranian prison. the New York Times had already reported that “the political turmoil in Iran” was “troubling officials [in the U. 2013 . Like black birds. it is important to strongly acknowledge how many Muslim feminists themselves felt about Millett’s visit to Tehran: that Millett’s journey was a gratuitous act of self-promotion that ultimately did nothing to aid the cause of Islamic feminism.” photographer Sophie Kier.” Dorman and Farhang (1987. ethnicity. 1979. 11. describing some of Millett’s first impressions of Tehran. This clip and all subsequent television news coverage were obtained through the Vanderbilt Television News Archive. . nondescript in their badly cut Western suits. a “queero. dangerous. Homa Downloaded from ann. And the men beside them too. Foreign.” 14. like fate. CBS. despite these threats. and class” (Hoodfar 1997. In addition. CBS Evening News. 18.] because [these officials] are beginning to see it as a symbol of a much wider fundamentalist counterrevolution that is influencing politics all the way from Lebanon through Syria and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan” (Reston 1978). unfriendly. in which she describes the events leading up to her trip to Tehran and her time there. and the Chicago Tribune Wire Service (1979b) spoke of mobs of “male revolutionaries [who] hurled stones and curses. ABC World News Tonight. .

For example. . New Haven.sagepub. In addition. Lincoln (1994). 2013 . In her book Epic Encounters (2001). TERROR 137 Hoodfar offers a succinct account of this perspective: “Given the atmosphere of anti-imperialism and anger toward the American government’s covert and overt policies in Iran and the Middle East. black American UN Ambassador Andrew Young praised Islam as “a vibrant cultural force in today’s world” and said that the Ayatollah Khomeini would certainly someday come to be regarded as “a saint. white American feminists took up the cause of Afghan Muslim women suffering under the rule of the Taliban en masse.CHADORS. If it had been all we had all talked about . Jackson (2005). CT: Yale University Press. and the perspectives of black American Muslim women—beginning to be broken. 267). For reading on the Nation of Islam and Islam’s resurgence and development in twentieth-century black America. a fundamental opposition to Islam. Downloaded from ann. while there was no active colonizing mission by the United States in the Middle East in 1979. Journalist Askia Muhammad wrote in an editorial in the Washington Post in August 1979 that black Americans themselves felt a growing sense of connection with Islam and the Middle East. 340–41). black women’s critiques of white feminists were often fierce. Leila. . while maintaining “a studied silence about the crucial role the United States had played in creating the miserable conditions under which Afghan women were living” (pp. deserve the sympathy and support of all who value human rights—and who would be protesting in their behalf if they were blacks being forbidden to participate in major areas of national life. of course. see Austin (1997). saying “Iranian women . while also. is not true. . and Turner (1997). and the clear desire to expand a universalizing feminist ideology beyond the nation’s borders—issues that all coalesced around interpretation of the women’s movement in Iran—engendered the roots of the American colonial feminism and feminism-as-imperialism that continues to constitute a large portion of the current discourses of Islamophobia. 23. 21. transnational affiliations between black Americans. As Charles Hirschkind and Saba Mahmood (2002) have pointed out. the only discussions of race that appeared in the coverage of the protests were in the persistent language of “equal rights” that pervaded the news of the women’s protests. saying. at the first National Women’s Studies Association Conference held in 1979. A significant effect of such a perception is the way in which it silenced the long and indigenous history of black American Islam. This was the well-known title of the 1959 CBS documentary hosted by journalist Mike Wallace that introduced the Nation of Islam to American television audiences. remaining silent about racism against Muslim American communities and the harassment and abuse of Muslim American women. saying that for “millions of black Americans. In fact. Arabs are ‘blood brothers’—sharing similar geographical and cultural roots” (Muhammad 1979). the Nation of Islam brought its interpretation of Islam to prominence in the African American community and defined Islam as the religion of black American militancy” (p. Smith 1980. the combination of white second-wave American feminists’ disavowal of race. For further reading on the roots of Islam in the Americas. 19. especially those who wore the hijab. Diouf (1998). This is a silence that is only now—through recent scholarship on the long-standing presence of Islam in the Americas.” 22. the Middle East. see Curtis (2002). we might be at a point of radical transformation . McAlister writes. [Millett’s] widely publicized trip to Iran was effectively used to associate those who were organizing resistance to the compulsory veil with imperialist and pro-colonial elements. 1992. I might add. References Ahmed. . 24. and Islam were also developing at the end of the 1970s. McCloud (1995). 48). FEMINISTS.” though later that year Young would be forced to resign from his post after taking a meeting with Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat (New York Times 1979). that we clearly are not” (B. In other words. “In the early to mid-1960s. In February 1979. the legacies of Islam in black America. 91). . Combahee River Collective head Barbara Smith lambasted the sentiments of white women who claimed that the subjects of race and racism had been talked about too much. On the ground. . and Gomez (2005). In this way her unwise unwanted support and presence helped to weaken the Iranian women’s resistance” (Hoodfar 1997. “This. Moslem and Christian at RUTGERS UNIV on January 3. 20. such as a Chicago Tribune (1979) editorial published after the end of the protests that compared the plight of Iranian women to the segregation of black Americans. Women and gender in Islam: Historical roots of a modern debate. the absence of critique of American foreign policy.

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