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Research Proposal

The Feminist Struggle for Identity in the poetry of Forogh

Farrokhzad and Fahmida Riyaz: A Comparative Study of their


Prof. DR. Qabil Khan

Anjum Naseem Rao

Program: MS-AL
UMT I.D: 090684036

Department of English Language and Literature

School of Social Sciences & Humanities


The Feminist Struggle for Identity in the poetry of Forogh Farrokhzad and Fahmida Riyaz: A Comparative
Study of their Translations
Anjum Naseem Rao
M. Phil (Linguistics)
UMT, Lahore-Pakistan


The purpose of the present study is to make a cross cultural comparison of feminist identities
depicted in the works of an Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad and a Pakistani poet Fehmida
Riyaz. The basic emphasis will be laid upon different genres of feminism in the mentioned
reading material. The researcher will try to highlight feminist element through the dissection of
the text of the both writers. Supreme concern of present study will be cultural comparison of
feminist identities that have been reflected in the works of these feminist writers. Iranian poet’s
works will be compared with Pakistani poet. The researcher will analyze an existing feminist
dilemma faced by these writers. The researcher will analyze their feminist elements depicted in
the diction of these writers.
Aims & Objectives:

1. To explore the feminist elements in the works of Iranian and Pakistani poets.
2. To analyze the perspective of these writers in terms of their cultural context.
3. To relate the strength of these writers in terms of struggle for the feminism.

Research Questions:

1. What are feminist elements in the works of Forogh Farokhzad ( an Iranian poet) and Fehmida
Riaz (a Pakistani poet)?
2. How has feminism being defined in the cultural context of Iranian and Pakistani poets?
3. How it can be determined that the struggle of these female writers is actually a struggle for the
feminist identity presented in their poetry?


The method of the researcher is qualitative. The researcher will prove after reading the translated texts “Four
Walls and a Black Veil”by Fehmida Riaz and “Another birth” by Forough Farrokhzad . This study will focus on
the selected poems of the above mentioned books that truly depict the feminist psychology and comparison of
the writing styles of these poets. The researcher will read the poems from Fehmida Riaz’s book “Four Walls
and a Black Veil” and Forugh Farrokhzad’s book “Another birth” and try to justify her feministic stance. The
researcher will analyze the primary sources that are “The translations of Forugh Farrokhzad (Another birth)”
and Fehmida Riaz (Four Walls and a Black Veil). The researcher will also take into account the secondary
sources of these writers. This research study falls into the paradigm of descriptive research. The researcher will
interpret various selected verses from the above mentioned works of Forugh Farukhzad and Fahmida Riaz ; two
typical feminist writers .
Data Analysis:
Qualitative Analysis of Data: The resacher will take five poems from each poet’s book and analyze it in the
light of feminist identity crisis and struggle to preserve that identity. The names of the selected poems of
Fahmida Riyazare ‘Interrogator’, ‘Four Walls and a Black Veil’, ‘To a Girl’, ‘Admi ki zindagi’, ‘Surah-
e-Yaseen’. Poems of Forogh farokhzad that will become the part of comparison are. ‘To Ali His Mother
Said One Day’, ‘Window’ , ‘Return’ , ‘Another birth’, ‘ Love Song’.


Feminist writers have been criticized for projecting themes that portray oppression faced by women. As far as
the Greek philosophers are concerned, they have interesting views about women. Aristotle’s stance about
women is considerably different than that of Plato’s. He perceives women as “Deformity in nature”. He only
acknowledges that women
are child bearing creatures. Okin agrees that Aristotle makes some very unfortunate comments about women.
Aristotle believes that women should sedulously obey her husband. A.W.H Adkins has discussed in his book
“merit and responsibility that Greek used highest words for praise only for men. Contrary to Aristotle, Plato
believes that women are to play an important role in society.

Representation of women has always been controversial throughout history women have been blamed for how
they are physically. Their social role is defined differently in different societies. South Asian women especially
Iran and Pakistan have been denied so many common rights and their voices also sound alike. They appear to
be residents of the same well where they have been buried by their so called masters.
Feminism is a movement that demands equal social, economical, political and cultural rights for men and
women. It is against gender discrimination especially against women. The crisis of their identity has been
depicted in the poetry of this poetess and it spells out the problem faced by them.

Feminism in south Asian literature is a saga of women struggling for the discrimination that is prevalent in
society. In 1960 the first bud blooms when women wrestle to get the right for voting. Second wave occur during
the 60s civil war when the Afro American women were striving to attain equality and that has inspired women
to renew their struggle. Effects of feminism on Pakistani and Iranian poetry are quite deep and noticeable.
Women of these areas are quite dynamic in their thinking .
Similar themes have been acknowledged in various western female poetess like Adrienne Rich , Sylvia Plath ,
Virginia Woolf etc
The basic theme that lurks behind the feminist diction employed by these writers is identity of women that is
suppressed in their societies under different cultural banners.
As far as the ideas about feminist identity are concerned , female being is always considered a weak person.
Trujillo propounds this very idea that females have no identity of their own. “ For many Chicanas , our
identification as women, that is, as complete women, comes from the belief that we need to be connected to a
man”. She further makes a point that women undervalue themselves because men around them and society as a
whole underestimates them.( Trujillo, 1999)
The real problem lies in the fact that social factors are not in harmony with Islamic ideologies. They are rather
in contrast with religion. Society imposes restrictions on its individuals and forces them to take steps that they
will not carry out if living outside that culture. In Pakistani culture they is so much influence of Hindu culture
because a considerable majority of the Muslims living here have been converted from Hinduism.
As far as the Islamic feminism is concerned, it is practiced differently in different countries like in
Turkey. For example an Islamic state like turkey also objects to head cover and on the same lines a non Islamic
state France doesn’t approve of it. Coming towards Iranian society and their culture, its important to state that
Islamic Iranian society before the revolution is quite different from the one that we see after the Iranian
revolution.According to Wikipedia, “The Iranian Constitutional Revolution which took place between 1905 and
1911 triggered a spontaneous and intense women's movement “. (Wikipedia )

Naheed reveals that women were “compulsory unveiled” in 1936. The Shah wanted to utilize women’s potential
in development of the country (82). Naheed further points out that “Gender equalities have intensified since the
revolution of 1978-79 where emphasis on Islamic fundamentalism has meant that women have returned to
wearing the veil and given up a number of freedoms”(et al).
Islamfiche highlight s, in the preface of the book, Two Poems from Iranian Poet, Forugh Farrokhzad, 1957 and
1965 the importance of Farogh farokhzad in literary history for three major reasons. First, she embraced a new
style of poetry after Nimra Yushij and it was reflected rhyme, imagery and the individual voice. Second, her
diction is highly bold and suggestive; especially her poem “I sinned” stirred a lot of criticism by orthodox
misogynist critics of that time. Third, she took pleasure in audaciously becoming a political activist under the
Pahlavi government.
Just like the controversial figure of forogh farukhzad, the Voice of Fahmmida Riaz is also considered a
rebellious voice. Fahimda’s first book Tongue of stone symbolizes a woman as a creature who has no right to
challenge prevalent social beliefs. She is not supposed to raise her voice. Salahuddin in her book Feminism in
Modern Urdu Poetesses translates a poem by Fahmida Riaz . I need the freedom of geese sitting on the
beaches. My eyes and my own self , both aspire for freedom”(125). These lines clearly reflect the social pattern
of thinking . Patriarchal Society poses so many restrictions on women that a female continuously feels as
“traped” or “Aseer”. 1
Fahmida ‘s feminstic poetry alludes to the too many restrictions that are imposed on a woman . Same theme has
been written by Naheed in her poem “Talibaan” “maybe a girl has a bright burning face and she is also pious,
yet the order is , the verdict is , that she will have to stick to internal courtyard only ”( 129).
What shall I do, Sire, with this black veil?
Why do you bestow on me this great favour?
(from "Four walls and a black veil)
This study will explore similarities that both of these poetesses share in their selected texts. The researcher will
analyze the representation of social injustices done by the society in the poetry of both female writers.

Implications of the Study:

The researcher explores the social and cultural differences as well as their representation in the poetry of these
feminist writers. The researcher will try to project feminist theory in South Asian context. Social differences
between these two writers will be discussed with reference to the literary movements and the personal selves of
these writers.

A Persian as well as Urdu word meaning trapped or captured.


Naheed, K.( 2008). Women Myths & Realities. Snag-e Meel Publications : Lahore.

Arina Angerman, Geerte Binnema , Annemieke Keunen, vefie .( Ed) ( 1989). Current issues in
women’s History New York; routledge .

Mohanty, C. T .(2003). Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory Practicing Solidarity.

New Delhi : Duke University Press.

Okin , S. M. & Man’s Bridge. ( 1994 ). Feminism 1. Brookfield : Edward Alga Publishing

Sargisson, L. ( 1996). Contemporary Feminist Utopianism . New York: Routledge

Kesselman , A. , McNair , L.D. & Schniedewind , N. ( 1999). Women : Images and realities.
(2nd Ed).

Patel , R.( 2010). Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan. Oxford: Oxford
university press

Salahuddin, A. ( 2005). Feminism in Modern Urdu poetesses. Lahore : West Pakistan Urdu

Riley , P.( 2007) Language , Culture & Identity . London: Continuum.

Targhi , M.T. ( 2001). Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography.