The Veil and Persepolis
In Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi the main character, Marjane, lives in Iran and is required, by fear of punishment, to wear a veil that only leaves her face uncovered. Having to wear a veil is portrayed as an insult to women’s rights. However in the article “Why We Wear the Haijab,” by Sumayyah Hussein, Sumayya Syed says the veil “‘liberates you from the media’” (p118) It is also seen as a form of protection from judgment and western influences. The women interviewed in the article tell of the benefits of wearing the veil and see it as an honor instead of an insult, like in Persepolis. The veil is part of Iran’s culture.
To de-emphasize a women’s body and to gain respect as a person, the veil is worn to protect from the judgments forced upon us by the media. Marjane was influenced by the trends in the media and lost her self respect and identity when separated from the veil and her culture. In Persepolis, Marjane has many experiences that are both good and bad. The veil plays an important part in her life and protects her from the bad decisions that peer pressure influences her to make. In “Why We Were the Hijab” it points out that covering up is necessary for women because their bodies are viewed differently than a man’s. One Study at the University of California, found that…in the average picture of a women is less then half the photo was devoted to the woman’s face”(p 120) therefore over half the picture is focused on the woman’s body. The veil gives women more self respect by taking the focus off of her body. This respect helps women exceed without being brought down by the media’s influences. Marjane sought to fight against the veil. The different ways women around Marjane represented how much they protested wearing it. “You showed your opposition to the Regime by letting a few strands of hair show. (p75) The women fighting against the veil don’t feel it’s necessary to cover up to gain respect. “Respect must be earned regardless of one’s appearance and it is not earned through a dress code alone. ” (p119 “Why We Wear the Hijab”) However, with the media’s focus on the women’s body, the judgment in other people’s eyes will always be there. When required to wear the veil Marjane was exceeding in school, had a close relationship to god, and was actively concerned about the political standings in Iran. She had a lot of friends at school, where she wore the veil, and was happy and well adapted.
The veil protected Marjane from being negatively influenced and distracted. At fourteen Marjane is sent to Austria to study, where she loses herself and strays away from her culture. She is exposed to things that, in her culture, are forbidden and looked down upon. When not wearing the veil she almost instantly gives into peer pressure. She fits in and has friends, but learns quickly that they won’t be there for her in her time of need. In “Why We Wear the Hijab” Hana Tariq points out that “‘people who are friend with you because of the way you look aren’t real friends. ”(p118) wearing the veil helps create a uniform removing any judgment made based on material objects or appearance. She rejects the veil and all the morals that go along with it. In Iran the veil helped protect Marjane from distractions in the media, the same distractions that exist in Austria. The longer the media influenced her, the harder it was for her to gain respect from peers and adults alike. When Marjane hits rock bottom in she moves back to Iran and lives with her parents. She struggles with her identity because she is still a victim of western influence, but quickly gets back on track.
She is required, once again, to wear the veil. In Iran she recollects herself and is living a better life. She has found a balance between all the cultural traditions and a modern life. She keeps her modern frame of mind but gains new respect with the addition of the veil. The veil helps her reconnect to her culture and offers her protection from peer pressure. This is an example to what the women in “Why We Wear the Hijab” say about the veil giving them a high level of “self-respect” and “confidence” (p118).
With the return of the veil comes the return of Marjanes identity and self respect. The veil is an important form of protection. Persepolis is a perfect example of how straying away from the veil exposes women to the images put out by the media. Marjane struggles with her identity and self-respect when faced with the pressure to fit in without the veil. She is able to re-connect with the veil and her culture to remove the negative effects media had on her in Austria. The veil protects women from the influences of western media and gives women a higher feeling of self respect.