Bahá'í Chair Lecture Highlights Women Writers in Iranian Society

The Bahá'í Chair for World Peace proudly presented “Iranian Women Writers: A Moderating and Modernizing Force” in its series on Empowerment of Women and Peace on March 25 in the Adele H. Stamp Student Union Atrium. The event explored the remarkable emergence of women writers as a transformative socio-political force in Iran, and the desegregation of a predominantly male literary tradition.

The Bahá’í Chair, an enriching academic program within the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, utilizes interdisciplinary discourse from a range of fields such as history, sociology, anthropology and literature to examine numerous topics, including the broad themes that empower women’s presence, voice and vision as they influence social change and transform society.

The Bahá'í Chair welcomed Dr. Farzaneh Milani, Raymond J. Nelson Professor of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures and Director of Studies in Women and Gender of the University of Virginia, for this presentation. Dr. Milani focused on the unprecedented flourishing of women’s literature in Iran as a positive force, giving women a voice in a highly isolated gender society. The lecture examined how Iranian women writers have “re-mapped the cultural geography of Iran and reorganized its political landscape without shedding a drop of blood,” as stated by Dr. Milani.

In her remarks, Dr. Milani said that Iranian women are playing an important role in highlighting the need for social justice both in the domestic sphere and at larger political levels.

"You cannot have democracy in a country if you do not have democracy at home," Dr. Milani said.

During the past 160 years, women’s literature has flourished in Iran and has led to the integration of both genders in the literary sphere. Iranian women are empowered by voicing their new ideas and ways of thinking through their creative works. Professor Hoda Mahmoudi, holder of the Baha'i Chair, recently spoke to the importance of women’s empowerment and how writing can empower women.

“Writing gives women the power of expression,” she said. “Their views and perspectives are important in the creation of a more inclusive society in which women participate in all arenas of the social order.”

Dr. Milani described how women writers in Iran have pushed against the boundaries of gender apartheid and advocated for reform of traditional codes within the family unit that regulate gender relations. Her presentation outlined how they are crossing religious, philosophical, political and spatial boundaries and are paving the path for gender-integration. The writers she highlighted testify to the power of women’s voices that can re-design cultural customs and transform society.

"Iranian women writers are at the forefront of a caravan of women writers leading us to peace," Dr. Milani said.

The Bahá'í Chair’s series on the Empowerment of Women and Peace enables students, teachers, administrators and all attendees the opportunity to explore and discuss the approaches necessary to achieving full and lasting gender integration in society, as a fundamental prerequisite for peace. The series provides a safe atmosphere for discourse on traditional gender relations and the key insertion of women’s voices in this important public discussion.

Dr. Milani