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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reading Funny Lipsticks through Jihad: The Politics of Feminism and Nationalism in Iranian-American Women’s Memoirs

  • Author(s): Tahani-Bidmeshki, Amy;
  • et al.

In my paper, I explore the cross-sections of nationalism and feminism in the autobiographical text of Iranian-American writer Firoozeh Dumas. My interest focuses on the expressions of her political experiences within the discourses of nationalism and feminism and how her discussions of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 allow her to participate in “self-Orientalizing” while subscribing to the capitalist value system through demonstrations of being a “model immigrant.” By focusing on her choice of genre (the autobiography/memoir), I consider how her discussion of the Revolution and its consequences embraces liberal feminist ideals and therefore erases crucial elements of the progressive struggles in pre- and post Revolution Iran. The question then remains whether texts such as Funny in Farsi propagate misconceptions about Iranians and the Revolution and therefore function as sites of “human-made” disaster with repercussions for progressive possibilities in both the nationalist and feminist landscapes. Further, the recent explosion and popularity of Iranian-American women’s memoirs points to a limited view in the United States’ public sphere of a complex people and history without much regard for the progressive platform from which this dynamic and multifaceted revolution sprung nearly thirty years ago. One wonders then to what extent these texts help promote or encourage preexisting Orientalist views and attitudes towards Iran and the Middle East, especially since these writers such as Dumas stem from an upper-middle class background that embraces the values of the class-based system of the United States.

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