Persepolis opens at the moment in Iranian history when it becomes obligatory for women to wear the veil and schools become segregated by gender. The Revolution brings many changes to Tehran, but the changes imposed on women and men in how they dress and look—women must cover their heads, men must cover their arms and not wear a necktie—might be the most immediately relevant and personally frustrating. Over the course of the graphic novel, Marjane begins to understand that to be a woman in her new society is to be subjugated to a lesser role than the one she expected to have in her younger years. As a child, she imagines herself a to be the last prophet, explicitly despite the fact that all the other prophets were men. However, as the graphic novel progresses, she realizes that though she “wanted to be an educated, liberate woman” this “dream went up in smoke” with the Revolution. Though she had once wanted to be like the celebrated scientist Marie Curie, she thinks that “at the age that Marie Curie first went to France to study [chemistry], I’ll probably have ten children.”
Marjane comes to understand that her destiny as a woman is dependent on the state’s allowance or disallowance of women’s freedom. Early in the days after the imposition of the veil, Marjane’s mother gets assaulted for not wearing a veil, and at a demonstration against the veil Marjane sees women getting beaten up and even a woman getting stabbed. Though her mother thinks earlier that she “should start learning to defend her rights as a woman right now,” Marjane understands this to be impractical and dangerous, so she resigns herself instead to committing small acts of disobedience, like improperly wearing her veil. However, she continues to speak out against the contradictions and unfairness she notices around her, which gets her expelled from school. Soon after her parents reveal to her the extent to which the state believes it has a right to control women’s bodies—it is against the law to kill a virgin woman, so before executions of virgin women a prison guard will rape the condemned prisoner. The situation appears both completely hopeless and dangerous to an outspoken girl like Marjane, and so her parents decide to send her out of the country, to Vienna, where she will have the freedom to be and grow as pleases and befits her as an independent woman, an independent person.
Gender Quotes in Persepolis
We found ourselves veiled and separated from our friends.
I really didn’t know what to think about the veil. Deep down I was very religious but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde.
I wanted to be an educated, liberated woman…and so another dream went up in smoke.