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Submit Response is a weblog by Jack Mottram, a journalist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. There are 1308 posts in the archives. You can subscribe to a feed. This post was made on and belongs in the books category. The previous post was , and the next post is .

“It’s their culture”

There’s a good interview at Identity Theory with Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Story of Love, Books and Revolution. This quote caught my eye:

I very much resent it in the West when people - maybe with all the good intentions or from a progressive point of view - keep telling me, “It’s their culture.”

It’s like… saying the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches.

First of all, there are aspects of culture which are really reprehensible, and we should [all] fight against it. We shouldn’t accept them. Second of all, women in Iran and in Saudi Arabia don’t like to be stoned to death.

I long ago lost count of the number of times I’ve had to say words to that effect, only to have them dismissed as the inevitable opinion of a blinkered, patriarchal, Western hegemonist oaf. I don’t know why I care what the sort of condescending prat who cites ‘cultural difference’ as a justification for stuff that is plain old wrong, but I shall be using Nafisi as ammunition against them from now on.

Anyway, the brouhaha surrounding Nafisi’s book passed me by, but going by the following snippet from a glowing notice in The Guardian alone, it looks to be well worth seeking out.

In her class Humbert Humbert’s seizure of his nymphet’s life and identity becomes a metaphor for the way the radical Islamic state was treating its women - not least in his recording that it was Lolita who initiated their sexual relationship, the adolescent who seduced her stepfather; it felt as though radical Islam was blaming women.

Posted at 2pm on 17/02/04 by Jack Mottram to the books category.
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  1. Yes, she seems to be wise, although the Lolita thing sounds a bit mad-fem-theory (‘Little Red Riding Hood As Menstrual Castration Myth’, you know) (which I’m sure it is, btw).

    I was thinking re. Samira Makhmalbaf that what is really missing from her films is the element of sensuality - they’re totally sexless - which is partly cos of censorship but i think also a limitation of hers. (Being only nine, or so.)

    Apparently there’s an amazing Iranian woman director named Bani-Etemad whose films are very much about gender and sexuality. But I don’t know if they exist on video or where I’d see them…

    Posted by Ida at 11am on 27.02.04

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