Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Westview Press


An apparent paradox of the Iranian Revolution has been the tremendous participation of Iranian women in the revolution, in terms of the numbers of women who were active in demonstrations, contrasted to the subsequent setbacks in the position of women in Iran and their decreasing participation in public life. In this chapter, I argue that the great majority of women participating in the revolution did not consider their actions to be outside of traditional social, cultural and religious parameters. Neither did they expect their participation in the revolution to be the first step in gaining improved status and more important roles in public life. Before the revolution, the great majority of Iranian women remained outside the modern work force and were not educated. They were still constrained by traditional expectations; their primary responsibility was to children, home and husband·. Ideally, any outside activity was restricted to socializing among neighbors and kin or was contained within religious activity. Such women, although participating in the revolution for much the same reasons as men, were able to take part because revolutionary activity was defined as religious activity. As such women were accustomed to participating in religious activities and containing their activity outside of the home and their socializing within a religious framework, they felt little social pressure or self-censorship against participating in this new type of "religious" activity. Because the women themselves as well as the religious leaders who subsequently took over control of the country did not perceive the revolutionary activity of women to be outside of the traditional culture and religious framework, it is not surprising that such activity did not result in increased activity of women in the public sector.

Chapter of

Women and Revolution in Iran


Guity Nashat