Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Veiled Sexuality and Obsession in Two Women

The film Two Women rehashes many of the themes that we have discussed in regard to women in the Middle East. We should keep in mind when discussing this film that Iran, like Saudi Arabia, must be investigated in context, with attention paid to the Islamic Regime that works as an oppressive force throughout the nation, especially in terms of women. This film is a study, not a microcosm of women's issues in the Middle East as a whole.

Though not featured overtly as an article of clothing, the veil as a concept is at the center of Two Women. Most of the protagonist's problems stem from her desirability, a quality meant to be protected and stifled by state mandated dress code. Her persistent suitor on the motorbike is so crazed by his want for her that he throws acid on her cousin because he thinks he's her boyfriend and then follows her from Tehran all the way to the village of her birth. After running her off the road and causing an accident that results in the death of a child, he is convicted of harassment and manslaughter, then thrown in jail, only to return at the end of the film to seek his revenge. During his testimony in court, he cites his passionate love for the protagonist as the reason for his behavior. He appeals to the emotions of those in the courtroom and expects the men, especially, to sympathize. That this defense could even be a possibility is ludicrous and demonstrates the institutionalization of such beliefs regarding women. The men in this film, including the protagonist's eventual husband, seem hypnotized by the female entity. By casting these characters as such, the film works to point out the hypersexualization that occurs when women are forbidden by virtue of their veiled-ness.


  1. I appreciate the point that you raise about the importance of viewing this film as "a study, not a microcosm of women's issues in the Middle East as a whole." This film is also only a study of the effects of the veil on men and their diverse reactions.

  2. Hmmmm.... the veil causes hypersexualization. Interesting. I am going to think about that.

  3. There's a spot in _Rooftops of Tehran_ that says, "The burqa is protecting Soraya from Iraj's lustful eyes, but it's obviously not preventing him from desiring her" (79). There's also allusion to the fact that the veil just creates mystery, which perpetuates lustfulness while its purpose is to do the opposite because "men are programmed to desire women who show off their faces and bodies, and that in a moral society you can't have horny men desiring other people's wives, mothers, and sisters" (78) (so protecting men who are unable of self control).

    We should keep in mind that when _Two Women_ begins, it is just before the revolution and veils are not required. Fereshteh's stalker begins his obsession before state-imposed veiling. Also, the male jury fails to villify Fereshteh by justifying Hassan's obsession .

    But there is still that notion that veiling promotes a version of the Madonna/whore dichotomy: you're a whore who's corrupting men so we'll veil you. But then you're pure, unknowable, therefore desired (but not allowed to crack the illusion by suffering from the vice of being an actual human being).