10/23/2013

Marjane Satrapi and Feminism

I started researching for an article about Islam and feminism, and my first thoughts were to google if Marjane Satrapi is a feminist. She is a cartoonist, illustrator, film director, and children's book author. Her most famous work to date include the graphic novel Persepolis, and it's film adaptation - if you have not read/seen these, I recommend you go do so now. NOW.



I stumbled across these quotes that reveal her relationship to the word feminism is rocky.

[from 2004]

"You know, the feminists become very angry when I say I am not a feminist. I am a humanist. I believe in human beings" 

[from 2008]
ABC News: People see a compelling story of women in struggle in your work, but you object to being called a feminist?
Satrapi: I am absolutely not a feminist, I am against stupidity, and if it comes from males or females it doesn't change anything. If it means that women and men, they are equal, then OK, certainly I am a feminist. It happens that I am a woman, so it becomes a "woman coming of age story." I think if I was a man it wouldn't change so much, they never call it a "man coming of age story." It is a human coming of age story, let's go for the humanity and humanism, it's a much better thing than this "womanhood" and "manhood" and I don't know "hermaphrodite-hood, and etc., etc.
Though I am nobody to impose labels on anyone or anything, what I can do is give definitions (from google web definitions).
*Humanism: a rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.
*Feminism: the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Though I understand what she means when she says she "believes in human beings", the problem is with the phrasing she chooses, which dismisses feminists, even when her work covers feminist issues in itself, and brilliantly so. If she were a "humanist", by the definition of it, she would reject religion, and said rejection would not be compatible with her work.
The point I'm trying to make is that celebrities often make it a point to dettach themselves from the feminist label, as it carries so much negative press. Focus not on the words they use in interviews, focus on their work. Persepolis is a coming of age story of a girl in an oppressive world, and her interraction with it. As Satrapi says, she does want equality for men and women, so even if she is not a feminist, she tackles gender issues.
Addressing her point on feminists being angry when she rejects the label - why wouldn't we be angry? Her point to distance herself from feminism even though she wants equal rights for men and women perpetuates the myth that feminism is after women's advancement only, which is detrimental to feminism as a movement. It gives us unfair bad press, and for that, we do have the right to be angry (though angry is a bit strong, slightly annoyed suits my reaction better :P)
In recent times, many celebrities have also opted for the usage of the word "humanist" instead of feminist, which would be fine if "humanism" were actually related to gender equality, which it isn't. Here is an article by Louise Pennington about this phenomenom.
All labels aside, Marjane Satrapi's work is extraordinary and I have nothing but respect for her. Her illustration of gender roles within a society that I am not a part of myself was very informative, and it is empowering to women. The film adaptation of her graphic novel Persepolis received an Oscar nomination for best animated feature film of the year.
And now, back to my research about Islam and feminism, which contrary to popular belief, can be compatible with each other.
Sources:


No comments:

Post a Comment