The Spread of A Misogynist Culture, The Means to Further Serve The Exploitation of Workers

Ashraf Dehghani

(On the occasion of March 8th, International Day of working and toiling women)

In order to spread its reactionary and decadent religious ideology and in order to strengthen the medieval constraints on women, the Islamic Republic regime, to a large degree, has utilised and relied on the current undemocratic culture and the traditions practised in our society. 

Twenty-two years have passed since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Throughout all these years, the violent and widespread oppression against women, on the one hand, and the extensive and ongoing struggles of women, on the other, have always been addressed and discussed as one of the most significant issues in Iranian society. In fact, we can say that since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the women’s question has been more notably considered as a controversial issue in our society, followed by continuous and unrelenting debates. However, in the numerous writings and comments attributed to the women’s question, despite attacking the Islamic Republic for its decadent religious ideology and medieval methods, we seldom find a commentary that explains the regime’s real objectives in its vehement misogynist actions and its ceaseless propaganda in favour of the male-chauvinist culture in our society. These commentaries do not illustrate the exploitative classes’ actual interests in bringing about such reactionary actions and whether there is, indeed, a relationship between the regime’s religious ideology -by which it justifies its savage actions against women- and the ruling economic system which benefits its directors and administrators with vast profits. Since these issues have never been thoroughly discussed, it is not surprising that within the voluminous literature dedicated to the women’s question in Iran, there is not one pertinent page relating to working and toiling women. We therefore assert that, so far, very little has been spoken of the suffering and torment imposed upon women. Upon examining the real living and working problems of female workers and toilers, it is obvious that because of their gender and the ruling reactionary culture, which considers the social role of women inferior to men, women are subject to capitalist exploitation more intensely.  It is here where the Islamic Republic’s hideous aims in implementing anti-women policies and in propounding evermore male-chauvinist culture are exposed, and together with that the abominable nature of the domestic and foreign advocates of the Islamic Republic directors who veil their vile and plundering faces from the public eye under the dark robes of this regime, is being unveiled.

There is no doubt that the oppression against women is a product of class society and thus as old. Therefore, those beliefs that consider women inferior to men and put this into practice in various forms (for example, housekeeping and childcare are considered by nature as women’s work whereas men are regarded the breadwinners and the “natural” heads of the family) are rooted within the depths of society and the family unit. In other words, male chauvinist and/or misogynist beliefs run through the masses’ lives within the body of dominant culture and traditions and are continuously reproduced in a completely “natural” manner.  As a matter of fact, in its reactionary and decadent religious ideology and in order to consolidate the ancient and medieval chains and restraints on women, the Islamic Republic has, to a great extent, relied on and taken advantage of undemocratic anti-women culture and traditions prevailing in society.

The Islamic Republic is an imperialist-dependent regime. It is a regime that has always and still attempts to pave, in all respects, the ground for the exploitative affairs and the unlimited profiteering of foreign capitalists (imperialists) and their domestic lackeys (Iranian-dependent capitalists). And to do so, it has never hesitated to commit the most horrifying crimes and brutalities and, in fact, only by suppressing people and prevailing the atmosphere of terror and repression, has remained in power. Today, everybody knows how, in the last 20 years, by employing armed forces and repressive organisations, the regime’s reactionary and antiquated executives have taken away the freedom of attire from women and forced them to be wrapped in a horrid cloth called the Islamic hejaab. And how they have taken women out of the workforce in order to force them to be housebound with the excuse that Islam rules that a woman’s place is in the home. And how they have closed the doors of so many professional fields to women. And how they have prevented women from studying in many fields simply because of their gender. And how they have determined that the marriageable age for girls is nine years of age. And how they have segregated women from public places. Even buses have gender divided seating as well as a system of segregated education including universities. Lately, they have even tried to separate women in hospitals and clinics. These and many other examples illustrate the regime’s misogynist actions in the last two decades. 

Whereas in the Middle Ages, the Church and its priests ruled in the service of the feudal lords and savagery was the usual method used to shackle the masses (mainly peasants), the Islamic Republic regime, however, has been employing brutal and medieval methods in the service of the imperialists and dependent capitalists at the end of the 20th century; when the capitalist system rules Iran. The old masters and uneducated fogeyish feudal lords have been replaced by the so-called civilised and nouveaux capitalists where the imperialists of the technological era and the advanced world have a stranglehold on our society’s economy.

Under the rule of the Islamic Republic, flogging has been officially proclaimed as the appropriate legal punishment for deviance. In addition to this, the mutilation and dismembering of the human body is yet another method exerted by the Islamic Republic justice system, keeping in mind that all these barbaric actions are, in fact, carried out by the most advanced equipment invented in our time. 

Under the pretext of nemesis, they have made the most brutish and anti-human methods of punishment, such as stoning, into an ordinary act in our society. Yet, even in this case, they act with discrimination towards women. Under Islamic judiciary laws, due to her gender, a “deviant” woman must suffer more to repent her guilt. For example, the punishment for an unmarried man committing adultery is flogging whereas an unmarried woman convicted of the same “crime” is stoned to death. In the case of married adulterous individuals, both the male and female convicted are stoned to death. However, since the convicted, according to the Islamic laws, are pardoned and set free if they survive the stoning, here the discrimination against women is enacted by burying men in the ground up to their waists and women up to their necks so that there is no chance of survival for them1. Why do they abuse women to such a degree? Why do they constantly strive to portray women as inferior, subhuman, as wretched beings whose mental and physical capabilities are lesser than that of men and thus considered, at best, a secondary social role in society? By studying the working and living conditions of working and toiling women and by pondering into the objective realities that have surrounded their lives, one realises that there is a concrete relationship between the Islamic Republic’s misogynous schemes and shameless assertions to evermore confine women in society, on the one hand, and the ruling exploitative socio-economic system on the other. Furthermore, one notices as to how under the capitalist system, working and toiling women are doubly exploited; once as workers (likewise men) and once more as women (thus given lower wages and faced with harsher conditions…).  One can also discern what enormous profits are gained and in the interest of which social classes and strata in this abyss of subjection! The following passages are some depictions drawn in this respect. 

The assault on women by the imperialist-dependent regime of the Islamic Republic was initiated from the very outset of its establishment. However, later on, following the regime’s 1981 extensive raids and ongoing bloody mass murders during which the regime’s administrators themselves propagated their abhorrent atrocities and displayed their bloody hands before the public eye so that they could once again prevail the fearsome and repressive atmosphere of the Shah’s era, the Islamic Republic all the more advanced the oppression against women with greater intensity. 

One of the regime’s first and foremost actions against women was the dismissal of female workers from large factories without taking any responsibility for their unemployment and livelihood. During this period, many of the female personnel and professionals in various industries and fields were laid off. The regime’s alibi for this reactionary ploy against women was its religious ideology. With such alibis, they portrayed the dismissal of women from work as a moral and juridical issue. For ‘men and women working together in the same environment’, they claimed, ‘brings close contact between the opposite sexes’, thus morally and judicially problematic. And, to convince people of this, they even waged a vast campaign and preached that a woman’s place is in the home and “heaven under the feet of mothers”, meaning that a woman’s task is not to engage in social affairs but to take care of her household duties: sit at home, bear and bring up babies. However, the regime’s religious ideology is, in fact, a pretext to exonerate another reality: that due to the economic crisis surrounding the Iranian dependent capitalist system and as a result of the shutting down of factories and/or their covert bankruptcy, an increasing wave of unemployment has been cast over society. In the face of these circumstances, the regime attempted, by victimising women and thereby replacing their labour with men’s especially in large factories and production plants, to counter, in its own fashion, the question of unemployment and to shroud one of the many social illnesses2. Consequently, the number of the unemployed seemed less than what it actually was. Obviously, in a society, where men are considered the breadwinner and the head of the family and the so-called worthy women are viewed as merely self-sacrificing mothers and spouses,  women’s unemployment is neither regarded as nor does it indicate, according to the social psychology of this society, social unemployment. As a matter of fact, the Islamic Republic has indeed emphasised these very same misconceptions and primitive conventions and while justifying and promoting this delirium by resorting to religious mumbo jumbo, it has created an obstacle in the employment of women outside of the home. In reality, however, there are numerous women who have been and are either the sole breadwinners of their families or major contributors. Especially in the recent years, together with the further development and expansion of capitalist relations in Iran and subsequent to the intensification of the process of expropriating small-scale producers, the numbers of those forced to sell their labour power as the only means of subsistence have rapidly increased. This reality, particularly in the face of economic stagnation and its harsh consequences such as inflation etc., has resulted in women’s increasing participation in the labour market

According to the teachings of Marx and Engels, neither the ideology of a state nor any of the institutions and organisations that come into existence to encourage that ideology are substantive, rather, they are employed to serve the economic interests of a particular class or classes. We practically see this in our country. We see how through its religious ideology and under the cover of Islam, Islam-loving and the Islamitization of society and thereby the humiliating and further enslavement of women, the Islamic Republic has provided and paved the road for a handful of capitalists to pocket windfall wealth and enormous profits.

During the early stages of capitalist development, which basically took place in Europe, together with the overturn of the old and small-scale economies, the conditions for women’s independent work as individuals and their employment in various fields of social labour came about. In fact, we can say that with the development of the capitalist system in its classical form, the possibility on the whole was brought about for large masses of women to either engage in various factory operations and production plants as workers or participate in different social activities and fields from education to clerical and so on, with due attention to the overall advancement of society in its entirety. Today, however, in the face of imperialist capitalist domination on an international scale and with dependent capitalist regimes ruling in almost all dominated countries, while women are inevitably driven into the labour market due to the necessities of capitalist development, the existing economic system, however, is incapable of absorbing these masses of women (or men). Thus, there arise the problems and contradictions that we witness in our country today. At the same time, under the present circumstances in Iran, besides the fundamental problem of the development of dependent capitalism and its subsequent economic crisis, another factor that necessitated women’s work outside of the home was the eight-year imperialist war between Iran and Iraq, during which numerous men lost their lives. As a result, many women and girls were left as widows or orphans, also who are referred to in common language as “the forsaken” or “the ones without guardianship”. This, in turn, intensified the necessity for women to work outside of the home and enter the labour market. It is exactly due to these circumstances that we have to pay the outmost attention to women’s working and living conditions and to study the effects of the propagation of a misogynous culture in society, especially on both male and female workers and toilers. 

Almost from the very outset of the Islamic Republic’s establishment, except in certain cases, there has no longer been any place in large factories for female workers. Women are only able to find employment in the fields and production plants where women’s labour, due to the capitalists’ exploitative interests and imperatives, is more profitable and thus preferable. Of course, even in this case, single women are considered less costly than married ones thus having more of a chance to be hired.  Whereas, because of their financial desperation, female workers are bound to tolerate any harsh working conditions just in order to survive. If they are lucky enough to have connections, they start working in these production plants often without knowing of even the so-called rights acknowledged in the Islamic Republic’s anti-worker labour laws. And even when they do know about these laws, they are often unable to attain their rights. Married working mothers are responsible to provide childcare for their children or if there is a grandmother or an elderly woman in the family, often this task is given to them. Otherwise, the kids are left on their own and usually the eldest one takes care of the younger ones.

In production plants, women are compelled to rigorously obey the rules and regulations and totally comply with the employers’ demands otherwise; they could be fired without being given any reason for their dismissal. These women’s working day exceeds 10 hours not counting the long and exhausting hours they spend to get to work. Despite going through all these hardships, however, their wages are often less than the minimum one set by the government. Women receive the lowest wages and given the lowest jobs due to their gender; jobs and wages that men would less likely agree to. In fact, women are paid less for the same job and the same length of time. In other words, unequal pay for equal work is the order of the day for working women

The situation of the toiling women, who haven’t been able to find factory jobs and therefore work at home as “domestic workers”, is even worse. Their job is to take orders from factories and manufacturers and carry out the given task at home. Yes, piecework; one of the most brutal forms of exploitation in which these women are engaged. Undoubtedly, these working women simultaneously have their “domestic employment” and the care of their children. Under circumstances where both their living and working environment is often one room, obviously various psychological and emotional pressures are imposed on their kids and the rest of the family. Most of these women are compelled to finish their work past midnight and thus deprived of necessary sleep. Despite their horrendous working conditions, the wages these toiling women receive by no means matches their load of work. Their wages are so low that it is more profitable for the capitalists to assign the work to this segment of the working class and employ their cheaper labour than to factory workers and production plants where the cost of production is higher. 

Where there is a massive army of the unemployed and where there is a possibility to employ women’s labour power way below its value, the capitalists have been able to constantly lower the wages (of both working women and men) and gain enormous profits for the price of ever greater toil and suffering of the working people

How is unequal pay for equal work possible? What allows a capitalist to pay women less for the same work done by men? Undoubtedly, the necessary conditions for capitalist exploitation and profiteering are provided by the capitalist state. The capitalists in Iran, too, have benefited from the rule of their own representing state: the Islamic Republic regime. Under the rule of this regime, the capitalists acquire the possibility to evermore exploit workers and gain vast profits. However, in order to comprehend the specific mechanism of this reality, within the depth of the existing socio-economic system, we must ponder the function of that reactionary culture that portrays women and their social role as inferior to men. If in a culture, women are perceived as incomplete human beings, less rational and more sentimental (superficial), ignorant, weak, less capable and their world with the “womanish responsibilities” assigned to them is of a “lesser world”, then when they enter the “mannish world” and dare to make a living, their work, their toil must be considered less significant; lesser in value. If the social value of women is lower than that of men, then it would be “natural” their wages be lower too. This is the culture that the Islamic Republic regime has upheld and imposed on society as the dominant one. Through its reactionary ideology and actions against women, the anti-worker regime of the Islamic Republic has indeed ensued the consolidation and domination of realities as such. Unequal pay for equal work; this is one of the outcomes of the regime’s misogynist actions for the benefit of capitalists and the misery of working families.  

When we say that the Islamic Republic regime is the representative of capitalists, we must be aware of the fact that both the regime’s religious ideology and its actions are but to serve and safeguard the interests of capitalists and to sustain and promote the dependent capitalist system in Iran. It’s being proven over and over again that religion in the hands of the exploitative classes and their political regimes is but a means to facilitate the exploitation of the oppressed classes in society. This must be kept in mind, especially by conscious and combatant women, in order to channel their struggles for the real emancipation of women and complete equality between men and women into the right direction and not fall into bourgeois ideologies that endeavour to portray men as the cause for the subjugation of and oppression against women rather than the capitalist system and its exploitative imperatives. There is no doubt that we must categorically and hard-heartedly rise against this male-dominated culture but we must know, as well, that this male-chauvinist culture is not current only among men. In various cases, women themselves endorse such a culture although in different ways. Yet, at the same time, we must engage in a vehement and all-encompassing fight against bourgeois ideologies that, by diverting women’s rage and resentment towards the capitalist system and its advocate regimes into a fight against men, in fact, damage the unison between men and women, hinder the combative camaraderie between working men and women and, in other wards, hamper the class solidarity amongst the working and toiling masses.

In conclusion, only by overthrowing the Islamic Republic regime and the abolishment of exploitative classes would there be a possibility for the real and inclusive emancipation of women in Iran. Let us, by concentrating our combative energy, pave the path to the establishment of a society void of classes.

March the 8, 1999


  1. Under the Islamic Republic, numerous underaged female political prisoners have been raped by the direct orders of the regime’s ringleaders especially during the massive arrests in 1981. (according to the Islamic jurisprudence, virgin girls go to heaven after they die. ‘Therefore, the mercenaries concluded, ‘that they should lose their virginity before execution, and, thereby be prevented from entering heaven’). Countless women have been stoned to death for the alleged “crime” of unchastity. The savagery and brutality committed by these mercenaries was, in fact, an act of vengeance upon the revolutionary masses. However, these atrocious anti-revolutionary actions were justified under the pretext of implementing Islam and its canon laws. The Islamic Republic mercenaries; these advocates of the Iranian dependent capitalist system, have promoted in broad daylight the practice of (Islamic) prostitution under the title of Islamic concubinage (contractual temporary marriage) while pretending that they are truly in opposition to the spread of prostitution in society.         
  2. Some, due to their narrow-mindedness and some others maliciously and in order to create diversion in the masses’ anti-imperialist struggles, have always tried, by referring to the regime’s misogynous deeds, to portray merely religion and the Islamic ideology rather than the domineering imperialists and the Iranian dependent capitalist as the cause of all oppression and tyranny against women in Iran. These individuals or groups either do not realise or they do want to admit that during the times of crisis under capitalist society, women are among the first victims of capitalist unemployment, degradation and repression. Of course, in various places, this takes place in different ways and under different ideological justifications.

    If, in fact, the Islamic Republic mercenaries lay women off from jobs and portray the ideal woman as a homemaker or merely a spouse or a mother simply because of religion of their Islamic beliefs, then how is it that Hitler, as the head of a secular state, expressed in German almost the same phrases uttered by the Islamic Republic’s current ringleaders?! (read Hitler’s speech in Nuremberg parliament in 1934)

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