Womanhood-Motherhood (by Roya Monajem)


[1] The type of investment a nation uses--native costumes -- must have first appeared as a response to some geographico-climatical necessity.  Regarding chador, it should be reminded that this now “Islamic costume”, essentially belonged to peoples living in hot, dry geographical zones, in vicinity of vast deserts and wildernesses, where winds are usually accompanied with sandstorms, so naturally the inhabitants of these areas would need a kind of garment that would protect them, not only against hot burning sun, but also against these sandstorms. This, together with the fact that chador -- a shorter type of it was (and still is) also used by Zoroastrian women, followers of the official ancient religion of Iran before the Islamic conquest -- proves that this costume has a much longer history than  Islam.  Men’s dastar -- a long piece of material, bent and twisted in a special way to cover the head like a hat -- serves a similar function. Both, chador and dastar are protections against flying sand getting into the head orifices -- eyes, nose, mouth, ears -- Chador is much larger since it, had to protect more than one person -- mother an her small children -- Another fact that makes us more certain that chador had primarily had a biological function rather than religious is the fact that mothers who breastfeed their newborns, take out their breast quite freely in front of strangers without much attempt to cover themselves with their chadors, which religiously should be their actual function.  In fact this is still a common scene in all Islamic Countries, especially in rural areas. One can see women breastfeeding their newborns, while a chador is hanging down from their heads without covering this part of their body.  Surely if chador had a purely religious function ab ovo, women wearing it would use it primarily to cover themselves from the eyes of strangers. But watch them during any drastic weather -- wind blasting, rain falling, sun blazing, draught blowing -- if in the open, with their small children, and see how they immediately and rather instinctively, resort to their chador, wrapping it around their child like shield.  Of course, this is not to deny the religious investment especially among today’s urban women.  In fact the more we move away from a more  “natural way of living”, the more we forget about the original functions of this and any other costume and rituals, and the more religious they appear.


[2] See classical Marxist-Leninist writings on Women’s Problem.

[3] The strict division of labour, i.e. women staying at home and doing solely “feminine jobs” and  men working outside and doing “masculine jobs”, was only true for the upper class, rich minority  and not the poor majority.


[4] Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

[5] As we will see in the next chapter on creativity, I think there is no question about the fact that Industrial Revolution is the product of men’s creative activity. Based on this revolution a new world arises, this is a ‘man’-made world with its corresponding productive and social relationships.”  On the other hand, the anthropological studies show that the structure of matriarchal societies with its corresponding ‘productive and social relations’ has been very different from that of the patriarchal ones. In other words, these studies prove that a ‘woman-made’ world is different from a ‘man-made’ world. Men and women as different biological entities are bound to have different world-outlooks that would then create different realities.


[6] The masculine component of women according to Yungian terminology.

[7] Nowadays, women can enjoy the right to ask for divorce, only if they demand it as a condition to accept the marriage contract.  It is very ironical that this is what they should ask in the eve of their marriage ceremony, i.e. at the time when they are full of love and hope for establishing a happy life and a lasting relationship, when the last thing that might cross their mind is the thought of failure and  divorce.  Yes it is exactly at this very “emotional” moment that they are demanded to see life “logically and realistically” and think also about the possibility of divorce and ask for it as a condition for accepting the marriage and if the man does not accept this condition, then either she would be forced to give in or the marriage will end before even being started.

[8] Believe me, it is almost impossible to be a woman in a country like mine, with all the above mentioned legal, moral and psychological prejudices on one hand and still be happy to have been born a woman.  It needs the Herculean strength!

[9] A good and  useful book published in recent years, dealing with this problem is R.Gray’s, Men Are From Mercury, Women From Venus.

[10] Friedreich Nietzche, Ecche Homo, English  Translation, Hollingdale.

[11] Whenever I talk about this subject to people, one of the common objections is how some of my thesis smells of the same old anti-women statements. Having some similar appearances does not necessarily imply the same content. When I remind these people that in saying women are perhaps more spiritually oriented it is like saying that artists are more spiritual, then take a sigh of relief.

[12] Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, M.Eliade, The Fontana Library,1974.P.193.

[13] Immortal Sisters, Secrets of Taoist Women, Translated and  edited by Thomas Cleary, Shambaahala,1989.

1 Cf. Nietzsche’s quotation in the preceding chapter.

2 Unfortunately, I no longer have access to this volume that most probably was published in 1994. The existing differences included 4-5 qualities, two of which were mentioned in the text, and the others, if I remember correctly, were a higher abstract mathematical ability in men and a higher marking ability for short distances in women while men are better in finding their way in longer distances.

[14] Journal of Scientific American, Vol. 231, No.5, nov.1974

2 Cf. the quotation in the last chapter from Nietzches’ Ecce Homo.

1 This statement is attributed to the Islamic Prophet Mohammad, and is specially widespread among Iranians.

2 Their sole eternal truth is the category of faith.

3 We will look at this old question of choice and necessity or free will and fatalism in more detail in another chapter.

4 As mentioned in the last chapter this is an Islamic juridical laws.

5 For more detail see the previous chapter.

6 See I am Right -- You are Wrong by Edward De Bono,Penguine Books,1990.


7 The words in parentheses are Farsi terms for these stages.


8 It is very interesting that the word conception is used both for conception of a child and also thought and ideas, which means that the relationship between men and ideas is similar to that of mother and child.  Men give birth to ideas as women give birth to children.

9 The irony here is what seems important is just to work outside, to have a job, even if it is essentially of the same nature as housework.  In other words, the same job, when done outside home becomes once more “valuable and appreciable”. To be your own children’s nurse, teacher, trainer, cook, etc., is not significant, to do the same job for others gives one prestige.

10 Is it surprising that we actually have this word mother-wit in the dictionary?

11 For more detail, see the first chapter.

1 By that I mean gynecological and obstetrical complications.

2 Nowadays, whenever I reflect back, I feel that the case of us--feminists-- has been like those atheists who try to prove that there is no God.  The  a priori condition for such an approach is naturally, the acceptance of God’s existence.  Otherwise there would be no need to prove the opposite.  Similarly implicit acquiescence to the idea of “women’s inferiority”, or in Freudian terminology  “ castration complex”, is the pre-requisite of Feminism.

3 See, “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, Nei Jing”, translated by Ilza Veith, University of California Press,1972, P.15.

4 Competition, control, conflict and as such are all elements of fight, a masculine quality, perhaps the product of testosterone hormone, secreted in men, which in any case develops as the result of his responsibility as hunter. The natural mode of feminine being does not need this quality, and in reality dictates the opposite.

5 See, Ecche Homo, mentioned in the last chapter,  the same page.

1 Shams-al-din Hafiz Shirazi, the 12th century Iranian lyric poet, titled the Mystic Tongue, is for us as Shakespeare is for the English people.  Together with our Holy Book, Koran, his book of poetry is found almost in every house.

1 See Celestine Prophecy by J.Redfield, for the probable mechanism of how this depletion of energy actually happens

2 For  more detail, see The Road Less Travelled, by Dr. Scott Peck.


1 When we are young and naturally very idealistic, we see our lovers so much as a god that we don’t expect any “misbehaviour” on behalf of them, and get disappointed when we realize that they are just ordinary human beings, who belch ...

1 Remember there is a Yang in every Yin and a Yin in every Yang, as some male hormone is secreted in women and vice versa, or in Yungian terminology, every man has an anima, female counterpart, and similarly every woman has an animus, manual counterpart. Without these counterparts, anima and animus, men and women could never be able to understand each other.

1 The problem of frigidity among women--particularly among the intellectual women whose “split existence” is more pronounced-- and the incidence of impotency in men is an evidence for their alienation from their true self or nature.


1 See,  Soren Kierkegaard, Sickness onto Death.

1 See,M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled, A Touchstone Book,N.Y.1978.

1 Ibid.p.82-84

2 For detail of what we mean by “universal mechanism”, see the next chapter.

1 A good criteria for testing the extent and degree of this willingness is to ask ourselves, whether he is the person, whom we like to be the father of our children.  Would he be able to fulfil this role properly? In other words would he be a good father? Men can ask similar questions from ourselves.

[15] The core of the following subject is explained above and it may seem repetitious. But new concepts are absorbed only through repetition. In fact I added this part nearly a year after I finished the book, and naturally had forgotten the details. Once I finished this part I suddenly felt I must have dealt with many of its points before, and there it was. But after reading the whole chapter over again, I thought due to the importance of the subject under study, its repetitious nature may help to have a better understanding of how things work from this perspective. I hope I have not made a mistake in thinking this way.

[16] Depending on the nature of the situation, it is quite possible that the opposite poles of these characteristics, i.e. extreme optimism and trust might be developed.

[17] This is the rule, and every rule has its own exception. Throughout this book, we are considering the rule, without forgetting the fact that there are bound to be some exceptions to this rule, too.

[18] There is no way to escape from our fears, dislikes or antipathies. They would follow us like a shadow. Therefore, it is better to confront them the very first time we discover them in ourselves. So much energy is wasted on avoiding them. So much is lost in escaping them. We can deprive ourselves from many pleasant experiences and opportunities just to avoid a single ‘unpleasant’ characteristic in a person or a situation. The majority of our fears (dislikes) take shape in our childhood. Then they might play a protective role such as fearing being alone or loathing an aggressive personality. As a child we are too weak to protect ourselves; we are not yet familiar with so many different defense mechanisms that are available to us.


[19] For more detail, see chapter eleven, Feminine Sexuality.

1 This is the revised Introduction to my translation of Dr. Scott Peck’s The Roadless Travel,

1 By this expression, I mean to convey the idea, that today the majority of parents “love” their children, largely due to socio--cultural expectations, and more out of a sense of duty and commitment than a genuine love arising from their hearts.  If you do not believe this, just think about your own reaction toward a parent who would confess to you that he/she does not really love his/her child (children).  Most probably, the least thing that might cross your mind is that such a person is mentally “sick”.  So we usually do not even dare to confess to ourselves that the main basis of our relation with our children can be lots of other factors than love.

1 The above lines sound more like a poetical speculation than the description of a real situation.  This is so mainly because all over the world, people write and talk about the ugly, defective, sick side of life considerably much more than the happy and healthy aspects. We are more professional in describing our sufferings, no wonder that, we still do not have a definition for health in itself, i.e. without any reference to the opposite state, i.e. sickness.  In short our attitude is more disease--oriented than health-oriented.  All over the world, sickness brings the sick more advantages -- both materially (money paid in case of work disabilities, etc.) and spiritually (the attention, love and care that a sick person receives)than health.

But let us not forget that concepts such as “they lived happily every after”, must have once had -- and surely still has if only rarely -- an objective, real basis.  They could not have been mere subjective, abstract and fanciful thoughts, only found in fairy tales, since no matter how far human  imagination might go, it always starts from some sort of reality. If there were no birds, the concept of flying in the air (thus aeroplanes) could never take shape in human mind.

In any case, the perception of love till doomsday is associated in our minds with a deep everlasting, eternal phenomenon and when ever we fall in love, automatically we fall into this illusion and delusion, because at the same time an unfathomable abyss exists between the above picture and what is experienced in the authentic reality of our everyday life. Living in the era of developed technology, and artificial intelligence has added a new serious human threat -- the dangerous biospheric changes and the possibility of the break out of an atomic, neutronic, positronic, leptonic, quarkonic   .. war -- to the possible natural threats -- earthquakes, hurricanes, draughts, etc --. Never before in human history, our mere existence has appeared so uncertain, contingent and ephemeral.  Today nothing can be more lasting than our attraction to daily or hourly change in fashion, hairstyles, brands of cars, TV’s etc. In such an ever-changing kaleidoscopic world we live in, can any idea, notion, affection, love ever get a chance to last?  All the so-called durable, stable, relatively immutable phenomena namely love (whether sex-related, paternal or patriotic), devotion  faith etc. now exist more in the caricature state of their past forms(as Marx would say).  So if we wish anything last, we should be ready to become as “fluid” as the outside world, and leave--as Dr. Debono explains in his excellent book “I am right,  Your are wrong”--the “rock” way of thinking behind. For this we constantly need to revise our conceptions and credos regularly; in other words, we should grow with the same speed as the outside world.

1 The feeling of happiness and satisfaction is perhaps the main quality that distinguishes love from commitment.  A committed parent can behave exactly as a loving one, but while the child who is raised in the latter’s hand would experience both happiness and satisfaction, the child brought by the former does not necessarily experience the same feeling.


[20] The following example, while a very prevalent condition in my country, seldom is found in the West due to other differences in people’s personalities and human relations. There, the influence of mothers on their children’s life is indirect,  and is mainly exerted through their personalities. This however does not change the trinity nature of the parent-child relationship particularly the father-child part. The relatively  more time that mothers spend with their children can affect both the child’s conception of her/his father, and father’s conception of his child. For more detail about the difference between Western and Iranian women, see chapter 9.

1 This subject is beautifully discussed by Dr. Bernie S. Siegel in his book Love, Medicine and Miracle. I used its second edition for translation and unfortunately do not remember the name of its publisher any longer.

1 I presented my views on this subject in a lectured given in the National Gathering of Societies of Disabled people in Tehran, 1998.

1 In acupuncture, every organ of the body --which the Chinese actually call officers--is mutually related to some specific emotions.  For example, liver is related to anger, kidneys to fear, spleen to pensiveness, heart to excite-ments such as joy, and finally lungs are related to sadness.

1 M. Eliade, Myths, Dreams,and Mysteries, the Fontana Library, 1974.  p.199.

1 I presented this view in a book called “Disease, the Message of Life, published six years ago. It is a collection of articles about the disease Multiple Sclerosis(MS), which for more than eight years was the main subject of my research. I tried to establish our national MS society, held monthly gatherings in my home for these patients, but unfortunately our government, not only did not support us and give us official permission to establish this society, but ordered me to stop the meetings immediately.  Consequently, I compiled a collection of articles published by different MS societies, translated and printed them in the aforementioned book together with my  own view on the role that chronic, ‘incurable’ diseases can play in our life.

1 From another more “impersonal” angle, diseases can play the role of checking the population growth, modifying some of our exaggerated activities (eg. Aids has helped to calm down the sexual craze to some extent), helping towards the enactment of the natural law of “survival of the best and fittest”,...

1 Immortal Sisters, Secrets of Taoist Women, Thomas Cleary, Shambhala, 1989,  p.31

1 Jean Shinoda Blen’s “Goddesses in Every Woman. A new psychology of Women”, can be useful here.

1 Ibid.

[21] This is a picture very similar to Indian philosophy of Karma.

1 See, The Mystical spiral, Journey of the Soul, Jill Purce, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974.

[22] Professor H.M. Koch, Darius. I have read the Persian translation and thus can not give the name of the foreign publisher. In one of the footnotes, Ms Koch writes, according to Dandamaev-lukonin, 119f, 124: “During Achaemenid times a woman in Babyonia ( as well as in Elam and Egypt) enjoyed great independence and could have her own property, of which she was freely in charge.”

[23] ibid,p. 277, Persian translation.

[24] A few years ago I was invited to speak in a special gathering held in Indian embassy in memorandum of late Mrs. Gandhi. Once there, I realized that Imam Khomeini’s daughter and some women MPs were invited too. As protest to their presence I refused to give my speech with the excuse that we had overrun the time. It was really depressing for me to here the leader’s daughter (i.e. an Iranian) to comment after the speech of the wife of the Norwegian ambassador who announced that it is now 122 years that her countrywomen are enjoying equal rights, that “ in Islam this was acknowledged 1400 years ago.” I wanted to stand up and scream that “no my dear, Islam just forbade burying girls alive. It took away all the right we Iranian women enjoyed. It was a revolutionary act for Arab women, but for us, it was regression.”

[25] Considering the creative activity, what did indeed bloom in all these gloomy years were only those spheres of Arts directly related to and in the service of religion, such as construction of mosques, calligraphy and corresponding decorative arts, mysticism and corresponding poetry and so on, while painting (except miniature which may very well be counted as a decorative art rather than painting as such) and music were banned.

[26] The evidence for it is the fact that even today, and particularly in the backward areas of the country, much of these activities are still carried out largely by women.

[27] It is only recently that largely due to the considerable growth of urbanization, replacement of large families by nuclear ones living in small apartments and also immigration of the young generations to foreign countries that single old parents are put into institutions for the elderly with much of guilt feeling on behalf of their children. Culturally, such behaviour is still regarded opprobrious and like a crime.

[28] I have a rather funny story to relate here. Years ago when I asked my tenants to leave the head of the family kept procrastinating  and, postponing the date, till one day I told him that “if you do not do anything I am afraid I would then have to appeal to the court.”  He pretended to be hurt and told me to do whatever I like to do, and left, but then after a few minutes he returned and said: “no, I promise you to leave, because I do not want people to say that he fought with a woman.”  Unfortunately I believed him and did not appeal. A few weeks later, it was about 11 o’clock at night that the bell rang and when my mother and I opened the door, we were faced with him and a police officer who told me that this man has complained against you; he thinks you have cut off his running water. For a few seconds I was dumbfounded and then suddenly I realized what was going on. That afternoon the running water of the whole neighbourhood was out due to some leaks in the pipes, but he had thought I had done something as the main pipe went through our section of the house. So I turned to the officer and asked him whether he had been on duty in the afternoon, too or not. The police station was in the same neighbourhood and so he must have been aware of the problem. When I reminded him of the fact, he turned to my tenant and scolded him for accusing me. The same man who asked me not to appeal to the court because it was indecent to fight with a woman had brought me the police at that time of the night! He didn’t leave before making me to pay him all the rent he had paid during his residence in my house. But that is beside the point.

[29] It is perhaps interesting to know that while the relationship between brides and mother-in laws are one of the most problematic relations in this country that between the grooms and mother - in laws is quite intimate. To me the reason is that the former, the bride, is a threat to financial security of mother in laws while the latter, the groom, when kept on good terms, can add to that security. He can act as the son’s successor in this respect.

[30] We still don’t know what went on among women themselves. As a child I used to go to women’s religious gatherings held for different purposes. I remember that there was a lot of talking and giggling about sex among them, something I hardly saw among my ‘intellectual’ family members and among my mother’s friends.

[31] The reference source for this chapter is Britannica Encyclopedia: “Sex and Sexuality”, CD version. I purposefully used a rather long quotation to over-rule any possible disbelief. What is said above is established fact.

[32] Many of my clients who feel that they are frigid openly express such a distinction. They claim that they seldom feel like making love, but once and if they start then they are O.K and enjoy every moment of the process.

[33] I am right, you are wrong, by Edward de Bono, Penguin Books, 1990.

[34] Sex and Sexuality, Britannica Encyclopedia, CD version.

[35] I Ching or book of changes, Richard Wilhelm Translation, Tendered into English by Cary Baynes, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London and Henley, 1967.

[36] This is the name of one of the early works of Nietzche.

[37] Book II, Ta Chaun/The Great Treatise (also called His Tz’u Chuan, Commentary on the Appended Judgement). P.282 of the same book.

[38] Ibid. P.386

[39] Ibid, p. 281.

[40] Ibid,p.281.

[41] Sublime literally means ‘head,’ ‘origin’ and ‘great’ and sublimity ‘the origin of all beings.’ “success” in case of yang means ‘brings about change and transformation’ and in case of yin, “bring about the condition necessary to attain the ideal, gives form to what is changing and transforming by the power of yang.’ Furthering literally means ‘creating that which accords with the nature of a given being. It also means ‘the urge to live.’ Perseverance means ‘correct and firm’, it is correlated with wisdom which discerns the immutable laws of all that happens and can therefore bring about enduring conditions.’ So in short, by the creative power of yin and yang, phenomena change and transform until they acquire an appropriate form that are in harmony with the immutable laws and thus persist.

[42] Immortal Sisters, secrets of Taoist Women, translated and edited by Thomas Cleary, Shambahala, Boston and Shaftesbury, 1989.

1 The Fates were three--Clothos, Lacheses and Atripos. Their office was to spin the thread of human destiny, and they were armed with shears, with which they cut it off when they pleased. They were the daughters of Themis (Law), who sits by Jove on his throne to give him counsel.Bulfinch’s Mythology, A Laurel Classic, 1976.

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