Women, Work & Islamism: Ideology and Resistance in Iran
Gerami, Shahin, The Middle East Journal
Women, Work & Islamism: Ideology and Resistance in Iran, by Maryam Poya. London and New York: Zed Books, 1999. xvii + 186 pages. $55.
This book, which is divided into seven chapters, traces Iranian women's resistance to state oppression and patriarchal family from the early 1900s to the end of the century. The book begins with a historical summary, contains a literature review in chapters two and three, and provides factual information and analytical insights in the subsequent chapters. In the introduction, Poya lays out her research technique, which consists of interviews, field notes, official data, and personal observations. In terms of a theoretical framework, she prefers the Marxian idea of social class to the Weberian notion of social status. She points out that the family's social class was the deciding factor in women's decision to work, because, "women's employment is determined by the sexual division of labor in the social relations of productions and by social relations between women and men" (p. 13). Although the state ideology and its institutional power have reduced the bargaining power of Iranian women, their exposure to "unfavorable gender relations" has made them determined to improve their position.
During the middle of the 20th century, Iran was incorporated into the capitalist world market. Women who had always worked at home, in the field, and in domestic production of goods for the market, gained limited access to paid employment. Poya notes that improved health conditions, educational opportunities, and modest legal reforms provided avenues to paid employment. She supports this by statistical information from the official labor statistics, but denotes the reasons why they fall short of the actual data. …