Accepted Paper:

Iranian women and education: contestation of traditional gender hierarchies  


Marzieh Kaivanara (University of Bristol)

Paper short abstract:

This study focuses on the impact of higher education on women’s perception and attitudes regarding gender roles and power relations within the family. It also examines the influence of women’s education and their social presence on challenging the patriarchal structure of the society and state’s policies.

Paper long abstract:

The rise in Iranian women's participation in universities, which constitutes 60% of university students, has alarmed conservative groups, stating this would 'cause social disparity and economic and cultural imbalances between men and women'. While "Ideal Islamic society" tends to preserve traditional roles of women as "mothers and caregivers", through redefining these roles and relations, Iranian women have tried to reinforce their position within the family and in the society.

With the growth in the proportion of female university students and workforces, the patriarchal structure of the family -which highlights men's status as the head of the family and breadwinner- has been challenged. Through education and pursuing their goals, these women try to have a "voice" in the family and contribute to familial decision-making. To educated young women, the old classic definition of the family and gender authority has lost its importance and they are no longer tied to the home, nor consider themselves as subordinate in the family.

While studying women's perceptions on gender roles and power relations, this study seeks to provide a greater understanding of actual attitudes of educated women within the family. In this study, I examine how women with higher education assign meanings to the concept of family and define their roles. Also, I aim to explore the role of education on the construction of women's identities. Considering government's new policies regarding prioritising men's presence in higher education and job market, this paper, also, focuses on the extent that education has challenged Iranian conservatives' principles and contributed to a profound social change.

Panel P001
Impact of education on women's status and daily life in the Middle East and Asia (Commission on Anthropology of the Middle East/Commission on the Anthropology of Women)