Shahla Haeri: There are many misconceptions, but unfortunately the media are so very powerful. The image that they have created has become so powerful that it becomes very difficult for people to get any other image, any other perceptions, of women in their mind. There is this tendency to categorize, to generalize and lump them all together and assume that they all behave the same way. . . . There’s tremendous diversity not only across Islamic cultures but within one particular culture. There is this misconception of Muslim women as being passive, oppressed, unintelligent. This has been an assumption that, as soon as women wear the veil, they lose their brain, whereas we see now in Iran that the veil in fact has enabled women to be a lot more active politically, economically, professionally, educationally, what have you. But, still, the dominance of media is such that really it doesn’t allow other images to compete with that.
Shahla Haeri is the director of Women’s Studies Program and an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at Boston University. Video by the Choices for the 21st Century Education Program (a national education initiative based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies). The text above is an edited partial transcript of the video.