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Persepolis: Changing Western Perceptions Of Muslim Women

1749 words - 7 pages

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis, makes important strides toward altering how Western audiences perceive Iranian women. Satrapi endeavors to display the intersection of the lives of some Westerners with her life as an Iranian, who spent some time in the West. Satrapi, dissatisfied with representations she saw of Iranian women in France, decided to challenge them. In her words, “From the time I came to France in 1994, I was always telling stories about life in Iran to my friends. We’d see pieces about Iran on television, but they didn’t represent my experience at all. I had to keep saying, ‘No, it’s not like that there.’ I’ve been justifying why it isn’t negative to be an Iranian for almost twenty years. How strange when it isn’t something I did or chose to be?” (Satrapi, “Why I Wrote Persepolis” 10). In acknowledging both Eastern and Western feminism, Satrapi’s novel humanizes the female Iranian perspective in a way that can easily digested by Western audiences.

This novel acts as an autoethnographic text, a term coined by Mary Louise Pratt, in which Persepolis acts as “a text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them” (Pratt 35). This novel, which depicts her life so far, demonstrates a mastery of the spaces of representation. As one theorist has argued, “In discussing Persepolis in relation to the theme of women and space, we will draw upon a framework suggested by Pollock for reading the work of women artists…Pollock refers to three spatial registers: first, the locations represented by the work (and, in particular, the division between public and private space); second, the spatial order within the work itself (concerning, for example, angles of vision and other framing devices); and third, the space from which the representation is made, including the working space of the artist, and more generally the social and psychic space within which she is located, and within which her work is received” (Miller 39). The third space to which Miller refers, that of the working, psychic, and social space of the author, is the one in which Satrapi chooses to engage her readers.

Utilizing nego-feminism, questioning subordination and preexisting understandings of culture, and the stark depictions of a graphic novel, Satrapi makes a compelling case in humanizing Iranian women like her. In this way, Satrapi reclaims the space of her identity and how it is represented and the ethics of doing so, and alters it in order to provide a more representative picture of her life in Iran. Satrapi tells her story with images of privileged characters whose politics, financial situation, and values well match those of liberal Westerners. Further, she demonstrates her autonomy, independent of the regime, in which she also is able to demonstrate her passion for spirituality and nationalism. She begins her story from a child’s perspective in order to alter preexisting perceptions about...

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