"The Education of Women reveals how elite Iranian men used their newly acquired knowledge of Western societies to construct a more confining discourse concerning proper behavior of upper-class Iranian women in the late nineteenth century. The rebuttal entitled The Vices of Men is a celebrated text in Iranian's women's studies. Bibi Khanom Astarabadi wrote it because she was angry at the misogynistic advice in The Education of Women. This classic essay is remarkable for its frank language, and the ease with which the author speaks of women's lives and their most intimate issues."—Janet Afray, author of Sexual Politics in Modern Iran
At the close of the nineteenth century, modern ideas of democracy and equality were slowly beginning to take hold in Iran. Exposed to European ideas about law, equality, and education, upper- and middle-class men and women increasingly questioned traditional ideas about the role of women and their place in society. In apparent response to this emerging independence of women, an anonymous author penned The Education of Women, a small booklet published in 1889. This guide, aimed at husbands as much as at wives, instructed women on how to behave toward their husbands, counseling them on proper dress, intimacy, and subservience.
One woman, Bibi Khanom Astarabadi, took up the author’s challenge and wrote a refutation of the guide’s arguments. An outspoken mother of seven, Astarabadi established the first school for girls in Tehran and often advocated for the rights of women. In The Vices of Men, she details the flaws of men, offering a scathing diatribe on the nature of men’s behavior toward women.
Astarabadi mixes the traditional florid style of the time with street Persian, slang words, and bawdy language. This new edition, the first to be translated into English, faithfully preserves the style and irreverent tone of the essays. The two texts, together with an introduction and afterword situating both within the customs, language, and social life of Iran, offer a rare candid dialogue between men and women in late nineteenth-century Persia.
Hasan Javadi is the author and translator of numerous books, including Satire in Persian Literature and Persian Literary Influence on English Literature. He has taught English and Persian literature at the University of Cambridge, Tehran University, and the University of California at Berkeley.
Willem Floor is the author of The History of Theater in Iran and A Social History of Sexual Relations in Iran.
5.5 x 8, 216 pages, 12 black and white illustrations