Women vs Cities: The Masculinity of Urban Space in Traditional and Modern Iran

Ahmadreza Hakiminejad

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


It is not long time ago since the introvert male-dominated society, kept its treasure; the goddess of Matbakh (1); behind closed doors of Andarouni (2). Despite some focal points of effective appearance of Iranian women in urban societies in the late 19th century (such as Tobacco Protest in 1891), until the early 20th century, the relations of Iranian woman and urban/public space was predominantly restricted to a veiled presence in the mosques, mourning rites and funeral ceremonies, depicting a sorrowful picture of her in the urban society. Rarely seen in the bazaar, possibly the public bath has been the only social platform, in which women could feel freer to interact, to talk and to meet within the only feminine public space in the city. The city was utterly exploited by men. The city was completely masculine and it, observably, remained masculine!

Due to the socio-economic transformations in early 20th century leading to the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911), the relationship between women and urban space began to change in Iranian cities. Politically speaking, from the forceful removing of Hijab in 1934 by Reza Shah Pahlavi (which suddenly transformed the image of the veiled city to facing the women wearing miniskirts and high heels in downtown of the Iran’s capital) to the forceful covering of Hijab in Post-Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iranian women experienced a series of top-down political interventions reminding them they are painfully still the “second sex” in the contemporary Iran.

The paper, firstly, discusses the historical transformations of women’s appearance in the urban/public spaces in sociological perspective from the late 19th century to the present day; and secondly, it aims to explore how they; as the female “bodies of walkers” in the city; read this male-written rhetoric in its both formal and semantic expression in Iran's modern urban society (as Michel De Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life gives a metaphorical expression of the city as ‘text’, while the walkers are ‘readers’ of the “city-text”). Thus the sociological nature of this research induces a series of semi-structured interviews with a group of Iranian women on their imaginations, experiences, stories and feelings of being/walking within the urban spaces in Iran’s modern cities.

(1) Kitchen in traditional Iranian architecture.
(2) Purdah; literally inner house where women cannot be seen by men.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016
EventEleventh Biennial Iranian Studies Conference - University of Vienna , Vienna , Austria
Duration: 2 Aug 20165 Aug 2016
Conference number: 11


ConferenceEleventh Biennial Iranian Studies Conference
Internet address


  • Urban space
  • Gender
  • Women
  • Iranian cities
  • Urban history


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