Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reporter creating a social trend

Reporters are not social scientists. A sociologist would insist on reliable statistics and a representative sample. Thomas Erdbrink, writing in the New York Times, needs only a couple examples and some street level analysis to identify a trend in Iran. Granted, if it is real, the changes are setting the stage for major changes down the road. And that's why the guys in charge of things in Iran are concerned. The question remains: How real is the social change?

Single Women Gaining Limited Acceptance in Iran
There are no official statistics on the number of women living by themselves in big cities in Iran. But university professors, real estate agents, families and many young women all say that a phenomenon extremely rare just 10 years ago is becoming commonplace, propelled by a continuous wave of female students entering universities and a staggering rise in divorces.

The shift has left clerics and politicians struggling to deal with a generation of young women carving out independent lives in a tradition-bound society, away from the guidance of fathers and husbands…

In the not-so-distant past, single women had to endure severe social stigmatization, suspected of having loose morals or dismissed as spinsters who were failing to fulfill their role in life.

But that is changing in the big cities, in large part because of their sheer numbers, but also because of the prevalence of satellite television, social media and cheap foreign travel, many Iranians say, which have helped to change attitudes.

University enrollments have been rising strongly in Iran over the last decade, and women now account for nearly 60 percent of the total. Having raised their horizons in four years of college, many of these women have trouble finding husbands they consider their equals.

In the same period, divorces have increased by 135 percent, forcing society, if not its leaders, to begin to accept single women...

Politicians and clerics are warning that an entire generation is growing up with values that are anathema to the traditional ones upheld by the state.

For those in power, who promote motherhood as a holy virtue, but also see higher education as a nationwide ambition, marriage is the only solution for the growing number of single women…

But the enormous increase in broken marriages, combined with the higher wages that come with a university degree, is allowing many women to redefine success. Increasingly their parents agree.

“To my surprise, my parents also wanted me to live by myself,” said Nazanin, 35. Her above-average income as a manager of a cosmetics company allowed her to rent an apartment after she left her husband because of his drug addiction…

At her work everybody is divorced, said Nazanin, who did not want her family name mentioned for reasons of privacy. She recently moved into a new apartment building where everybody is over 30 and single.

“Society has no option but to accept us,” she said. “I hope the state will follow.”

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