Feminist Fashion Icon: Marjane Satrapi

To celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m participating in the Feminist Fashion Bloggers (FFB) first coordinated group post. My task: Write a post featuring a personal feminist/fashion icon (a feminist who also has great style, or a fashion icon who also works with and for women).

Now I know of a lot of great feminists, and I can give you a long list of fashion icons, but finding someone who fits both was tricky. It’s not that there aren’t fashionable feminists or that fashion icons are somehow by definition, un-feminist. I thought of Diane von Furstenberg, notable fashion designer and creator of the iconic wrap dress. I thought of Annie Lennox, half of the ’80s pop group The Eurythmics, and how she stands up for her ideas, is in a league of her own, style-wise, and is doing great work on the AIDS front. Barbara Gowdy, the sometimes controversial and always thought-provoking Canadian author, came to mind.

Yet I kept looking.

When the demonstrations in Egypt erupted about a month ago, I remember watching women and men join together and stand up for their human rights. At that moment (at least from what I saw on TV) all the protesters were united in their goal, regardless of age or gender.

After the successful protests and the collapse of the Egyptian government, one woman said to a reporter, “I fought next to my sisters and brothers to reclaim Egypt. Now I must continue my fight to give women in Egypt the same opportunities that men have. All we ask is to be treated the same and have equality.”

I was so proud of that woman, whose name wasn’t even splashed across the screen. She spoke for the women of Egypt and reminded me that there is a definite need for a feminist movement.

Marjane Satrapi on WikipediaSo it was with the Middle East on my mind that I chose Marjane Satrapi.

Marjane Satrapi is the award-winning writer and artist behind the autobiographical comic book and animated film Persepolis. Persepolis illustrates what Satrapi’s life was life in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

What jumped out at me during my viewing of the film is how outspoken Satrapi was—even at a young age. She filled her mind with knowledge and never stopped speaking her mind. Those are admirable qualities for anyone to possess.

One scene in particular stuck with me. The college-aged heroine was running to catch a bus when the religious police told her to stop running because it was creating obscene body movements (despite the fact that she was covered veil to toe in very modest attire). Her answer: Well, stop staring at my ass then!

Parts of the story document a tragic tale of how a religious regime crushed an entire nation and nearly destroyed the rich culture of Iran. But like life, it has funny moments too, and triumphs.

The film is rife with examples of patriarchy, religious oppression, class struggles, and the fight for gender equality. Throughout it, the protagonist tests new waters and adjusts to East/West cultural shifts, some of which include music, lipstick, hairstyles, and fashion. The photos I’ve seen of Satrapi depict her as a stylish woman, whether she’s wearing a Ramones-style leather biker jacket or an elegant color-block shift. So it seemed Satrapi is the perfect example of a feminist fashion icon.

However, the following quote from her interview with Annie Tully stopped me in my tracks: “You know, the feminists become very angry when I say I am not a feminist.”

But I read on. “I am a humanist. I believe in human beings.” Phew. I can get behind that. My hopes were renewed. She could still met my criteria and be my feminist fashion icon.

When I looked into it further, I found a quote from an interview she gave to ABC: “I am absolutely not a feminist, I am against stupidity, and if it comes from males or females it doesn’t change anything. If it means that women and men, they are equal, then OK, certainly I am a feminist.”

So semantics aside, I’m counting Satrapi as an influential woman. She reminds us that it’s important for everyone—man or woman—to be heard.

www.bookslut.com “An interview with MarJane Satrapi” by Annie Tully, Oct. 2004
www.ABCWorldNews.com “Questions for Marjane Satrapi” by Arash Ghadishah, Feb 22, 2008

Have a look at what some of the other FFB members wrote:

Seamstress Stories – Vivienne Westwood

Yo Ladies? – Siouxsie Sioux

Oranges and Apples – Björk

Cervixosaurus – Claude Cahun

The Magic Square Foundation – Griselda Pollock

My Illustrative Life – Sydney Fox

What if No One’s Watching? – Gloria Steinem

Adventures in Refashioning – Hedy Lamarr

Mrs Bossa Does the Do – Cindy Sherman

The House in the Clouds – Nadia (Najla) Bittar

Fish Monkey’s Writing Stuff – Oroma Elewa

Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care – Frida Kahlo

Interrobangs Anonomous – Joan of Arc

What are Years? – Margaret Cho

Fashionable Academics – Frida Kahlo

Fashionable Academics – Tori Amos, Anne Shirley, and American Girl

Ef for Effort – Gloria Steinem

One Techie’s Search for Something Resembling Style – Elizabeth Smith Miller

Mad Dress Game – Julia de Burgos

Aly en France – Rachel Carson

Skrush – Ellen Page

Feministified – Gloria Trevi

Northwest is Best – PJ Harvey

Rags Against the Machine – Christine Lagarde

For Those About to Shop – Diane Von Furstenberg


Filed under Fashion, Feminism

10 responses to “Feminist Fashion Icon: Marjane Satrapi

  1. Great post! I totally didn’t think of Marjane Satrapi but she is a brilliant example… I loved Persepolis! Still, it’s sad how pervasive this attitude of “I am not a feminist (despite having feminist values)” is with people. It’s been mentioned in all FFB style icon posts I’ve read up to now, and I’m wondering if this trend will continue.

  2. What a great choice! i have not seen the persepolis film, but i have read the book and loved it, it was so eye opening. I knew nothing about Iran previously!

    On a more frivolous note, i love the jacket she is wearing in the picture!

  3. illusclaire

    She’s pretty admirable, I can’t deny.

  4. Kim

    I love this! Haven’t seen the movie but I know I have to now. I love her response to the religious police!

  5. Oh, I love your choice! I still haven’t seen the movie, but it’s on my list!

  6. Very cool. I read Persepolis a few years ago and just saw the film in January – one of the few times that I preferred the film to the book! The portrayal and meaning of the female body was definitely a theme that I latched onto while viewing. All that talk of women/girls needing to cover their bodies so as not to be obscene and tempt the onlooking men was actually all-too-familiar and very disturbing for me. I thought Satrapi communicated the stupidity of that view so well.

    And also, isn’t it so interesting, the words we choose to define ourselves? Language is such a fickle friend. Whether Satrapi sees herself as a feminist or not is an important thing to acknowledge, as we can’t go around claiming that our definitions of others are superior to their definitions of themselves. That said, I think when it comes to picking your own feminist icon (fashionable or otherwise), what matters is that they match YOUR understanding of feminism and provide a valuable example. Satrapi makes a great choice.

  7. Hello,

    What a fantastic choice. What a fantastic voice. I have always said that to be a feminist you have to be a humanist first. It’s not about a matriarchy, it is about equality. You have done a wonderful thing by blogging about her. Thank you so much. Hope to keep in touch with you through FFB. xoxo

  8. I really need to read/watch Persepolis – it’s been on my list for years now. I think you made a great choice – she’s embraced life with bravery and humour and given us all an education too.

  9. Pingback: My chosen feminist style icon « The House in the Clouds

  10. Pingback: feministified: Fashionable Feminist Icon: Gloria Trevi

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