Soapboxes and Stealth on Revolution Street
Revisiting the Question of ‘Freedom’ in Iran’s Hijab Protests
Keywords:Iran, Hijab, women’s rights, freedom, social justice movements, online activism
In this article, I examine how the concept of ‘freedom’ is articulated and deployed in narratives of anti-compulsory hijab protests in Iran. I posit that women’s rights movements in Iran become legible and, thereby, visible to US audiences when they conform to narrow frames of feminist activism and orientalist tropes. I begin this paper by analyzing the relationship between the “Girls of Revolution Street” (GRS) protests in Iran and the US-based “My Stealthy Freedom” (MSF) online movement to elucidate a politics of recognition that I argue reinforces orientalist representations of women’s rights in Iran. Through its circulation of GRS protest footage to its one million plus followers, MSF increased the visibility of resistance to mandatory hijab in Iran. Yet, through MSF’s selection of which GRS protests to publicize and commentary on why this movement is important, other critical aspects of the GRS protests were rendered invisible. I posit that the strategic framing of women’s rights through campaigns like MSF does more to attract international support than address the multi-faceted nature of gender injustice in Iran and, paradoxically, rests on Iranian women reproducing themselves as the vulnerable ‘unfree’ other.
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