Theorizing Public and Private through the position of the Individual
Feminism has quite frequently engaged with the question of public and private (or inner and outer) as a revisited distinction that often highlights specific oppressions and study of social conditions. Third world feminists have often highlighted the ways that not all women experience such distinctions the same way. In Iran, the politics of veiling, provides yet another cite for this division, and explorations of oppression and liberation --as was explored in Naghibi's article “Bad Feminist or Bad hejabi?
Highlighted in her article was the ways in which women experience the dawning of the hejab in radically different ways depending on the historical conditions and their positioning within society (their family's understanding of religion, their class background, their politics, their specific location, their current national leader, ect.). The film Persepolis usefully demonstrates how no specific narrative can articulate accurately themes of oppression or liberation in relation to the hejab itself, nor do the divisions of private and public operate in the same way for all women.
In the scene where Marji removes her hejab as she is driving, several aspects specific to Marji's positioning to divisions of public and private is revealed. First, as we see earlier in the film, she is of an affluent background, and her father possess the wealth to quickly pay any fine she might accrue from such an action. Secondarily, Marji is not shown to be particularly religious nor anti the west throughout the film, and thus shedding of the hejab only reflects a specific 'liberation' for her, that is by no means a universal experience or signifier of so-called liberation. Western identification with this notion that the distinctions of private, inner, or veiled is equitable with oppression and that public, outer, and unveiled equals liberation (which was perhaps exemplified by the PBS clips on western feminists in Iran and their struggle with the hejab or this scene in Persepolis) is complicated by any examination of the position of women in poverty, and how such distinctions operate on their lives and bodies differently than that of the elite of such societies.