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November 10, 2003

No Husband?... Let's Go to School!
Hazhir Rahmandad  [info|posts]

iran-girls.jpg
Twenty-four years ago, after Ayatollah Khomeini headed the Iranian revolution to form a new Islamic government, he endorsed the growth, rather than control of the population. Therefore, the new government stopped the distribution and promotion of contraceptive devices and encouraged people to have more children. Consequently, in a couple of years, the population growth rate of Iran soared to a record high of 3.4 percent per year.

The unintended consequences of this baby-boom are now surfacing in Iranian society. For one thing, after over twenty years, the girls born in the early 1980's are getting to the age of marriage. Following the traditional norms, these girls should find a match with older boys, who were born before the 1980’s baby-boom. However, the numbers do not match: there are now about 1.5 million more girls in the traditional age of marriage than there are boys. In fact this imbalance puts a lot of pressure on young girls who traditionally should find a husband after high-school if they cannot enter the university.

composition.JPG

The percentage of girls vs. boys admitted to public universities for the period 1997-2002. The 2002 statistics are not on the SCI website, the reported number for 2002 is based on some news I heard last year and therefore may include both public and private universities. Source: Statistical Center of Iran.

It seems unlikely that the Iranian government can find any solution for this massive social problem, however, the Iranian girls are finding their own ways to deal with the challenge. One of the most interesting self-regulating processes is that girls are increasingly determined to continue their education after high-school; indeed, in this academic year, girls constituted over 63 percent of new university entrants! They are also opening their way into the male-dominated job market and are increasingly gaining financial independence. Finally, girls tend to delay marriage, resulting in an increasing age of marriage.

The imbalance in the number of girls and boys of marriageable age is not the only cause of these social changes, and it will not persist for long. In fact, in a few years, the trend may even reverse: boys who are born in the baby-boom should match the girls born in the early 90's, when the population growth was significantly reduced. Nevertheless, the large number of well-educated women and their participation in the job market, which have followed the current demographic and economic dynamics, will have persisting effects on the Iranian culture and society.

As these trends are challenging the foundations of traditional, male-dominated society, they have created some backlash among conservative policy makers. In fact there have recently been discussions about setting limits to the number of girls admitted to some university programs. It is an irony that this policy, by blocking the natural regulatory process that society is depending on to relieve the imbalance pressure, can create even worse problems. Unfortunately policy makers hardly learn from the backlash of their own messing up with complicated social issues.

* An earlier version of this article was posted in another weblog, which never took off!

Comments
A Reader at November 10, 2003 09:38 PM [permalink]:

This is a very significant trend. The education of women is by far, the most powerful asset of a nation. In years to come, it will be interesting to see how mindsets will change and how many of these educated women are able to utilize their skills. One thing to note, however, is that the enrollment of women in Iran in science and technology has actually regressed. This too has an impact in national development and is something to keep in mind.

Ali Mahani at November 11, 2003 12:52 AM [permalink]:

Ahh.... You people seem to have run out of topics. Shall I send you a few? I'm giving them for free, just to be nice to you.

And don't worry too much about the mismatch in numbers. There are quite a few solutions around:

1) Thank goodness we are living in an Islamic country and Islam allows a man to have more than one wife. An ingenious mechanism for treating this kind of situation-(well I am finally coming round to the idea that Islam is a religion for all people at all times). So there'll be plenty of takers for any girls who have failed to find themselves husbands.

2) Sooner or later, the solitude and frustration will knock some sense into skulls. Result: many of these well-educated lasses will stop playing hard to get and will marry below themselves ie, to plumbers, mechanics, building labourers, etc

4) If it comes to a crunch, there are a few employment agencies (with holy "Islamic" names and run by our noble clergy) that specialise in finding overseas jobs (and naturally marriage opportunities) for young girls- mostly in Arab countries around the Persian Gulf. I leave it to you to guess what sort of work is usually involved...

You see that male or female, there is no need for ANYONE to worry as long as you are living in this great country. The Islamic government has it all thought out for you!

4) Well, what are the Internet "Soul Heart" and "Find my Match" sites for? An old spinster will be well-advised to try a few of these websites. With a big slice of overdue luck, she may hit upon an American suitor and get US citizenship into the bargain. Why not give it a go?

Ali Mahani at November 11, 2003 12:59 AM [permalink]:

correct: "Lonely Hearts"

Somayeh Sadat at November 11, 2003 10:02 AM [permalink]:

As you said, girls are finding their own ways, no need for government interference. One of the trends that I have seen in recent years is more and more girls are getting married to younger boys, which was not so prevalent before.

But I don't know why people think that the one and only reason girls are going to universities is, as your title suggests, "no husband, let's go to school". I have personally seen no single girl going to university for this reason, their reason is similar to boys, they want to get educated, and later on work. I don't say there aren't girls who go to university for this reason, but the number shouldn't be that high. It is so simplistic to think that since these two events: "imbalance in the number of girls and boys" and "more girls going to university" coincided, they mean that the former is the reason for the latter. Why not think that the culture has gradually changed (and is still changing), why not think that it is natural that when the number of girls is more than boys, the number of girls going to university is also more than boys, why not think that it is the boys who decide for whatever reasons such as economical reasons or military service duties decide not to continue their education, etc? I don't say any of the above are the main reasons, but to me, they seem more sound than your suggested reason: "no husband".

By the way, as usual, your post was excellent.

Azadeh at November 11, 2003 11:01 AM [permalink]:

So it is finally clear to me why you are getting a Ph.D.

Sorry hazhir jaan, I doubted if you can finally find a wife after all!!!!!!

Ali Zuashkiani at November 11, 2003 12:21 PM [permalink]:

Dear Hazhir
As you have seen some of the comments (and also from your previous experiences as a male in Iran), you should have realized that the Iranian people are so sensitive and impatient when judging especially about other people’s personality and beliefs. For example, if you point out any benefits of religions, you will be seen as a fundamentalist. If you are among religious people and want to bring up some benefits of democracy you usually will be accused of being secular. The same also happens if you want to analyze a phenomenon which is in close contact with females. In this case you are walking on the edge of a sword; I personally do not remember any discussions or articles which had been about these kinds of issues ended up without harsh comments. However this illuminates the extent to which females in Iran have been deprived of their rights by males and governments.
I have seen myself as an enthusiastic supporter of women’s right since I remember, how ever some times I really get tired of reading and seeing unfair feminist comments which only look at one side of the facts and the realities in our society. For example when I look at the lives of my male friends I see much more hardships compared to my female friends. My male friends have been struggling with military services for 2-3 years; have been under the pressure to grow financially because they are expected to be responsible of their future family. In contrast, I read about my female friends in their weblogs ( the fact that most of my friends who write weblog are female not male indicates how much more spare time an educated female has compared to an educated male in Iran) the most important issue that they raise usually are about deciding which book to read, or whether to find another job or continue with the current job, going out to see movies , taking part in concerts , going for shopping, sleeping for a whole day, doing some operations on their nose to make it look fancier, deciding about going to work today or stay at home because they are not in the mood and many other examples that you should be more familiar than me.
I expect the Iranian women to see both sides at the same time, it helps them to be more reasonable and positive rather than shrewish and nagger.

Ali Mahani at November 11, 2003 12:51 PM [permalink]:

Azadeh: "Sorry hazhir jaan, I doubted if you can finally find a wife after all!"

Well, how can you be so sure? Maybe he’s already married, or just doesn't want to get married.

Babak S at November 11, 2003 01:47 PM [permalink]:

Well, the title of the piece is a bit anti-feminist, true. But my take was that it is only to signal the content and subject matter of the article, not its conclusion, and as such is okay. You see, it is really hard to mention or study all the reasons behind a phenomenon, so the only way to proceed is one at a time. Hazhir's article is short and to its point, so I guess there should not be any worries as to his intentions.

Ali, couldn't it be due to their own personal interest, that your female friends write weblogs more than your male friends, rather than their longer spare times? I think every one wastes his/her time to some extent and fills in his/her spare time with some activity and writing a weblog is not everyone's best choice. And all that you wrote they talk about in their weblogs..., well, it's their personal web-log, it's not supposed to be a magazine, right?

Ali Zuashkiani at November 11, 2003 02:20 PM [permalink]:

Dear Babak
By saying those example I wanted to say that the women’s are not so under pressure as they claim. If some one is struggling for her basic needs and rights, she can not spend lots of time thinking about much fancy stuffs. I am happy that Iranian women are getting their desired rights faster, how ever I do not accept any unfair and unjustified criticisms of the men in the country. Both men and women are suffering from economical, cultural, and political situations in country and this should be seen fairly and reasonably. We should not always blame each other for all problems we face in life.

maryam at November 11, 2003 02:34 PM [permalink]:

I agree with you about the facts that you mentioned, namely the number of females interested and going into higher education has been steadily rising, however I don’t agree with your title and conclusion!
I think you don’t seem to be paying much attention to the fact that these numbers are not representing a small section or class of the society who are encouraging their daughters to continue with their education. In a traditional Iranian family, daughters are raised and sons are spoiled! I remember a conversation that I had a few years ago with a girl from a very small town who had come to study in a university in Tehran, in which she was basically saying that her mom was always encouraging her to study well so that she could be financially independent! Coming from a traditional family the father was in charge of feeding the family but very abusive towards his wife, the girl was quoting her mom that if she could live on her own, she would have divorced the guy long ago. This can be the case with a lot of traditional families that even the fathers encourage their daughters to study so that they could be independent and never get abused or continue being abused by a dude! I was further surprised that even here when I asked a lot of guys whether they prefer to have a son or daughters if they were to have one, the majority of them were saying sons! Some were saying they could relate better with sons and some mentioning that they don’t want their daughter to be abused and hurt by other men!! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all the guys are abusive.
The other reason could be because of a “unique“society that we have in Iran!! Those girls can not enter the entertainment world, which is actually a huge market here, so they are left with very few options, namely going to higher education. Actually, it should be mentioned that a lot of traditional/religious families allowed their daughters to continue with their studies after the revolution that they thought there was less danger of getting corrupted for them as a result of going to universities.
There are some other factors at work too that I’m sure other people can think of! As I have to go! :)

Borghan at November 11, 2003 02:48 PM [permalink]:

Hazhir,

I think you may have underestimated the economic aspect of the story:

Marginal economic benefit from higher education has been falling teremendously in the past 10 years. (there are some data on this, but just think about the difference in the paycheck of a just-graduated engineer now and 10 years ago, relative to average income) Since traditionally men are bread-winners of their family, in the process of preparation for job market, higher education has lost its precious value, becoming less attractive for men.

One may argue that higher education has become more economically valuable for women, as well; Since their participation in job-market has increased, due to cultural phenomena. But this argument can go either way, so I don't rely on it.

Overall, it seems, boys have less economic insevtive for going to college than before, and girls have more!

Obviously, these are speculations and one should go to real data to test this hypothesis.

( Hazhir and Ali-Zu: I'll be glad to know your idea on this explanation)

Babak S at November 11, 2003 03:20 PM [permalink]:

Dear Ali Zuashkiani, I do agree with you that we should not just blindly blame males/females for any problem we attend to. It's unfair, and ultimately pointless. But again on youir examples from the weblogs, I feel obliged to say that weblogs do not represent any reliable section of the society. There are how many, 20000, weblogs, many of which inactive. Most of the people who are directly hit by the social hardships or the women subject to discrimination do not have access to hi-tech tools of expression. The real picture of women problems should be sought elsewhere.

Even if we take the content of those personal weblogs at face value, the vanity that you mentioned prevails there, could be itself a symptom of their hampered active social role, not a sign of their pampered, worry-less life.

Ali Zuashkiani at November 11, 2003 03:37 PM [permalink]:

Dear Borghan
You brought up some good points. In Iran if a guy finishes his high school he usually has one or two years before being summoned to the military service. This magnifies the pressure which Konkoor has already put on him. On the other hand he sees the fact that even if he enters university and gets his degree, he still needs to do his military service afterwards. Therefore he prognosticates that he will not have any income at least until the age of 25-26. As you know most of the fields of studies in Iran do not have any job opportunities so he may think that it does not worth it to go to university. The fact is that boys actually calculate the opportunity costs of their higher educations and this is not usually the case for the girls. No one expects a girl to have any income before or after marriage however every one expects it when a guy is proposing to a girl.

Senior Grad at November 11, 2003 05:18 PM [permalink]:

Ali Zuashkiani,

Just a reminder: The girls who (have the means to) write weblogs do not constitute a fair sample of Iranian girls, let alone Iranian females of varying ages. Also, writing (read: talking) for females, according to pop psychology books that I have browsed through (John Gray's classics, for example), has a different function than it has for males. This may also be a reason why you see a difference between the topics discussed (if I may use this word) and the manners they're treated in those weblogs...

I have more to say about Hazhir's post(ing), but let me read the other comments first. :-)

Mehrad at November 11, 2003 05:18 PM [permalink]:

Whatever the reason might be, the fact that more girls are getting educated in Iran makes me happy and a bit hopeful. At the end of the day, these are the next generation MOTHERS!

hazhir at November 11, 2003 05:37 PM [permalink]:

I acknowledge that my title is controversial and carries an anti-feminist sense. I mainly chose it to elicit more comments from the often-quiet female audience, but had no intention of trivializing the challenges the girls face.
Somayeh, Maryam, and Borghan offered some other hypothesis to explain these trends. As Babak suggested, I don’t think what I discussed is the only reason underlying the unbalanced admittance to university, so several of those hypothesis can be at work at the same time. I focused on just one, as it was an interesting example of unintended consequences of messing up with social systems, and not so obvious. Nevertheless, I want to highlight the significance of the difference between boys and girls admitted in the last two years, pushing the ratio closer to 2 girl vs. 1 boy. I don’t think such difference can be explained by normal cultural trend towards more equality. I think Borghan offers an interesting alternative hypothesis that can explain this trend. It is an empirical question to judge between relative effects of these hypotheses and I don’t have the data to support my argument any better. However, I want to highlight that marginal return on education comes not only from future job prospects in Iran, but also marginal expected return on migration. Considering the huge number of out-migration among educated people (Behnood claimed it to be about 250000 per year in a BBC article one month ago, which is as big as the public university admittance.) this effect can become really important in determining the interest of guys for going to university.
Somayeh mentioned that there needs to be more operational story about how the imbalance results in girls putting more effort in their studies, as she knows few people who consciously acknowledge that. I think the pressure can come not only in terms of fewer proposals a girl receives, but also in seeing the challenges older friends face when they fail to get to university: labeled “torshideh” etc, and the pressure of family who doesn’t know what to do if the girl is not accepted.

Senior Grad at November 11, 2003 05:53 PM [permalink]:
Okay, comments of maryam and Borghan are too long, so forgive any overlaps. (I just noticed, with pleasure, that Babak S has said something akin to part of what I said in my first comment.) Here's my as-usual-marginally-related comment on Hazhir's post(ing): University provides an excellent recourse for Iranian girls from more traditional families to "breathe"! Allow me to explain. Well, as a guy, I have a hard time seeing myself in the shoes of a girl who's raised in a traditional family, but I try. It must be suffocating to be watched all the time and have the lowest freedom possible: Don't laugh loudly, come home right after school, don't talk to that guy, you can't go to movies with your friends, etc. etc. If you collect all the "NO"s it makes a depressing list that accounts for the fairly high rate of female suicides and runaway girls, especially in smaller towns. If a word can do justice to their plight (and I'm not sure if there is), then it must be something in the ballpark of "repression". In ancient China (and I think I read about this in Farzaneh Milani's book), where/when small feet for women were deemed sexy, Chinese girls had to wear small shoes that were meant to repress the natural growth of their feet. Similar is, indeed, what happens in a traditional society to the female population's sole, sorry, I mean soul. So for these girls, going to university, even in an Islamic Republic that enforces the segregation of the sexes, provides a unique, albeit minimum, opportunity, to see and talk to young guys (who to them may be creatures from another planet), appraoch them and make conversation with them, verbal and non-verbal, and freely exchange with them glances with the silly excuse of exchanging the notes of this or that class. Those girls who can convince their strict fathers (mothers seem to be more understanding. I wonder why!) to go to another city for attending school are the luckiest. They taste the sweet taste of freedom (from being controlled) and independence. And yes, they'll probably learn to change the burnt out light bulb that is dangling from the ceiling of their shabby room they have to rent. So regardless of the issue of baby-boom and the concerns it generates for Hazhir and the rest of us (and therefore why my comment is being almost un-related, but still quite fun to read, imHo), attending university in Iran serves more purposes for girls, especially those from strict families, than merely providing a formal education and a degree to earn a living, or at least, a pocket money with. To sum it up, here are some of the potential purposes that I can think of right now. You may be able to add to this list: --One the surface, of course, there is getting a formal education and a degree that is supposed to boost your future financially, but is usually not enough to help a girl live independently, due to a lot of social, economic, and cultural iussues. This degree may later be used as an indicator of the girl's status (she wouldn't have to marry a plumber, or her cousin who sells carpets!) and a value added to the other things that Iranian brides take to their husband's house, known as JAHIZIEH. Which kinda brings us to the next item. --Getting a chance to meet a guy they'd like, and if all goes well, to marry him, thus defying the traditional KHASTEGARI method, that many girls today consider old-fashioned and condescending. --Enjoying the freedom, independence and mobility that, having been born to tradi ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Senior Grad at November 11, 2003 06:07 PM [permalink]:

Mehrad,

I wouldn't count on the "education" that Iranian girls receive with as much optimism as you seem to, because, what will be the effect of learning about the laws of thermodynamics on raising kids?

In general, I think in Iranian universities, one does not get an Education. More often than not, one's brain just gets stuffed with material and as a result he or she is awarded a degree. True, in the process, he or she may learn a skill, but that skill tends to have nothing whatsoever to do with his or her overall growth as a person. In other words, if you (could) take away from a random student graduated from the best Iranian universities the material that he or she has collected throughout the years of college, most probably his or her critical thinking abilities will not be greater than a plumber, a mechanic, or a construction worker (Thanks, Ali Mahani!).

maryam at November 11, 2003 07:00 PM [permalink]:

>......the imbalance results in girls putting more effort in their studies, as she knows few people who consciously acknowledge that. I think the pressure can come not only in terms of fewer proposals a girl receives, but also in seeing the challenges older friends face when they fail to get to university: labeled “torshideh” etc, and the pressure of family who doesn’t know what to do if the girl is not accepted.......

I find this explanation very simplistic! As someone mentioned above, guys are also under pressure to be accepted to universities, otherwise they have do their military service, so how is that it doesn’t make them study harder!?
Girls from any section of the society don’t have to go to university to find a husband for themselves, there are other possible ways of finding husbands if that really matters to them. Look at just any human society, the strong always try to control and use the weak! No society could claim to be healthy and democratic if majority of the people were illiterate and ignorant of their rights! But it is natural that if majority of people in such a society gained information/ education about their rights they would try to change the status qua in that society, That could mean the end of privileges that the ruling class used to enjoy!
Men just because of their mere physical strength in comparison with women have been always in control and I think sometimes they have a hard time accepting women as their equal partners.
Also, the reason behind some women not finding a husband for themselves can be related to the fact that they don’t want to put up with any condition just for the sake of having a husband! You can simply check this with your sister! (the one who just got married and you missed her marriage ceremony! :)
I really find it amazing that my explanation of this social phenomenon brought up by you, does not even make you try to sea it from a female point of view! or perhaps I should not be surprised!;)

Senior Grad at November 11, 2003 08:13 PM [permalink]:

Not to be accused of uttering "unsubstantiated" comments, I would like to elaborate on my last comment. First of all, I find it wrong to compare the education offered in Iran with the education Americans receive in college. Education, the way the word is conceived in English, as I tried to argue once in this forum, is more subtle, *much* more subtle indeed, than what the Farsi word TAHSIL brings to mind. A superficial similarity of the words should not mislead us. Iranians are one of the most "educated" minorities in the US, in the sense that they are successful as doctors and engineers, but believe me, I have had the dubious pleasure of being in their company, and they have as narrow a perspective on life as the blue collar Iranian who engages in menial work for making a living. It is quite ironic, but by emphasizing on learning technicalities (there are mandatory courses in Iranian schools supposedly aimed at educating, this time in the true sense of the word, the students' mind, but nobody takes them seriously. (Who of your friends cared about what Nasser Khosrow had to offer, or who really cares about the undisputably biased history of Islam that is taught in universities?) Iranian schools have generated generations of graduates who unlike their politically alert predecessors during Shah's time have such lowbrow concerns as how to score more or what to wear in that party.

I am not blind to the presence of the exceptional few who care and dare to challenge the dominant orthodoxies, be it political or more general and cultural, but the educational system in Iran has got to go through a revolution or else it will continue producing mediocre minds disguised in the garb of doctors, engineers, and professors.

Anyway, my point being, you cannot simply compare the numbers and draw parallels by looking at how the West draws conclusions from these figures...

Sara at November 11, 2003 08:32 PM [permalink]:

First of all bravo, Hazhir, for bringing up this issue. The best thing I liked about this posting was its clear cut analysis of womens status from a post-revolutionary baby-boom perspective.

In fact I am recently finding myself struggling with notions similar to "messing up with social systems." By this I mean, in confrontation with such demographic (and sometimes drastic) representations, what should policy makers really do? Is it rational to sit and watch and reason that nature will eventually solve it's own problems (as we Iranians honestly, have not been bad at.) Or should we in fact take action and try to come up with solutions that not always are risk-averse?

In fact I don't see it as simply as some other friends do. By passive reactions we may in fact be implying that: "Look! Iranian female population, we don't have enough oppurtunities for you here. Like many of your male couterparts (many of whom might flee the country because of the military service) pack your back, migrate and go!"

We can't say it, I don't look at it as optimistically as many friends do. I can immagine what an immense and HUGE psychological pressure can be inserted upon our dear female population. All these are considered in an already problematic envirnment created by a great number of reasons (stricting social and economic factors, population growth, disordered urbanization, pollution, etc.)

I imagine, what is it supposed to become, Hell!? I believe Tehran already is. With its polluted weather and our not doing much for it. What is supposed to be done?

Senior Grad at November 11, 2003 08:44 PM [permalink]:

Well, I guess a forced increase in the age of marriage would not be as catastrophic as it is in a traditional society with its professed code of sexual behavior being so drastically at odds with not only realities of the economic situation in Iran, but with the realities of human creation!

You'll accuse me of being off track, and rightly so, but shouldn't we first ask what solution our dear Islam has provided for satisfying your wild God-given instincts, beside suppressing them for years until you get the chance to get married?! :-)

Iman Aghilian at November 11, 2003 08:53 PM [permalink]:


Senior Grad wrote:
"what will be the effect of learning about the laws of thermodynamics on raising kids?"

I believe learning about the laws of thermodynamics is very effective on raising kids.
I believe a person who knows how to take the squre root, statistically, will raise better kids than someone who can only multiply.

You: "Assume that I dropped this pen..."
Someone: "No way! How can you assume that while you haven't dropped it ?!?! That's unacceptable!!"

Have you ever tried to discuss something with someone who says things like that ? Have you noticed that people show different abilities when it comes to analysis ? Have you thought this could have some correlation with education ?

Solving a thermodynamics problem requires "thinking" and "analyzing"; and many people develop these skills along the way. I think they are useful skills.

ps.
- Senior Grad's comment triggered me to write this but, for heaven's sake; it doesn't mean that I believe he doesn't know any of this and I am educating him. We don't have to take people's comments as if they're saying it in absolute contrast to what we said into our faces. A lot of times we say things because we want them to be heard, because we want to make a point.

Senior Grad at November 11, 2003 09:04 PM [permalink]:

Touché! :-)

Ordak D. Coward at November 12, 2003 01:59 AM [permalink]:

What is perplexing is the constant rise of the ratio of female/male high school graduates. Since 1375, the number of female graduates is almost 25% more than the number of male graduates. Hazhir's analysis did not take into account the high correlation between high school graduates and college entrants. So, I believe his analysis is rather simplistic and wrong-headed. We could easily use theories like that mentioned by Somayeh to explain a close to one-to-one ratio of female and male high school graduates and college entrants. But at a ratio of 1.25, I cannot suggest anything but the drop-out rate of male high school students, which seems nobody tries to explain. We have had a lot of news articles on runaway girls, but is really happening to the guys? Is the reason that they have to learn a skill like plumbing or automechanics to be able to play the role of the male head of household later on, while the skills expected from their female counterparts does not require dropping out of high school?

I do not believe the 63% number Hazhir mentions, as it is not from the same source as other numbers, (63% percent of female college entrants translates to a 1.7 ratio, which is extremely high). So, his baby-boom based analysis while interesting to observe does not seem to be right.

Senior Grad at November 12, 2003 07:13 AM [permalink]:

I am not surprised to hear that female high school students' rate of success in Iran is more than their male counterparts, because (and please note that this does not explain the *increase* of this trend, claimed by the previous commentor) it is conceivable that Iranian girls, generally being deprived of freedom and opportunities that are available to Iranian boys (what would be the equivalent of playing street soccer for girls?), put their efforts into their studies. Girls seem have fewer distractions than boys, so they earn better grades.

Having said that, I should haste to add that I am not condoning here the living conditions that are imposed on Iranian girls. I'm just trying to see the facts and offer an explanation.

Senior Grad at November 12, 2003 07:51 AM [permalink]:

A clarification of what I said in one of my comments above:

I couldn't find the reference to the Chinese custom of binding women's feet in the index of the book by Farzaneh Milani (search amazon.com and buy a copy!). I think she had argued that it was aimed at curbing women's "mobility", though.

Here's something I found using google, for you further information on malformed souls, I mean, soles: http://www-ec.njit.edu/~jkc1763/fb.htm

Senior Google at November 12, 2003 09:29 AM [permalink]:

I sincerely apologize for over-commenting. Thanks to google I finally found a link (pun intended) between Farzaneh Milani and foot-binding in China.

http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/textonlyarchive/98-04-24/7.txt

The following excerpt from the link is my previous comment is also worth pondering:

"Undoubtedly, foot binding was "partly powered by a sexual fetish" among Chinese men. Extensive sexual guides specify countless special techniques involving the use of bound foot for sex. In addition, the small, unsure steps of a woman with lotus feet were considered very feminine, while the inability to walk long distances helped to ensure the girl's virginity, as she could not leave home."

After reading it, I wonder whether it is closer to the "Western" culture, where women go under the knife of surgeons (willingly, of course) to modify their body parts, or to our own culture where women shouldn't go to a trip without their father's permission to ensure their, um, safety?

Grand Vizier at November 12, 2003 09:34 AM [permalink]:

This is what you get if you search google for "senior grad comment". The first link is more interesting.

Google on "senior grad comment"

Senior Gradoodle at November 12, 2003 10:00 AM [permalink]:

Grand Vizier:

You're brisk and funny as usual, and this time self-referentially so. :-)

hazhir at November 12, 2003 10:36 AM [permalink]:

Ordak D. Coward had a very good comment. Looking at the upper secondary school graduates (I guess this is high school), there is a persistant imbalance, favoring the number of girls with over 25% margin, since 1376.
(See: http://www.sci.or.ir/english/sel/f15/F25.HTM). As Ordak said, this refutes my hypothesis to a good degree, except probably for the 2002 where there is no reliable statistics on both variables. Meantime, the fairly disappointing data is when we compare the total number of sedondary school graduates (around 800000) to total population in that age group (from the 1375 census, the 10-14year age group, has over 9 million, suggesting 1.8 million on every age group, which is supposed to graduate in 1379-1383 from high school). This suggests a 44% highschool graduation... not really high.

maryam at November 12, 2003 11:52 AM [permalink]:

I don’t really think the current Iranian population is very worrisome! I agree that the growth should be under control but I don’t think that Iran is overpopulated compared to its area and resources!
For example, Germany has an area of 137,735 sq.mi and population of around 82 million! France has an area of 212,935 sq.mi. and population of around 60 million.
Iran has an area of 630,577 sq.mi. and population is around 70 million (I don’t know the exact number but I assume it should be around this number). If you just compare the ratio of population over area, Iran is not overpopulated at all when compared to these countries! You can say that we have a mismanagement problem in the country that the government is not able to provide the population with enough education/work centers.
This population could be rather used as an engine for the economical growth of the country.

A lot of industrial countries faced this situation in the beginning of the 20th century when the European growth rate was much higher compared to the rest of the world! And for the first time women entered the work market in higher numbers!
I think that the problem that you are discussing has a lot of different aspects, from social to economical and cultural.
I like to mention Egypt here as a middleastern country with an area of 386,662 sq.mi and a population of around 70 million, they don’t have this female problem that you are discussing (namely more girls in universities than boys) an Egyptian professor told me the ratio is perhaps 20/80 in higher education! The marriage age has gone up for both males and females, mostly because of economical reasons and also the fact that the younger generations want to start their lives with a standard much higher compared to their parents’ generation!
So here I think you can not ignore the socio/cultural aspect of the situation in Iran.

Senior Grad at November 12, 2003 12:00 PM [permalink]:

In an attempt to rectify my previous comments I am going to write a related comment this time.

I think Sara asks a valid question. It is not always wise to let nature (or society) take its course and makes the necessary adjustments. In certain cases, this approach may actually cost human lives. But in combating a social ill, one should not prescribe solutions that exacerbate the already problematic situation. I think Ali Mahani's (humorous) solutions such as encouraging polygamy or sending girls abroad to work in un-mentionable industries are in that direction. So anyway, What do you think should be done?!

Secondly, to be quite honest, Hazhir's fascination (obsession?) with numbers (and charts) troubles me. I still find it super-simplistic to wish to reduce a complex multifaceted social problem to a mathematical model, but hey, I'm glad there are people who like other approaches, because I for one am not going to try them. :-)

Senior Grad at November 12, 2003 12:13 PM [permalink]:

While I was writing my previous comment maryam wrote:

"For example, Germany has an area of 137,735 sq.mi and population of around 82 million! France has an area of 212,935 sq.mi. and population of around 60 million. Iran has an area of 630,577 sq.mi. and population is around 70 million..."

See? This is what happens when you misuse the numbers. The climate of either France or Germany is a far cry from the climate of Iran. Vast areas of Iran are un-inhabitable, so one should first subtract those areas. This, however, is but the tip of an iceberg of differences emanating from the difference in economic, social, and cultural characteristics of two peoples. Even if you could evacuate Japan and populate it with 60 million Iranians with their management skills, then the country would go down the drain after the first or second earth-quake. My point being, although 120 million is OK for a small country like Japan, 60 million may be way too many for Iran. :-)

maryam at November 12, 2003 12:13 PM [permalink]:

one more thing that I'd like to add!
these numbers that you are refereing to, could be just hinting to the fact that the foundation of a traditional society in Iran has been shaking!
In our mothers' generation, perhaps it was unthinkable that a girl would go abroad by herself just to continue her education! now this has changed in Iran! I see there are quite good numbers of girls from rather traditional/religious families who have gone to other countries to continue with their education!! I have met a lot of people from, let's say Islamic countries! who have expressed their surprise.

Leila at November 12, 2003 11:52 PM [permalink]:

take a look:
LINK.

There are more men than women, and there are more boys born than girls..
as you have noticed among your friends and family, young couples are mostly at the same age.
girls are geeting more reluctant to marry..
so I think guys should strat worring .. ;-)

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 13, 2003 10:20 AM [permalink]:

This trend of women eductaing is one of the very few hopeful things about the future of Iran. I want to use this opprtunity and remark on a trend of attributiong this to the current regime, by some people before in some of their comments (not by you Hazhir). Itws csutomary for this regime to blanme all its failures to the actions of the previous one. Well here is finally a true instance of that. The coorect and progresive measures of the pre-revolutionary regime regarding women and their rights (which also instigate that damn revolution, ironically!) is an important factor today. It is partly due to the inertia of that movement ,carried through to these drak times, that women aspire more and more for their rights, DESPITE this regime, not BECAUSE of it!
If these mullahs had come to ppower a 100 years ago, the Taliban had to be considered civilised compared to what they would have done in Iran. It' sjust that in 1979, it was a bit late for them to be able to do as their hearts desires.
The very fact that they are going to put liegal limitations on the women's higher education shows this. But then, why am I complaining, that is what ISLAMIC JUSTICE means.
Hazhir explained another resaon, there are also other others to take into consideration. But the most important of all is the fact that those women and girl are intelligent, and resourceful. ANd that they DESERVE this and much much more. I for one have the greatest resepect for them.

And Ali Mahani, I salute you!

AIS at November 13, 2003 10:33 AM [permalink]:

dsmn it! look at all those mis-spelling...it looks funny!....must preview before posting...must preview before posting...must preview before posting...must..

Another Iranian Student (AIS) at November 13, 2003 11:23 AM [permalink]:

Hazhir, from your post and some of your fellows' writings one gets the impression that here we are dealing with bunch of sexually frustrated guys who can not find themselves girlfriends/wives!! And in order for them to take their revenge on girls they are saying that they (girls) will be doomed to be husbandless and that’s why they are taking up your (guys’) space in university! :)

Senior Grad at November 13, 2003 03:08 PM [permalink]:

Another Iranian Student (who uses the same acronym as the one with turtles who will someday sing): Please read Hazhir's post(ing) and the comments below it again, this time after you're done visiting your girlfriend, in case you have one. :-) There's no trace of frustration in our writings, sexual or otherwise. Could it be that you are projecting your own problems on us? :-)

Senior Jorge Eskobar at November 13, 2003 03:50 PM [permalink]:

To His excellency Senior Grad:

Let me thank you from the very bottom of my heart, for your jumping at every opportunity to fill the void (that might blow us all in at an instant) of not answering every comment.

In your efforts you proved once more that we all exist only because we talk.
My best wishes,
yours truly,

Jorge Eskobar de la K

AIS (Another Iranian Student) at November 13, 2003 05:18 PM [permalink]:

To Senior Grad,
>this time after you're done visiting your girlfriend, in case you have one. :-) …. Could it be that you are projecting your own problems on us? :-)
Or could it be that (Another Iranian Student) is a female, laakposht Jan!? :) If you had read Hazhir’s article carefully, you should have noticed that now majority of Iranian students are females and not males anymore! So it would have been a safer guess to assume that I (AIS) am a female indeed! :) And let me assure you that I don’t have a girlfriend (the way that you thought!) since I am not a lesbian :)

Senior Grad at November 13, 2003 05:54 PM [permalink]:

Señor Jorge Eskobar de la K,

El mensaje recibió y descifró.

Gracias mucho,
-SG

Ali Mahani at November 14, 2003 03:07 AM [permalink]:

Thanks Senior Grad, AIS, Borghan, and other declared and undeclared members of the (tongue-in-cheek) antifeminist camp on this page :-) :-)

The sex ratio at Iran’s medical universities is currently around 3:1 in favour of girls. In the United States it’s about 4:1 the other way round. Does that mean that our women are so progressive they’ve even left their Western sisters behind? No, Sir!! The explanation lies elsewhere:

I am with (the statistical-minded) Borghan who says the imbalance in numbers at universities is simply down to the fact that boys are increasingly disillusioned with education: it’s very much a case of winning by default. Well said, mate!


Just imagine: In a society which has traditionally thought very little of women and their abilities, in a few years’ time you’d be walking into any hospital ward, engineering company, law firm… to be served by women doctors, women engineers, women lawyers, etc. Not that I’ve got anything against women going into any of these trades, don’t get me wrong. (My wife is a first-class dentist, and I trust no-one bur HER to fix my teeth). But as a culture we have always believed that (what with their domestic and maternal duties) women are not really committed and efficient workers. This is bound to create a few problems when you consider the composition of the future workforce in this country.

Call me a jingo (you wouldn’t be the first), but in my experience all-female workplaces are not the ideal place to be, least of all for women themselves. In fact in any place where there is a majority of females, the personal vendettas and petty jealousy among the latter will soon poison the atmosphere beyond any hope of repair. Put 100 blokes in the same department and they’ll rub along one way or another; put 2 women in the same office and they are always at each other’s throats!

A good example is the obstetrics-gynaecology ward in any Iranian university hospital. Go and see for yourselves if you have any doubts. What a mess!

PS- Please don’t tell any of this to my wife, or you’ll set her tearing out what remains of my hair and pulling all my precious teeth one by one. No joking.

Ali Mahani at November 14, 2003 03:13 AM [permalink]:

Correct: "Call me a macho" instead of "Call me a jingo"

Fariba at November 14, 2003 04:06 AM [permalink]:

how could you simplify an important socio;ogial tred by routing it to the cliche of marriage? you should not that at a certain age, say 18, there's no considerabl difference between the number of boys and girls. you should also note that in iran, chances of a boy to get good education (better schools, more family support, more cultural support) is far higher than a girl's. still, the number of girls who go to university is increasing constantly. this has many reasons. one of is that boys do not wish to go to universities, since they see no future ahead of them. it's not easy to earn a living by a university degree in iran. the second reason is that girls do not see marriage as their ultimate goal anymore. you should look at the divorce statistics to see what i mean. in big cities like tehran, girls do not marry at 18, even if they have the chance, and it's in this same cities that most girls find their way to universities.
do not oversimplify a trend which is changing iran's culture for good, and eventually female population would benefit from it.
excuse my poor command of english

Ali Mahani at November 14, 2003 11:02 AM [permalink]:

Leila: "There are more men than women, and there are more boys born than girls"..

Well, The female/male ratio at birth is approximately 1.05, but this imbalance is offset by the slightly greater mortality of male infants.

Also, kudos to Senior Grad for his description of what Japan, Europe and indeed the world would look like should Iranians infest it all over! Exactly my sentiments.

Ali Mahani at November 14, 2003 11:05 AM [permalink]:

Excuse me, that figure 1.05 is the male/female ratio.

Senior Grad at November 14, 2003 11:09 AM [permalink]:

Ali Mahani,

I'm by no means a member of the anti-feminist (a word coined by Babak S which is, I suppose, equivalent to another word: sexist) camp, in fact I find myself closer to feminists, but as non-PC as your stand regarding women and their "emotional issues" (be it jealousy or else) and such issues interfering their professions is, my very limited experience with women tends to confirm what you are claiming! In fact, I thoroughly enjoy Woody Allen's work, subtly targetting psychoanalysts, women (and their emotional, you know, issues) and (orthodox?) Jews. For example, in "Deconstructing Harry", if I'm not mistaken, there is a female character who, despite herself being an accomplished psychiatrist, bursts into tears every now and then, for personal love-related issues.

But I'm sure there are arguments against such trends (being jealous, etc) inherently feminine, some may even put the blame on the structure of the patrirchial society for helping raise women in such a way to be "at each others' throats". In any case, in my opinion, women's jealousy *alone* doesn't provide enough reason for blocking their progress, but apparently enough material for the likes of Woody Allen to make us laught out loud. :-)

Senior Grad at November 14, 2003 11:40 AM [permalink]:

While I was editing my previous comment, Ali Mahani wrote:

"Also, kudos to Senior Grad for his description of what Japan, Europe and indeed the world would look like should Iranians infest it all over! Exactly my sentiments."

Thanks (for rephrasing my words in such a way to make me a target of patriotic attacks). :-) I'm truly flattered. Makes me wonder though, if your sentiments described above are one reason why you insist on not leaving our beloved homeland. ;-)

Senior Grad at November 14, 2003 12:06 PM [permalink]:

Correction: There *is* already such a word as "anti-feminism", sometimes as one word, "antifeminism". I shall leave you to google the word yourself, and you're in for a treat. :-) The bickering inside (among?) the feminist camp(s) reminds me of Ali Mahani's "sentiments". ;-)

Babak S at November 14, 2003 12:28 PM [permalink]:

Ali Mahani: "The sex ratio at Iran’s medical universities is currently around 3:1 in favour of girls."

I'm wondering if this high ratio could be due to the gender restrictions on some of the medical majors in favour of women. Isn't it true that nurses (parastaar) and midwives (maamaa) are mostly chosen from among girls? And aren't these considered part of the medical school? In short, I'm wondering if there are actually more women than men being trained as doctors, or the high ratio comes from other fields.

Somayeh Sadat at November 14, 2003 12:41 PM [permalink]:

I read a couple of weeks ago in a newspaper that in Ontario, Canada, also the ratio of women in med school is more than 50 percent, and is on the rise. So I think maybe this is really the trend here as well. (I don't know about US, as Ali Mahani suggests with his 4 to 1 ratio of men to women, apparently this is not the case there.) The difference was that not only they didn't want to restrict the number of women enterants to med school, but also the whole article was on how they should encourage women physicians to pursue surgery as well, because they feel that if the women have been talented enough to enter and succeed at med school, the society can benefit from their pursuing of surgery specializations as well. (I am just summerizing the article, not commenting on that. The article was published in Toronto Star several weeks ago, but I don't remember the publish day, neither the title!)

Senior Google at November 14, 2003 01:18 PM [permalink]:

I performed a search to dis-cover Somayeh Sadat's Toronto Star article. Look what I found: http://www.psurg.com/star2000.html :-)

AIS (Another Iranian Student) at November 14, 2003 03:37 PM [permalink]:

I was checking the description of a movie called "Iranian Women filmmakers" and came across this:
"At present, Iran is producing some of the world's most exciting cinema. Ironically, in contrast to the post-revolution status of women in that country, THE NUMBER OF WOMEN FILMMAKERS WHO PRODUCE EXCEPTIONAL WORKS IS INCREASING. Is there an explanation for this contradictory phenomenon?..."
So Hazhir, do you think the explanation for this phenomenon is " No Husband?..Let's go make films"
? It is very unfortunate and sad that some people don't understand the profound changes happening in Iran and still try to explain them with very simplistic and biased approach!

laakposht at November 14, 2003 05:07 PM [permalink]:

AFISWNGFBYANAL (A Female Iranian Student With No Girlfriend, because you are not a lesbian),

Hahzir'e title, the way I understand it, is only meant to provoke you to read and ponder the rest of his post(ing) and you should take it with a grain of salt (the white powdery substance found in most kitchens). About the profound changes happening in Iran, I agree that it is hard to examine the situation from far away and it is indeed unfortunate and sad that some people just do not understand them, but could you please bother to shed a light by offering your own explanations? That would be most appreciated. :-)

Leila at November 14, 2003 06:12 PM [permalink]:

Ali Mahani:

I disagree with you. take a look:


http://www.sci.or.ir/english/sel/f2/F6.HTM
http://www.sci.or.ir/english/sel/f2/F24.HTM

The fact that male/female ration is 1.05, shows that the greater-than-one male/female birth ratio is not offset by greater mortality rate among male infants.

Hazhir:

I am very surprized that you think girls go to university because they can't find a proper husband. This is certaily not the case. Maybe it is vice versa. I have seen few parents trying to marry off their daughters after they get disapponited to send her to university. I am not talking about only the upper middle-class families of Tehran. I lived in a small town for a year. They were all obsessed about going to university. I think the popular culture in Iran is not really obsessed with education in its true meaning (and not even a lot with getting financial independence), but **status**. It is more likely that a girl without university education cannot find a "proper" husband. To me it is sad that despite increasing educated females, we have a nose job boom.

hajir at November 14, 2003 09:40 PM [permalink]:

Education is important for men and women; it's crucial for a nation to have educated women; what is not good is the arrogance that education may bring. We have to learn how to see the true nature of humans beyond their university degrees. A mechanic can be a much more caring and loving husband than a doctor.
There are things that they don't teach one in the university. One can read books, listen to lectures, use internet, etc to learn any subject without wasting his/her time in university to get a degree and learn plenty of nonsense that may rarely be applied even to his professional area of work and study.
My point is that education is not nec. through universities and we need to change our view on this matter.
About the female/male ratio of population, I think it's a serious matter.
The solution is there in Islam: Either patience, untill god provides a compatible spouse for her/him out of his generosity; or if there is a fear of sinful actions, then getting married to those that one may consider not compatible (which most of time, it's because of our arrogance) and be hopeful to have a wonderful common life. If none of the above is possible then she may consider becoming a second or third or fourth wife, though patience is better for her. And eventually if there is no hope of getting married, know that god doesn't put a burden on his slaves that they cannot bear and she has to consider that as a test and try to keep herself busy with worship, nursing children, finding a job, helping our the poor, etc and god will reward her the best.

Ali Mahani at November 15, 2003 02:58 AM [permalink]:

Hajir: "The solution is there in Islam: Either patience, untill god provides a compatible spouse for her/him out of his generosity; or if there is a fear of sinful actions, then getting married to those that one may consider not compatible … and be hopeful to have a wonderful common life. If none of the above is possible then she may consider becoming a second or third or fourth wife, though patience is better for her. And eventually if there is no hope of getting married, … and she has to consider that as a test and try to keep herself busy with worship, nursing children, finding a job, helping our the poor, etc and god will reward her the best".

Well, what did I tell you? Islam has got a solution for everything! So it basically comes to this:

1) PATIENCE- absolute genius, this one!

2) Marrying someone you don’t love and don’t consider your match

3) Becoming a second or third or fourth wife,

4) busying oneself with worship,

5) nursing children (you mean breast-feeding?! Nice touch there!! Whose children are you talking about??)

6) helping the poor (although a girl of this type will have her work cut out finding anyone poorer than herself!!) …

And all this from a religion whose prophet had more wives than could be counted-wonderful!!

Well, what about Seegheh (temporary marriage, in other words, prostitution of the “halal” type)??!!

Honestly, I am baffled why these ingenious strategies have failed to work in Islamic societies, as indicated by the appalling prostitution rates in places like Iran, Egypt, Iraq…


Senior Grad : “Makes me wonder though, if your sentiments described above are one reason why you insist on not leaving our beloved homeland”

Nope, you got it wrong pal. The reason I am stuck in this God-forsaken hole is that I ain’t got the money and connections necessary for making it to the US. If had the dough, I wouldn’t hesitate one bloody minute.

Babak- the 3:1 ratio refers to medicine alone, nothing to do with nursing and midwifery schools.

Leila- The 1.05 M/F ratio means there are slightly more boys born than girls. In the first few years of life, he higher mortality in males will push that ratio towards 1.

Somayeh- According to the statistics provided by the American Medical Association, in the mid-1990’s women constituted 37% of all medical students in the USA, while less than 20% of the practising physicians in the US were women. I haven’t seen the more recent figures, so maybe you have a point there.

AIS (Another Iranian Student) at November 15, 2003 03:43 PM [permalink]:

laakposht (and perhaps a.k.a Senior Grad!)

Hazhir is not right in his analysis of the situation! His reasoning is based on the fact that the birth rate was higher in 80s (during the Iraq-Iran war) than say in 70s, so the girls from 80s are supposed to find a husband from 70s era and since the number of boys from 70s does not match the number of girls from 80s that means that you have a surplus of girls who are left with no husband and they go to universities! Honestly his reasoning is very primitive and immature to me! Hazhir’s set of mind goes back to my grandma’s times in which girls who were 13-17 years old, were marrying boys in their 20s so there was almost 10 years of age difference! Nowadays a lot of girls are marrying boys who are perhaps, +2/-2 years (don’t take this number literally, laakposht! I’m just giving an example) older/younger than them and don’t have to go and find someone who is 10 years older than them! Even in traditional families!
His way of thinking, to me, is like a person who is only looking at fluctuations in a graph, in a small interval, failing to understand the trend that the graph is presenting!
I hope this is understandable to you now laakposht!

Leila at November 15, 2003 06:37 PM [permalink]:

nakheyr Hazhir and ali

better read more carefuly. There more males in all age groups except over 65, and that's only because women tend to live longer. Then perhaps guys should consider becoming a second husband. :))
I think marriage is an old practice suited to the needs of a traditional society.. the more sexual freedom and finincial indpendende, the less reasons for feeling such a necessity. more and more people choose not to .. then we will have to see the number of males who are still willing to get married matches the number of females who wish to do so as well.. and wheather they meet each others's expectations.

hajir at November 15, 2003 09:15 PM [permalink]:

Well Mr. Mahani maybe you have some solutions for the situation at hand. If Seegheh (which I consider wrong as well) is prostitution, I am afraid you don't have much better solutions for sexually frustrated females who cannot find a husband.

And to our modernists like Leila, I would say, sexual freedom ain't gonna solve the problem because the problem is that there aren't enough men for women in today's Iran. I hope you don't think that sexual freedom means a woman may want to sleep with a different man each time. Sexual freedom, the way practiced in the west provides the freedom for the sexes to choose their sexual partners without a pressure felt from the society and tradition. This doesn't mean that men and women in the west change partners all the time.

Ali Mahani at November 16, 2003 03:32 AM [permalink]:

Leila: "Then perhaps guys should consider becoming a second husband.

Brilliant idea from a girl, and Iranian at that. Well, just for your information, I am already married, and to the best of my knowledge, I am a "first" husband.;-) But thanks for the suggestion, anyway.

Just wondered if you knew of any women who are ready to take 2nd or 3rd husbands. For a man to have a 2nd wife, the current Iranian law requires the consent of the first wife. For your idea to be workable you’d probably need the 1st husband's consent, creating a rather awkward situation. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. :-))

The Bass Voice at November 16, 2003 06:09 PM [permalink]:

Behold: Hazhir, the author, and hajir, the commenter, are different people.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 17, 2003 10:32 AM [permalink]:


Wow! I (or my acronym at least) is proliferating!

Ali Mahani,

man , based on what do you call me anti-feminist?!
For God's sake what anti-feminist, sexist remark did you see in my comments?

hazhir at November 17, 2003 11:23 AM [permalink]:
This is a comment in response to Senior Grads remarks on my fascination with numbers. Rather than a personal answer, I hope this helps clarify an important issue regarding doing research on, as well as thinking about, social issues. My core argument is that there is no escape from using numbers (although they may be kept implicit), even in the most qualitative versions of doing social science (e.g. ethonography, grounded theory building etc). The main thrust of the argument is that any comparison (X is more important than Y, Economic factors are more important than Demographic changes), requires an ordering of concepts/hypotheses from which we can compare the two. However, any ordering can be put in a direct relationship with a series of numbers. Therefore, any comparison is at least implicitly equivalant with use of numbers. But comparisons are in the core of any social inquiry, either for policy discussion purposes or for pure theoretical reasons. Without comparisons, there is no way to select among alternative policy options, or among alternative hypotheses/explanations. As a result any serious discussion of social issues does include comparisons, and therefore includes numbers, at least implicitly. We can follow Senior Grads (or any other comment, discussion on any list!) comments and observe the plethora of judgments about the right or wrong mechanisms. In fact without comparisons (read numbers), there is no way to say that my argument in this article is flawed (as Ordak very well argued) or not, and we will be left with comments that can be summarized into: your argument is wrong, because I don’t like it! (There are quite a few of such comments under this posting) However, there are two caveats to use of numbers. First, as Senior Grad argued, numbers can easily be misused. He gave a good example out of another comment about such misuse. It is usually hard to build up a robust argument that is well supported by numerical data. Not only because the data usually doesn’t exist/isn't handy, but also because building such story is a very complicated task and requires a lot of rigor. Second, numbers are not the real things out there, but a conceptual framework we impose on the social phenomenon, therefore, they hardly talk about the exact things happening in the social arena (feelings, power struggles, sufferings, etc) but give some proxy for such issues. Therefore, they can be easily mis-specified. This was the criticism that some had on my posting: “most girls don’t go to university because they didn’t find a husband! They have other reasons, and motives”. While I agree with this argument, I again highlight the fact that there is no escape using numbers. So, my imbalance argument was a very aggregate measure of the pressures girls face in pursuing their education (I gave a little more mechanism level examples on another comment). These pressures may even be institutionalized in form of cultural artifacts (e.g. it gets trendy to go to Konkoor classes for girls) and therefore don’t look like a pressure, yet at a very aggregate level, the initial argument can remain valid. There is a more subtle argument against the use of numerical data that is brought up by some qualitative researchers (which I don’t want to argue for/against, but just mention): the main thrust of this argument is that by searching for numbers we miss several aspects of social complexity that are hard to measure. All said, how can we deal with this dilemma: on one hand ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Ali Mahani at November 17, 2003 02:09 PM [permalink]:

AIS-

Well you were actually the 1st person on this site who expressed any sympathy with my ideas, which most people consider rather extreme. That gave me the idea; now I see I was mistaken. It's so depressing :-(

Ali Mahani at November 18, 2003 03:39 AM [permalink]:

Hazhir

Well maybe you are right. There are no easy solutions, and the world's major religions ahve all failed pathetically in providing practical solutions for today's problems- although I think they were just as clueless in solving their contemporary problems :-))

Well to the best of my tiny mind the best way to deal with sexually frustrated females would be to put them in contact with sexually frautrated males :-))

Ali Mahani at November 18, 2003 05:55 AM [permalink]:

Sorry for mistyping:
"have all failed"
"sexually frustrated males"

S F Male at November 19, 2003 07:32 AM [permalink]:

Could any of you please write the “male version” of this book for laakposht?

Rachel Greenwald’s new book, “Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School” (Ballantine; $22.95), takes the notion of the marketplace literally, and addresses those single women who worry that their comparative value is dwindling with each passing year. “You, the reader, are the ‘product,’” Greenwald, H.B.S. Class of 1993, writes. “And The Program”—her fifteen-step course to matrimonial satisfaction, which she also provides in workshops that she conducts around the country—“is a ‘strategic plan’ to help you ‘market’ yourself to find your future husband.” There are twenty-eight million single women in America, Greenwald writes, and a dedicated husband-hunter should be no less zealous than General Mills in distinguishing her product from the competition.

And on and on and on.

http://newyorker.com/critics/books/

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 20, 2003 04:35 AM [permalink]:

Ali Mahani,

uh...eh...you did mean your remarks sarcastically, didn't you? ;)

AIS at November 20, 2003 04:46 AM [permalink]:

O Hajir! (assalamo-alaika-va-rahmatualle-va barakato)

Tell us mere mortals, is there ANYTHING that Islam does not have an ingenious solution to, like the one you opened our eyes to with your infinite wisdom?

Vassalmo-alayna-va-alaa-ebadellahessalehin(hajir)

Ali Mahani at November 21, 2003 01:53 AM [permalink]:

AIS :" you did mean your remarks sarcastically, didn't you?"

Well I said "tongue-in-cheek", didn't I?

AIS (Another ...) at November 21, 2003 11:37 AM [permalink]:

Hazhir,
I found an article on "the number of female students rising..."
read it to see how your analysis was ingenious!;)
http://www.payvand.com/news/03/nov/1133.html