Sunday, November 14, 2010

Discussion topic 1: Eastern/Western relationships

Babak asked a valid question tonight:

Why is it that we see more successful relationships between Iranian women and foreign men (later clarified as Western) rather than the ones between Iranian men and Western women?

Every one in the kitchen (even including the most skeptic and PC of us mentioned below) agreed that according to their experience, this statement was statistically true. What was not easy to agree upon was the reason for it happening.

Babak was the first to offer his own explanation for it. My best try at summarising his theory was that because the women in the West have already gained some rights and powers over men, they are not ready to give up these advances and adapt to the perceived cultural differences with Eastern men, whereas a Western man would happily accept the exotic cultural input from his Eastern female partner, without feeling threatened in a power game. (I have to ask Babak to correct this and also allow me to use his name, otherwise I would change it to a nickname. I'm still a bit torn between a journalistic approach to sources or academic referencing here).

Shadi was first to question the many generalisations occurring in the above question and answer as they were posed by Babak, but with the intervention of many of us she agreed that at least the question can be asked based on our collective experiences, but still she found the offered answer un-PC (I have to ask her for more explanation too).

My attempt was to approach it from an evolutionary/cultural angel, suggesting that maybe it is because it is part of human nature (or at least an human cultural tradition predating and overarching Eastern and Western cultures) that the woman would join the social circle or tribe of the husband, and would possibly  have to be more adaptive in putting up with the new environment and people. This may be why we used to see more western women marrying Iranian men (in comparison to now, I strongly guesstimate) in the past generation when the chance of living in Iran was much more.

Another simple and maybe simplistic explanation that I think we all avoided talking about (but I suspect we have all come to think about at one moment or another) can be that excruciating feeling of being defeated by a stronger civilisation when your women being taken not directly as bounties of conquest but by will and necessity, or to put it more academically through the same push and pull forces that have produced such waves of diasporic migration and transnational mobility of Iranians. and who can underestimate the practicality of such bonds in allowing for social and geographical mobility, leading to personal prosperity. Maybe this is why the Iranian government has not yet yielded to the high demand of granting Iranian nationality to the kids who only have an Iranian mother. It seems like we are officially disowning the ones who are taken by the victors, but when our men impregnate a foreign womb, the children are automatically Iranian. I might have sounded that I am passionate about fighting this injustice, but I am more interested in finding out the underlying reasons for it (if it is true as we all thought tonight) before making a judgement.

What do you think about the question and the answers? I'm sure this is not specific to Iran and the West and everyone has come across such cases in the context of globalisation. What is the phenomena? What are the causes? What repercussions can it have for both sides in the long run?

Caveat: I just noticed I have only mentioned heterosexual relationships above which can be criticised for a lot or reasons, but please understand, if you take both sexes to be the same in the original question, then maybe the whole asymmetrical power issues coming from cultural sexual roles would be irrelevant.

1 comment:

  1. Alain de Botton in his book Status Anxiety described the desire of people to climb the social ladder as one of the side effects of the democratic societies. Now if we agree with the defacto standard that by marriage or partnership this is the woman who inherits the social status of her husband or partner (the same way that she inherits the surname), Babak’s observation is not a surprising phenomenon. However, I don’t see his justification argument a strong one.
    If we agree that the social status is the sum of “achieved status” and “ascribed status”, western woman with eastern men relationship is more probable among well achieved women (this is just my assumption based on my observation especially among successful Iranian women) where as the opposite scenario is very common to increase the overall social status by gaining the ascribed status (e.g. Turkish women’s desire towards German men).