The Lipstick Revolution

June 22, 2009

Like many others, I was glued to #iranelection, #iran09, and, sadly, #neda over the weekend as I kept checking in with Twitter while working on AAUW convention projects. At one point I turned on CNN and saw Christiane Amanpour highlight the impact women are having in Iran, especially with the protests against injustice — what others are calling “The Lipstick Revolution.”  In case you weren’t aware, the regular news sources were turned out of Iran, so some citizens, many of whom are women, have taken to sharing firsthand accounts on Twitter or through videos on YouTube.

According to Amanpour, although women make up 65 percent of the university student body and voted more than men in the last several elections, they are still treated as second-class citizens when it comes to legal rights in divorces, child custody, and inheritance, among other things. As a result, “women have become primary agents of change in Iran,” Nayereh Tohidi, chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at California State University, Northridge, told CNN.

And then, suddenly, a young woman, a bystander watching the protests with her father, was shot and killed. Her death may have gone unnoticed, as a footnote name in the list of those killed, except it was captured by a cell phone and put on YouTube. The video became an overnight symbol of the growing crisis. According to Robin Wright in Time magazine, “The woman rapidly became a symbol of Iran’s escalating crisis, from a political confrontation to far more ominous physical clashes. Some sites refer to her as ’Neda,’ Farsi for the voice or the call.”

And then this morning as I watched the continuing coverage, I heard a reporter speculate over the relative quiet yesterday. His opinion was that women and students may not give the protests the force they need to continue. Hmmm. I can’t speak to the political reasons behind any country’s turmoil. But I have watched how social media tools such as Twitter and YouTube have made a tremendous impact on global perceptions of events. I saw CNN get lambasted on #cnnfail and saw them change how they reported news almost overnight as a result. And I watched the faces of “those women,” saw their seriousness, their bravery, their loss of life. It reminded me why I advocate for justice and equality on behalf of women and girls, through the auspices of AAUW. How about you?

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By:   |   June 22, 2009


  1. Excellent piece, CJ – good for you; again!

    Major difference in what has unfolded in Iran from mainly a US perspective, but also elsewhere around the free world, as compared to what happened in Burma (Myanmar) last year when just as many women were involved in the street protests, is that technology has brought much of it direct to our TV sets and PCs.

    This has provided us with an accurate realtime overview of the brutality and repression forced upon those actively seeking change and justice.

    There are many, many Iranians living in the USA and, in reality, the US had a key role in much of what has happened since the Shah was deposed with US help, ironically.

    There are very few Burmese living in the US. It is the British who are guilty for much of what has transpired in that troubled country over the last 30 plus years.

    This difference has meant that the CNNs and other Networks have blanket-covered the post-Election unrest in Iran, whilst their coverage of similar happenings in Burma last year was scant by comparison.

    Bad enough that – but when one considers the impotent reaction of Burma’s fellow ASEAN Members and Neighbors like Singapore, which has directly profited from Burmese Repression for many years now, I guess that we should not be too surprised by this imbalance.

    Now if Christiane Amanpour had been born Burmese and not Iranian, how much difference in the level of CNN coverage would that have made??

    Keep ’em coming, CJ – every little helps to eat away at the dictatorships and lack of true freedom of speech in too many countries still.

    ….. and if the US Govt really means that it will not influence the coming Elections in Afghanistan, how’s about it really makes it clear to all parties participating that the fundamental rights of all women in that mess of a country must be a pre-election promise and top priority thereafter.



  2. christyjones says:

    Graham you are right, advocating for women’s rights on a global bases is a must. In the US, taking action on an AAUW issue through our “Two-Minute-Activist”, or globally through our Care partnership, are two ways of doing so for example.

    And yes, the age old question of media coverage, what gets chosen to be aired vs. what doesn’t is more evident than ever. However tools such as Twitter is providing us with real time accounts of actions never before seen on such a large scale. What is valid vs. not is key here, having the news media help verify is a natural partnership. It maybe that this new immediacy will force those who “chose the news” to broaden their scope.

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