Literature Study GuidesPersepolisThe Convocation Summary

Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Convocation | Summary

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Summary

Marjane begins university in September 1989. She and Reza are both in the college of art, but they have to pretend they don't know one another so as not to raise any suspicions about their relationship. Men and women take classes separately from one another, and there are times when they're even forced to use different staircases.

A week after classes begin, students from all the colleges are called to the main campus. The convocation, or large assembly, is for a lecture on moral and religious conduct. Much of the talk is dedicated to what women should and shouldn't wear. Marjane stands up and asks how she and her classmates are supposed to make art while wearing longer headscarves and whether Islam is "defending our physical integrity" or if it's just opposed to current fashions, such as wide-legged pants. She also points out there are no rules for men, who all have different haircuts and wear different clothing. If male students are in danger of becoming aroused by a shorter headscarf, how is she expected to "feel nothing when watching these men with their clothes sculpted on"?

Marjane is called in front of the Islamic Commission after the lecture. The "commission" turns out to be none other than the mullah who administered her theological exam. After telling her that scripture views the veil as being "synonymous with emancipation," he allows her the opportunity to design a new uniform for women in the arts college that fits both their artistic needs and the dress code of Islam. She does. The short headscarf and wide-legged pants are small but important changes. Marjane is proud of herself for the first time in a long time, as is her grandmother. They are finally on speaking terms again.

Analysis

Several scholars and reviewers have interpreted Persepolis as a feminist work, but Satrapi is quick to distance herself and her story from that label. She does not personally identify herself as a feminist, and she believes it does more harm than good to designate literature as masculine or feminine. As a whole, Persepolis is not about the political, social, and economic equality of women, but rather about the political, social, and economic freedoms of a repressed people. "The Convocation" is one of the few places where the differing standards for men and women are brought up. Being female is a disadvantage for the women in Marjane's art program. The flowing garments they wear to supposedly protect themselves from the lust of men get in the way of painting, sketching, and sculpting. As mentioned in the next chapter, "The Socks," drawing women dressed in such clothing is just as futile. The rules applied to women's wardrobe and behavior hamper the practical aspects of Marjane's art education.

The hypocrisy of the clothing requirements isn't lost on Marjane. Women are forced to cover their bodies so as not to arouse every man in their path, but men can wear whatever they want—within reason. That's because the fundamentalist Islamic clergy doesn't believe women are capable of attraction and sexual arousal. As Marjane sees it, there are two problems with this. The first is the gross misunderstanding and outright denial of the existence of female sexuality. The second is the assumption men are unable to control themselves when they see strands of hair peeking from under a headscarf. Women are treated like virginal saints while men are the lust-filled devils eager to defile them. It's not fair to either party.

Marjane is incredibly lucky she wasn't kicked out of school for speaking her mind in front of the entire student body. Again, it is the mullah from her theological exam who comes to her rescue. His decision to have Marjane come up with a solution instead of assigning her a punishment is more evidence that he's a "true religious" man. He doesn't agree with her opinions—"You're honest, but you are lost," he says. However, he does admire her desire to speak up when she sees a need for change. Unlike many of his peers, the mullah does not believe in a dictatorship of faith. He would rather engage in constructive conversations about faith and its meaning and work to win over hearts and minds.

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