Proper Women: Feminism and the Politics of Respectability in Iran

by Fae Chubin
Temple University Press, 2024
eISBN: 978-1-4399-2329-0, Paper: 978-1-4399-2328-3, Cloth: 978-1-4399-2327-6

Proper Women tells the unprecedented story of an NGO-led “women’s empowerment” program in Tehran that was created to serve young, impoverished Iranians and Afghan refugees. Fae Chubin recounts the well-intentioned efforts of cosmopolitan NGO administrators whose loyalty to liberal feminist principles of individualism, sexual autonomy, and anti-traditionalism complicated their objective of empowering marginalized women.

Chubin brings attention to the varying class, ethnic, religious, and national identities of NGO staff and clients that shaped their differing understandings of oppression and justice. Her examination of the tensions within the organization reveals why the efforts of the NGO workers failed to gain purchase among the intended beneficiaries.

Proper Women concludes by encouraging feminist activists to not only examine the role of local politics and transnational connections in shaping their definitions of empowerment, but also consider the advantages of a justice-enhancing practice as opposed to justice monism for their target populations.

Fae Chubin is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa.

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