Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Relatively Skimpy

When I was a student in the early 90s I worked in a piston factory in Bridgewater. Probably the bleakest moment in my life. One day a new secretary came to work at the factory. She had a blond perm, knee length skirts and an Escort XR3i. She set the foundry alight. Bridgewater had never seen such a stunner. And for the first week the forklift driver would bring us regular updates of what she was doing each time he’d pass her window. “She’s on the phone”, or “She’s typing something”.

I’d come down from London where perms and knees on show were old news, but being surrounded by the hysteria and starved of anything more stimulating, I too soon became infatuated. My puppy love never went further because it was soon made clear to me she was obviously spoken for. “Nice car. Must be her fella’s.” the forklift driver mused one lunch time.

Today I’m in the front seat of a taxi at a red light in Tehran, and crossing the road is a peroxide blond with 3 inch stilettos at the end of her shape hiding trousers, and although she’s wearing a headscarf, her hair isn’t tied up beneath it, and the long blond locks sway across her back as she sidles past, dragging my gaze with her. I catch the taxi driver is also mesmerised. He looks past me to the taxi driver in the adjacent cab and they exchange a comment about the girl. I don’t understand what they say but from the body language and the smiles I’d guess it wasn’t “She wants a good stoning”, but more likely “I wouldn’t mind a portion of that for dessert”

Either way, after just a few days my sensibilities are changing too. Where I might previously have admired the soft curve of a breast, the slenderness of a leg, or the pertness of a bottom, I am now just as drawn to the erotic swish of long feather-like eye lashes, fluttering around shimmering wide brown Persian eyes. Girls here have amazingly long eyelashes. Spectacularly long. In an interview with a journalist I can’t resist asking her if hers are real. They are!

The headscarf is worn in so many different ways that it’s hard to see it as a tool to subjugate women, any more than any other garment of clothing does. The 16 year old daughter of a friend tells me she hates being forced to wear the headscarf, but even if she didn’t feel it was socially compulsory she would still wear it.

For a while now, the fashion police (there is no such thing by the way) have been very relaxed, maybe sensing the mood is against them in the wake of the election protests. However there is no rule book telling women what is and isn’t acceptable, and there aren’t patrols on the street checking if hair is visible or not, although some policemen bring their personal beliefs to work with them and might take it upon themselves to castigate errant women for their own moral good. But principally it’s a self enforced consensus of dress, the limits of which are being pushed and repelled by those at either end of the bell curve.

I worked in a club in the West End of London, and on a Friday and Saturday night the dress consensus for women is just as rigorously self-enforced, and pushed by a few bold individuals. It’s undeniable that the right clothes are empowering but each society dictates what is “right”.

The headscarf started out as symbol of solidarity with the Revolution after the Shah forbade it, but in conversations with women about it, I get the sense it’s now more of a red herring. I moot the idea that like bra-burning feminist of the 70’s, Iranian women might remove their scarves as part of protests against the government, but the responses tell me that’s some way off. Either Iranians aren’t ready for it yet, or the dogma of the scarf is now more ingrained in the culture, than associated with the Revolution, so removing it wouldn’t make sense as a symbol of protest against the president or the supreme leader.

No doubt globalisation and cultural exchange will eventually remove Iran’s scarf even if the protestors don’t. Another unique national trait wiped from the earth as we move towards utopian homogeneity. Perhaps it will be consigned to themed Iranian tourist restaurants of the future.

I’ve never been particular perceptive of social rules; even when I was in Bridgewater, the forklift driver asked the secretary out on a date after the first week and she said yes. Crafty bastard. After a week here I’m still struggling to get to grips with which mores are religious, social or political, but I get the sense that this confusion and cross over is part of Iranian national identity.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the way you connect the beginning and the end.


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