Azar Majedi of the Organisation of Women’s Liberation in Iran has just published a piece in Persian attacking the Nude Revolutionary Calendar and the video of Iranian women supporting it as ‘absurd caricatures’ of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and Golshifteh Farhani’s nudity and attempts at ‘self-promotion’, ‘dim-witted idiocy’ and acts of ‘buffoonery’. She likens the Calendar to the tabloids (like the Sun) which use women’s nudity to increase profit and says the calendar defends rights no more than the tabloids do. Moreover, she says nudity in the west takes no courage at all.

What Azar doesn’t see is that nudity is not the problem; it’s the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies that are. To see the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar of women showing solidarity with a young Egyptian woman under attack as one and the same as a tabloid that sells dehumanised women’s bodies for profit misses entirely the point of the Calendar and for that matter Aliaa’s own actions. The Calendar is an organised act by women themselves reclaiming a tool used for suppression. It may not be considered courageous by Azar but nudity in this manner is not as easy as it may seem.

It’s interesting how nudity outrages so many people – including Azar. This is partly because of the internalisation of society’s image of women’s bodies as something obscene that sells papers. Whilst Islamists often portray their vile politics as a prescription for the debasement of women in western societies, their image of women is very much the same and it is these viewpoints that have coloured much of the perceptions of nudity.

Also the closer to ‘home’ the nudity is the more uncomfortable it feels. Aliaa was blamed for tarnishing the Egyptian revolution, Golshifteh for embarrassing an entire nation, and I and the Iranian women in the supporting video for doing what ‘Iranians’ but also ‘communists’ should not be doing.

Certainly nudity is not the only way to resist but it is a very modern way of challenging Islamism and the veil. Islamists want us covered up, hidden, and not seen and not heard; we refuse to comply.

The implications of this calendar for the advancement of women’s rights and freedoms are very real though Azar belittles it by saying that not all taboo-breaking initiatives are progressive. Maybe not; but when women’s bodies are under such sustained attacks, nudity in this form is liberating and challenges the status quo.

Azar says that our actions are irrelevant as the photos were taken in the west and because we do not face the same threats Aliaa does – but these are all secondary. One does not have to live in the Middle East and North Africa to feel the threats of Islamism but nonetheless, threats or no threats, in Egypt or not, isn’t this the whole point of international solidarity?

By the way, as an aside, it seems Azar always says such things in Persian where she can find buyers amongst the religious-nationalists she claims to oppose…



  1. Hi Piero,

    When I object to things like the pornography industry and whatnot, I do so not because of the profits they make, but by the way they go about it.

    I’ll try to explain my thoughts. Always a challenge for me 😉
    Greta Christina I am not!

    Let’s take Microsoft as one example away from porn. When it seeks to recruit staff, of course it is looking for the very best programmers and other talented minds. This allows for individuals who have studied and committed time, energy, and money the chance to work in a field they have specifically aimed for.

    Like an actor who has trained (or dreamed) hard for the stage, these individuals are following their aims.

    Of course Microsoft and Hollywood benefit financially from the talents of these people, however, despite the huge profits made by these companies off the back of these individuals I can see the altruistic relationship that has formed bewteen them also.

    Now, when I switch my focus back onto the Porn industry what I see (for most part, but not all) is an industry of false promise, grooming, and emotional coercion.

    I appreciate there are people who like working in Pornography, but for most part they are relatively few and far between.

    Alcohol, drug abuse, and depression has been recorded to be high amongst adult film industry workers. Why is this?

    A cursory glance might suggest that the workers feel guilty or ashamed of their work.

    That’s too simplistic for me.

    I think the answer is not to be found with the sex or pornography in and within itself, but because of the industry’s one dimensional focus on sex for financial gain.

    Sex for financial gain can never be considered sex-positive. It is (for me) the polar opposite.

    It doesn’t seek to liberate people’s bodies or celebrate them. Like religion it seeks to profit from the control of them.

    The unfortunate downside of this is the people who participate in such modelling or acting have been used. And they end up finding this out too late.

    And unlike the Microsoft employee or theatre actor, who enjoy rewards such as personal pride, decent wage, artistic/intellectual fulfilment, the porn actor or page 3 girl -for most part- does not.

    Why not?

    Well, the average page 3 girl is 19 years old. Some very intelligent. Some less so. But at 19 years old the lure of being known for something and to get paid for it is sometimes better than not being known or paid at all. And that is all fair enough.

    Until we go back to the The Sun newspaper’s ethics. Again, it doesn’t seek to liberate the individual, to celebrate them, it just wants to make a quick profit, literally off the back of a nude 19 year old.

    That is not just.

    And what about the 19 year old. When she hits 25 where does she go?

    Hopefully, many have taken their money and run, but as we see in the UK they end up burned out, looking awful, photographed ‘out on the town’ drunk, looking a mere caricature of their former selves.

    This does not happen to a ‘life drawing’ nude model, or a woman who knows she’s attractive and wears short and tight clothes that accentuate her attractiveness. Nor does it happen to couples who make their amateur sex videos or men and women who use their nude bodies as political statements.

    Nudity, sex and sexuality can be, and is celebrated in a myriad of ways. That’s good. That’s sex-positivity.

    The problems arise when a money making machine comes along to capitalise on that sex-positivity.

    These are some of my thoughts. Some vagueness here, I appreciate…

    1. Never mind, I found your reply.
      Of course, I agree with most of your points. I can imagine the porn industry is not precisely a friendly and positive work environment. But (ther always is a but, isn’t there?):

      Sex for financial gain can never be considered sex-positive. It is (for me) the polar opposite.

      Couldn’t the same be said about sport? If the aim of sex is joyful ecstasy, and the aim of sport is to achieve physical fitness, why is professional sport not criticized with the same acerbity?

      And what about the 19 year old. When she hits 25 where does she go?

      The same question could be asked of a footballer. When he hits 30, where does he go? I’m not talking of the superstars who earn millions of dollar, and can invest them in real estate or whatever, but of the run-of-the-mill player whoe earns a decent salary for a decade or so. Is he not being exploited and discarded just like a pornstar?

      Perhaps my objections are not so much aimed at defending pornography, but at underlining that exploitation and degradation can assume other forms too, even in a “normal” workplace, yet we seem to be OK with that.

  2. فلسفه وجودی حجاب به عنوان چهره و ظاهر خرافه ( اینجا اسلام ) و بخش نفرت انگیز مهمی از فلسفه غیر انسانی نگاه داشتن انسان ها در بدبختی و بربریت تحت آن (خرافه) است، بدبختی و فاجعه ای که بخشی از آن دزدی ها، اختلاس ها و زندگی انگلی معدودی است و بخشی دیگر یا روی دیگر سکه خراب شدن این فاجعه روی سر بیش از ۹۵% دیگر انسان ها ست ، در این راه بساط پوسیده خرافه با محدود کردن انسان ها از حقوق اولیه خود ، از زندگی سالم و آزاد انسانی ، از داشتن روابطی آزاد و انسانی ، آنها یا بخش عظیمی از آنها را به بیمارانی روانی ، بیمارانی جنسی با درجات مختلف که هر روزه متاسفانه شاهد آن هستیم ، قتل های ناموسی ،آزار و شکنجه کودکان ، دختران و پسران و قرار گرفتن نیمی از انسان ها (زنان) در بدترین و نا عادلانه ترین شرایط غیر انسانی و در واقع کل انسان ها در فضایی نا امن و فاجعه گونه از هیچ گونه جنایتی فرو گزار نمیکند ، آنچه بستر و اساس این مشکلات ، سختی ها و مصائب زندگی انسان هاست این است ، خرافه و آنها که از خرافه منتفع میشوند !…. البته خوشبختانه انسان آگاه امروز دست خرافه و همه شکل های پیشبوردش و مجریان آن را بیش از پیش کوتاه میکنند ….

  3. This calendar is nothing at all like the Sun. That’s just a terrible comparison.

    The statements made within this calendar and the proceeds that follow go to defending freedom of expression and women’s rights.

    The Sun newspaper seeks to capitalise on women’s bodies – not defend them – and the profits go back to the corrupt Murdoch empire.

    1. Martyn, I’m confused about this. Honestly.

      I can use my intelligence to make a profit. I can use my artistic talent to make a profit. I can use my physical prowess to make a profit. I can use my dexterity to make a profit. Why can’t I use the attractiveness of my body to make a profit? (These are all counterfactuals, by the way!).

      Why is it that a talented footballer is not seen as “objectified”, but a woman with an attractive body is? I admire Gödel’s genius, but I would never have tried to establish a relationship with him (for a start, he seldom washed or changed his clothes, so he stank). My only interest in Gödel is the product of his astonishing mind. Why is that not considered “objectifying”?

      These are honest questions. You seem to be a clever bloke, so I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter. And anyone else’s, of course.

      1. That is the conclusion I also came to. Some feminists were complaining about a coffeehouse that featured sexy women servers and how women who don’t have the particularly desired body type get discriminated against for this job. The same can be said of possessing a particular talent or job skill; people who don’t have that are discriminated against for other jobs. Of course there are pitfalls to placing so much emphasis on physical appearance, but that is true for both sexes.

  4. Maryam, well done as usual… I think it is enough to translate the piece mentioned above from Farsi to English.

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