Monday, July 2, 2007

Women & Bikes: the freedom machines

The Islamic Republic of Iran has devised an "Islamic bicycle." This new vehicle comes fully equipped with a cabin to conceal parts of a female cyclist's body.

Why, you may ask?

Because it stimulates sexuality, in both sexes, easily. And because the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced in 1999 that "women must avoid anything that attracts strangers , so riding bicycles or motorcycles by women in public places causes corruption and is thus forbidden."

In short piece in the USA Today, Farzaneh Milani draws attention to the 19th-century America, where the newly invented bicycle, which was also used by women, was seen as a threat to the social order and a provocation to promiscuity.

Like Milani, I think that the recent bicycle ban, and the Islamic bicycle are more of the same futile attempts to control Iranian women. I just wish these old men and their vigilantes stopped making fools of themselves! If their pressures were to work, Iran's car racing champion would not have been a woman.

But Iranian women such as Poupeh Mahdavinader have shown their power on bike wheels (even though she has had to endure racial slur in the UK!)

Of course, they may export their Islamic bicycle to other Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, where women are even deprived of driving a car.

If you click on the picture "The day I became a woman", you will learn about another Iranian film. This one is somewhat surrealist. A nice one though. And applauded by many a festivals around the globe.


Naj said...

Here's my philosophy:

People who are trying to chastise public's morality, and who fear sexual corruption, are those who are sexually and morally corrupt themselves.


bijan said...

Hey there! I'm back (slowly though!)


Aardvark EF-111B said...

well-said Naj, totaly agree!

Anonymous said...

30 years ago, it was unheard of for girls & women to ride bicycles. It was just not done.

Now, there is no one disputing that women can ride bikes - now the conservatives are trying to cover certain areas.

30 years from now, no doubt, there will be women using bicycles in Iran like every where else in the world with no problems.

I think the issue here is, from the Islamic perspective, what is the best way to deal with Lust when and as it flares in a man by this or that woman [but not all and every woman!].

pen Name

RickB said...

Heads up-Pic link just goes to image.
Haven't they heard the phrase a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle...

Naj said...

30 years ago women didn't ride bikes in Iran? Sorry over 50 years ago, my friend's grandmother got a bicycle-riding license!

Iran's women movement has not started with the IRI; it is on a continuum and the religious leaders of Iran are better off not meddling in women affairs!

However, perhaps the great men of virtue, may choose to embark on lust-busting in themselves, instead of deciding which woman is a lust-blaster! The amount of emphasis akhoonds put om SEX is sickening!

If the Islamic perspective is to conceal women because men are a bunch of morons who cannot control themselves, then islamic perspective is not very fair!

Naj said...

oh, remembered something else:

70 years ago my garandmother's idea of recreation was to ride horses in the mountains! Today, my niece is being deprived of riding her bike in her suburban parks.

My grandmother was a devout Muslim, but also very proud to have lifted her Hijab on the orders of the time. My niece is not, and RESENTS it to be ordered to wear that annoying scarf to school!


Naj said...

did some configuration, hope it's more clear now.

Anonymous said...


I was talking about majority women of Iran when I made my comment. Exceptions do not dispute it. I was not talking of the priviledged classes of Northern Tehran.

In regards to Lust: you - like most women - do not understand it. You do not have the visceral fire of desire rushing through your body; we (men) do. It is our burden.

"Desire" is not dirty; that's how babies are made.

Akhoonds are concerned with the preservation of social stability and that, to a large extend, is alos tied with the idea of "namus" (from Greek nomus?). And akhoonds did not create the notion of namus - it has been a very ancient idea that existed, for example, in the Far East as well.

pen Name

Naj said...


again, since you are not a woman, I suggest you speak for yourself and not presume you have any knowledge about feminine desire.

In a culture (yes rooting from the Greek occident, but more deeply rooting from Semetic origins) that prohibits women from BURDENING men with their desire, I am sure your exposure to feminine expression of desire is limited.

But to ask one's wife or Sigheh is perhaps a good way to start learning about that topic.

Naj said...

My philosophy #2:

Men who think women do not have passion and desire, or who have never seen it, must look deeply at themselves and question their own attractiveness!

Anonymous said...


I rest my case: you do not understand lust.

pen Name

RickB said...

Thank you for clarifying, I am so stoopid!

Naj said...

Bearded smelly grumpy Muslim men, who think their desire needs to be controlled by confining women to buckets, are not something to lust after!

"we men are burdened with our lust, thus we chain you women to protect ourselves from sin!" Great Islamic teaching! Wow!

Anonymous said...


I am just telling you the way I see the world -- no need to get testy about it.

pen Name

Naj said...

Correction: great religious teaching! These oppressive nonsensicals are not only Islamic. They are also Jewish, Christian and Victorian!

Naj said...

Sorry Pen,

Please don't take this personally.

I am also just expressing my view about the philosophy that is dominating the life of women in my country.

Anonymous said...


What dominates the life of the Iranian women is neither a philosophy nor a religion - it is the traditions of at least 2000 years of war, pillage, rapine, and abuse.

And it has been, in fact, the Islamic Republic that has removed many chains from the women of Iran - no doubt about it.

pen Name

Servant said...

There has to be some middle ground where we can work together to solve this problem. Perhaps if you will work with feminine fashion offenders here in the U.S., who do not know any boundaries of sexual freedom and expression, then I will develop some culture workshops for the old smelly ones in Iran! How about that? In this way can we each help the other's problem. As foolish as men are about woman, I have seen certain evidence that women are no wiser in many cases.

Collectively I'm sure we a lot of problems like this that can be solved by taking the best practices from each culture. I propose that we cover the worst offenders of good taste here in te U.S. and offset this by freeing the beautiful women of Iran and require the men bath more often.

It's a win/win!


Naj said...


I do like your suggestion, but I still do not like your proposed implementation of it, if it involves legislation of dress code.

Values need to be planted in people's head and heart for cultural adjustment; and even then there will be rebells!

I frankly don't care whether someone is fully covered or fully naked. I think extreme covering and extreme uncovering are the two sides of the same coin: sexual objectification. And both are exhibitionist practices.

And I think, if Mr Khamenei wants to establish social and sexual order, they should toughen up the laws against men who harass women and whose lust is rapturous; instead of imprisoning women to bikebuckets!

I remember hearing on of our esteemed Akhoonds on the national Radio, calling for little girls to be covered properly, because once he had seen such a beautiful child that he had had to do "ghosl" (the shower that Muslims are supposed to take after ejaculation!!!!)


Fleming said...

Naj, will you please recommend some other Iranian films? I see a lot of them listed on Netflix (where I rent my movies), including "The Day I Became a Woman", but not "Delshodegan". You can list them as Comment on my blog if you like.

Thank you!

Servant said...

Dear Naj:

I am depending upon you to know I am a criminal comedian - making bad jokes about sensitive subjects is my speciality. Which makes it very difficult to discuss things seriously when necessary. Of course I did not mean to cross the line of any real problems - only to offer the spirit of cooperation to achieve any goal you want. If you like humor I am very useful. Otherwise I am not useful. :D


New subject - off topic. I am seeing a very positive discussion about Iran on American television this morning - albiet a very small audience which watches C-SPAN's Journal. Michael Hirsh of Newsweek is the guest this morning, and he has returned from a two week visit to Tehran where he talked with the Iran's top security officials.

He said he went there with a 1979 understanding of Iran - expecting Iranians to spit in his face and take him hostage. But he was very surprised to learn what we in the blogosphere have been telling each other for quite some time - that Iran has moved way beyond 1979 and Americans need to understand that Iran is not a monolothic culture of extremists. Yes, this is a senior editor of a major American media outlet. You'd think he would have known these things before his visit, but he was incredibly niave.

If you have the bandwidth you (or anyone who reads your blog) can watch any C-SPAN program on the Internet by going to C-SPAN.ORG. It usually takes them about one or two days to make the video of Washington Journal available after each program. But I think this one will surprise you.

Hirsh is also merciless on the neo-conservative ziocons for creating most of the misinformation about Iran. This is the first time I have heard an American journalist who is not going to believe everything the Bush administration says. He said that many Iranian officials he met understand that Ahmadinijad (sp?) is a dangerous demigogue and they would like to see him lose the next election.

I can also report that most American callers to the program sided with Iran and think that the U.S. should stop trying to start new wars in the region.

See also Hirsh's opinion in the Washington Post.

Naj said...

if you look at the comments of my earlier post (Delshodegan) you will find a bunch of them listed. I will send the list to your blog as well.

Actually, I am a bit of comedian myself; and I too am often mistaken for being serious!

I have been hearing a change of media tone towards Iran for months now. I mean, when Ted Koppel has a change of heart, you can be hopeful!

I'll look up the newsweek as well; thanks!

Zeinobia said...

Dear Naj , believe or not but as a young Egyptian lady I can't ride a bicycle , no woman can ride a bicycle or a vespa , I know that from 30 years Egyptian women used to ride bicycles and it was common , but now , forget it dear
about your philosophy ,it is correct and it is true , I don't want to see it but this reminded me with a moral scandal in Iran that touched hight IR officials and army officers
the same thing you can find in Saudi Arabia
Now about the Islamic view ,I am sorry but historical there were women who fought side by side along with Prophet Mohamed "PBUH" , holding swords and riding hourses ,this is just to put thing straight ,Islam doesn't look to the women as walking lust but crazy sex manic men do

Naj said...


You are correct about Islam. In fact: learning to throw arrows, riding horses are considered Islamic sports for both genders.

Today, in Iran, you will find a lot of "fighter" women in the police force. Also, you have plenty of martial art champions among women.

That is why I take issue with the old grumpy men who, out of lack of moral discipline, feel compelled to force women into buckets, instead of thoughening the laws against masculine lust.

But you should also keep in mind that in every society, Islamic or non Islamic, women have joined men in battle against enemy not by the encouragement of the religion, by by the force of war dynamics. The men, have of course tried to push women back into their little rabbit holes as soon as the war has ended.

This is not particular to Islamic societies.

David said...

Naj, I can't see the "cabin" in the picture. Exactly what parts of the woman's body are being concealed? The woman looks covered from head to toe to me. It seems rediculous to me that a man could become sexually aroused by watching a woman on a bicycle. However, stranger things have happened in the past. Victorian men supposedly became aroused when they saw a woman's bare ankle! Good luck to all Islamic women bicyclists, especially in Saudi Arabia!

David said...

I just read through the comments. I certainly agree with you Naj, that women have sexual desires. I have learned a few things from my study of psychology in school and also from some of the women that I have gotten to know (not all in the biblical sense ;) ). Still, being a man, I would not presume to know everything about women's desires. However, as a man, I do know quite a bit about male desires. In this case, I very well understand what Pen said about "visceral fire". Sexual tension in a man can be like a form of insanity if it is not released. In countries where prostitution is legal, there are very few sex related crimes. In most of the U.S., the opposite is true. Now, I am not saying that prostitution is a great thing by any means. I think that women who work as prostitutes are often very unhappy with what they are doing.

I don't know if you are a fan of Star Trek, but I am reminded of the Trek series Deep Space Nine and the Ferengi characters. On the planet Ferenginar, the females are forced by the males to go naked all the time. When a Ferengi male sees a clothed female he thinks it is a horribly perverse thing because it makes him think about unclothing the female. So, when the Ferengi first encounter humans, there is quite a fuss about the clothed human females! I wonder if some of the Trek writers were Iranians? ;)

Naj said...


"Ferengi" ... how funny; in Iran, we call westerners "farangi"! so let's dig up who wrote those star treks ;)

Going back to expression of female desires: We have quite a bit of culturally implanted inhibitions in the female citizens of the world; especially those who have been wrapped in biblical orders.

Give women money, power, self confidence, and take away the established rules of female behavior, and then watch their expressions of desire.

about the 'cabin' (I like bucket); it is not in the picture yet. It's another one of those Akhoondi ideas that will perhaps never take off.

Anonymous said...

I liked the Ferengi since they were only interested in attractive females and money. Also, in their entire history they never went to war with each other.

Naj said...

aaargh! now I HAVE to watch Star Treks (I never have!) somehow, science fiction (with very few exceptions, such as space odyssey 2001) bores me to tears!

But I watched the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night :)

"don't panic!" is what I took home :)

Anonymous said...

Look into Dorris Lessing's "Shikasta" (broken - from Persian), Arkady and Boris Strugatskii, "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow", "Elementary Particles", "Maleville" by R. Merle, books by Philp K. Dick.