What do you do when women attain not only equality but, in some areas, numerical superiority?
Well if those areas are things like doing most of the domestic work, or low pay, or getting hassled in the street, you do nothing. But when those areas are desirable things like university education?
You slam the door on them, so that they won’t have any numerical superiority any more. You make sure there won’t be more women than men graduating from universities by not letting so god damn many women in in the first place.
36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be “single gender” and effectively exclusive to men.
It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country’s religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year’s university entrance exam.
Senior clerics in Iran’s theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.
Yes, that is a worry. Always. If women have choices about what to do with their lives, many of them will not get married very young, many of them will not start having children very young, many of them will have one or two children instead of five or ten. Some will not get married at all, some will not have children at all. That’s how it is when people have choices – many of them will decide for themselves what kinds of lives they want to have. (Many, not all. Some will do the expected thing, or submit to pressure, or make mistakes that commit them to lives they never actually chose to have.)
Theocrats, naturally, think that’s an outrage. They think god wants people to have the kinds of lives that god thinks they should have, and they also think they know that, and they also think they know that what god wants should be binding on humans.
So they move to stunt and truncate the lives of women, and to take choices away from them, so that they will revert to marrying young and having children young and often, because of their lack of choices.
Under the new policy, women undergraduates will be excluded from a broad range of studies in some of the country’s leading institutions, including English literature, English translation, hotel management, archaeology, nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management.
The Oil Industry University, which has several campuses across the country, says it will no longer accept female students at all, citing a lack of employer demand. Isfahan University provided a similar rationale for excluding women from its mining engineering degree, claiming 98% of female graduates ended up jobless.
Shirin Ebadi has written to Ban Ki Moon and to Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Ebadi, a human rights lawyer exiled in the UK, said the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50% – from around 65% at present – thereby weakening the Iranian feminist movement in its campaign against discriminatory Islamic laws.
“[It] is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena,” says the letter, which was also sent to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. “The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights.”
However, the science and higher education minister, Kamran Daneshjoo, dismissed the controversy, saying that 90% of degrees remain open to both sexes and that single-gender courses were needed to create “balance”.
Because if women ever have more of a good thing than men do, that’s “imbalance.” This principle does not hold true in the other direction.