As an Iranian woman, I believe I grew up learning self-censorship as a norm. It was not until I joined Bangkok women Writers in 2016 that I learned I can fight against self-judgment and censorship and started to write freely. In my previous novels, written in Persian, I was suffering to limit my characters as much as society would accept and my books could get through the "Censorship Department" we have for any published types of art in the country. However, my novel "We Lost The Train" (soon will be translated into English)was my last novel written in Persian that stopped me from writing more. The reason was that the publisher asked me to remove a key character in order for me to get published not that the character was not attractive but because his story was taboo! No matter how much I tried to fit into their standards and limitation, still, there was something in the story that shouldn't be told! Here, I would like to discuss Feminism's escape narratives and transgression in form of writing.
This is not only the case in Iran. Focusing on the concept of self-censorship, I can say many of us, especially women, are drawn to this behavior because we have been told to act and behave a certain way. This is where I can tell you, as a woman, an Iranian one if you know what I mean, I can say Transgressive Writing freed me. A good example is Rupi Kapurauthor of “Milk and Honey” who faced controversies (however positive for her at the end) and being banned in Instagram regarding her Photos on menstruation. She voiced her side of the controversy using #FreeSpeechZone she says:
“thank you, Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted my photo twice stating that it goes against community guidelines. I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of [a] misogynist society that will have my body in underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human. thank you. as a part of my final project for my visual rhetoric course i created this image along with a full set which you can view at www.rupikaur.com to demystify the period and make something that is innate “normal” again cause rape categories in porn are okay. objectification and sexualization is okay. people getting off on naked underage women. bondage. torture. humiliation. abuse is okay but this makes them uncomfortable. that’s what this work is supposed to do. make you as uncomfortable as you should feel when you watch others get abused and objectified. This just goes to show who is sitting behind the desk. And whose controlling the show. Whose controlling the media and who is censoring us.”
Transgressive Fiction and art are always controversial. We are the outcast and imagine adding the spice of gender to this controversy. In my idea, "being a woman is a taboo" no matter where you are, we're still being evaluated by misogynistic standards even by our own gender. There's a research on "Mothers' Blogs about mothering, family and food" that compared the way these women try to show the concept of their happy normal family and discussing difficult topics for example, her upset about another mother telling her children off, and about dilemmas over secondary school selection. This research shows how such narratives of difficulty complexify normative "happy families" stories. This characteristic allows for the registering of transgressive elements of content, within the apparently normative narrative of "happy families" in my idea is a form of self-censorship.
This is where Transgressive Writing, as Mookerjee points out, shows a well-known discontinuity between postmodernism and feminism, postcolonialism or other political themes, and this is "the postmodern novelist's disruption of the traditional continuities". So transgressive potential of feminist escape narratives is often resisted a happy ending or standard damsel in distress narratives, focusing on real female related struggles regarding norms, beliefs, and social standards. These narratives reflect the changing face of feminism, as it sheds its old certainties, is faced with a monumental "backlash" and is refigured as the potentially less threatening "postfeminism".
As a woman writer, either fiction or non-fiction, I encourage you to discuss what you are afraid to discuss. In this case, feminism isn't against anyone, it's about daring to share what society counts as disgusting. Anything natural like female desire, pregnancy-related rights, viginal health, women's pain, menopause, Vagina. Labia. Clitoris. I bet I disgusted some by just referring to natural parts of the human body. If you'd like to join such a powerful community of writers, I encourage you to check The last Book of My anthology, Sokut, (open for submission) here. I am benefitting from the power of Transgressive Writing to empower real feminism, talking about women who are tabooed by their peers, mothers, and sisters. We don't need to be aggressive to be heard, we can just normalize what being a human means.
Thanks for reading and I see you in the next post.