I Love Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll

Hey joons,

HAPPY FRIDAY!  Best. Day. Ever.

I’m going to do things a bit differently tonight, and that’s because it’s been an eventful week.

It all started (for me) last week when I was on a date with this white guy… okay fine, we were in my bed- but that’s irrelevant. We were talking (surprised?  me too…), and he asked, “What do you think it means to be American?”

I couldn’t answer, not because I didn’t know how to, but blunt Farrah was out to play and I didn’t want to offend.  So I asked him to answer instead, which prompted him to say, “America is great because it provides equal opportunities for people of all different races.”

My response?  “Spoken like a true white guy.

You see if that were the case, then an Iranian AMERICAN would’t have been denied an iPad for speaking FARSI at the Apple store– iDiscriminate? Check it out yo.

I’m pretty sure no one was denied from buying an Apple product because they were speaking English…

If America is all about equal opportunity, then sanctions wouldn’t prevent my mother-AMERICAN CITIZEN- from bringing money that she receives from her apartment rental in Iran to the U.S… her only source of income.  

If Americans are innocent from discrimination then why is the first thing they ask me once they hear my name: where I’m ORIGINALLY from?

What’s your last name? Oooohhh so what language do you speak?”

ENGLISH BITCH.

I love being Iranian… I wear it proud — literally.

On my ribcage

But there’s a reason that my dad insisted I erase all the work I’ve done at Iranian organizations and articles I’ve written focused on Iran from my resume when I was applying for jobs.

He was scared that employers would judge me negatively for being Iranian and for being ACTIVE.

I refused.

Who the hell are YOU to judge me for it or speak on behalf of my culture when you really know NOTHING about it?

NY Times Journalist Nick Kristof recently spent some time in Iran.  I think he’s great, really I do– I have nothing but respect for the man and I was excited that he was going to Iran.  I thought, “FINALLY, someone is going to go there and see what it’s really like… Nick Kristof will do Iranians justice and show Americans what we’re really about.”

Then his first article about Iran was published where he reported that sanctions were working.  

Kristof wrote this, “Yet, with apologies to the many wonderful Iranians who showered me with hospitality, I favor sanctions because I don’t see any other way to pressure the regime on the nuclear issue or ease its grip on power. My takeaway is that sanctions are working pretty well.”

Kristof basically said that even though sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranians more than senior officials, please suffer more so that the international community can reach it’s goals with the regime…eventually.  

“Tough it out Iranians– the regime MIGHT take the hint someday.  We realize you’re losing money/jobs, subsidies are high, pollution is outrageous, but just suffer some more.”

That ain’t fog

I refuse to believe that our only option with the regime in Iran is one that hurts innocent people.

 As Asghar Farhadi put it, innocent Iranians who are “truly a peace loving people.”

But unfortunately, that wasn’t all Kristof had to say about Iran.  His next article came out labeling Iranians in their 20′s as only wanting to have “fun fun fun.”

He wrote about how Iranians in their 20′s are looking to do drugs, have sex, party, etc.  … kinda like how Americans in their 20′s are, right?  But because it’s happening in Iran, Kristof writes about it like this:

“You wouldn’t think a New Yorker could be made to blush in Tehran, but I was taken aback by the hookup scene of one-night stands: young men with flashy cars troll for women, chat them up and then drive off with them.”

I’m sorry Nick, but how is that any different than what happens in any other country in the world?  Britain? France? THE UNITED STATES?

Work hard, play harder

Are you saying that because this is happening in an Islamic country? If that’s the case, then basically the assumption is being made that the Iranian regime REPRESENTS the people of Iran.

It seems that people are forgetting that the hardliners of Iran like Khamanei and Ahmadinejad were not elected through a free and fair election… that the freedom to VOTE in Iran does not exist.

And if we are going to boldly assume that because these people live in an Islamic state– Islam, taken out of context and imposed on people in an oppressive manner by the government — that they all believe in the policies set forth by their rulers?

Then is it safe to also assume that the U.S. government represents ALL U.S. citizens?

Double standards much?

When people are oppressed and are forbidden to do what they please– of COURSE they’re going to rebel… of course they’re going to want to do things that aren’t “legal.”  But more importantly… ANYONE in their 20′s is going to experiment – because that’s what being in your 20′s is all about.  It’s about pushing out of your comfort zone and seeing what’s out there- learning who you really are through mistakes and yes, sometimes even with sex/partying.

Your 20′s is the time to find yourself and how are Iranians expected to find themselves when they’re constantly being told “no?

Is it fair to assume that because Iranians DO actually party and participate in actions that are viewed “normal” here in the U.S. — that they are somehow extreme to the point of being labeled as wanting to participate in “sex, drugs and rock n’roll?”

As if partying here in the U.S. is any LESS “crazy” than this:

Smoke all day err day

Or the fact that girls and guys find ways to hang out despite the rules enforced by the regime–  Is it fair to say that they are participating in “romantic hedonism?”

At my grandmother’s house- with NO parental supervision (yo check out that hookah)

I made out with the guy in the picture above in the pool that day– we’d been seeing each other for two and a half weeks.  Does that make YOU blush?

We just want to have fun– without fear of judgment from the international community

I’ve been going to Iran almost every summer of my life.  This is the first summer in the past ten years that I will not be going back and I’m devastated because Iran is truly a beautiful country with wonderful people.  People who care about you before they even know anything about you.

I whip my hijab back and forth

People who upon finding out that I’m from the U.S. (thanks to my horrifying English accent when I speak Farsi) offer me gifts and shirini because they are so excited to have met me.

Iranians shouldn’t be KNOWN because they like to party and have sex (ahem… like the REST of the world), they should be known for constantly trying to push past the limitations of their government.  They should be known for the beautiful culture that they have kept alive despite what the hardliners do to prevent them from celebrating and basking in its beauty.

Tehran

Don’t judge Iranians for doing things that we do in America.  They shouldn’t be labeled because of that– they should be known for fighting against the regime, not succumbing to it.

So what you want to say about that?

SEXANDFESSENJOON@GMAIL.COM

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PROUD,

FARRAH فرح

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Comments

  1. Nick but you managed to write a book and build a school in SA with the money you made, you don’t need to please those people for money. You can stand on your own feet. Implying that sanctions/wars will free those Iranians is not “helping”.

  2. I too was a bit baffled by Kristof’s apparent lack of creative insight on the sanctions issue. I thought he would finally give the world a glimpse of a non-stereotyped Iran: people just trying to do what people love to do: live, work, play, create, and deviate. The fact that they still do it all under the current regime is all the more remarkable. I don’t live in American any more, but traveling the world only confirms what should be so blatantly obvious: we are all unified by these base desires. The only real variant seems to be the cultural landscape in how publicly we can celebrate them.

    Well put. Keep keeping on.

  3. A few thoughts (and please don’t take them the wrong way if any of them come off as a little zesht because I love that you’re bringing these issues up and I think you should do more of it on this blog).

    1) I love that 90% of the party pictures had a ghalyun in them. That made my day.

    2) Typical white guy reaction, true, but let’s not play it off like we’ve had it so bad here in the United States. After all, Iranian men aren’t the ones filling US prisons by the millions because of this country’s war on drugs and its discriminatory enforcement of the laws attendant to that war. We’re not the ones who are subsequently legally discriminated against in the job and housing markets and we’re not the ones who are permanently disenfranchised due to their ”criminal records.” Shit, outside of LA and DC most Americans can’t tell Iranians apart from people of a multitude of other nationalities – so they wouldn’t even be able to discriminate against us if they wanted to. The Apple situation highlights this point perfectly, since the clerk had to ask the young lady where she was from before denying her the ipad. Do you think she would have volunteered the fact that she was Iranian if she had ever experienced true discrimination before in the United States because of her nationality? Given the lengths that people who are actually actively discriminated against go to hide their distinguishing factors, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, no.

    I want to make myself clear though, I think you’re right in that Iranians have experienced discrimination in this country, and continue to do so, especially in the immigration and national security contexts after 9/11. Similarly, I applaud you bringing this issue up, since it\’s important to snuff these things out when they first rear their ugly heads. At the same time, I think that it’s important to keep some things in perspective.

    3) My dad told me to erase all of the work I’ve done at Iranian organizations as well and I reacted similarly. To quote one of my favorite movies: ”Why? Because fuck [them], that’s why?” I was happy to read you reacted similarly.

    4) I’m mixed on sanctions. They certainly levy a huge toll on everyday Iranians who have nothing to do with the Islamic Republic’s foreign and domestic policies. At the same time, they are putting a lot of pressure on the regime, and as far as the sanctions are an alternative to bombing the ever loving shit out of Iran, I’m in favor of them. (There are plenty of points you can make here about how sanctions alone have never toppled a regime before, and I acknowledge all of them, but I think it’s important to note the role that sanctions have historically played in regime changes across the globe and debating whether they’re better than what seems to be the alternative).

    At the end of the day, my thought process goes kind of like this. Sure your mom can’t get her rental income but my khaleh isn’t going to eat an air to ground missile with her naan va paneer tomorrow morning either. Assuming the international community is at a point where they are going to do one thing or the other, all things considered, I’d say that\’s pretty fair and just about the most humane way of going about it.

    • Whoops, sorry for the double comment. Feel free to erase since it is a wall of text. :)

    • Hi there,

      Thank you for your comment– I’m going to try to address everything to the best that I can so bear with me here :)

      1. How can you NOT have ghalyun at a Persian party? ;)

      2. I never meant to make the assertion that we have it “bad” in the U.S. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to be raised in the U.S. and still be able to go back and forth to Iran as I please. I’m lucky that I can move out of my parent’s home to pursue my goals whereas in Iran, a woman is expected to stay in her parent’s home till marriage. I am aware of the opportunities that I’m given BECAUSE I live in the U.S.

      However, just because the person at Apple had to ask what language they were speaking, it really doesn’t make it any less messed up… does it? Isn’t that just a sign of ignorance? And how can we really expect people who don’t know much about Iran/Iranians to be able to detect Farsi just from overhearing a conversation?

      You are totally right– a lot of times, people ask me if I’m Mexican, Italian or White. They cant always tell when a person is Iranian, but that really doesn’t justify anything, does it?

      When 9/11 happened, I was in junior high school… and I was suddenly branded as “a descendent from terrorists.” I faced some hate in school– incriminating emails, prank phone calls. Even today, when I come back from Iran– TSA gives me a HELL of a time. I’ve actually written about it on this blog: http://wp.me/p1Vm9n-lX

      But all that “hate” doesn’t stop me from telling people that I’m Iranian. I don’t think that people discriminating against you should stop you for being proud of your heritage because in the end, their ignorance is THEIR shortcoming. Not ours.

      So when you ask, “Do you think she would have volunteered the fact that she was Iranian if she had ever experienced true discrimination before in the United States because of her nationality?” My answer: If it had been me in HER situation, HELL YEAH I would. But that’s just me :)

      3. Great minds.

      4. I’m in favor of sanctions that target government officials– I am NOT in favor of economic sanctions that hurt the people. I think that there is a way that the international community could be more strategic. And I think it’s important that we AID the young people of Iran, who clearly don’t support the regime — hell, at least help give them access to information. Rather than what is happening now, which is only weakening them.

      Anyway, thank you for reading– I appreciate your comments :)

      xoxo,

      Farrah

      • Hi Farrah,

        I just read through your TSA experience; I’m so sorry that happened to you.

        Re Discrimination: You’re right, just because most Americans don’t recognize farsi when they hear it or recognize an Iranian when they see one, doesn’t mean that they don’t WANT to discriminate against Iranians. Actually, I’m of the opinion that if more Americans had those abilities, Iranians would experience more discrimination than we currently do. With that in mind, maybe the appropriate approach here is to look at the intent and not the result when trying to determine if there is a serious discrimination problem for Iranians in America. I’m not sure, but it’s something to mull over.

        Re Sanctions: I agree, sanctions that specifically target elite government officials and not everyday people would be ideal, although I’m not sure if that’s a real possibility. (If anyone has any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them). Also, Adam’s point regarding the administration’s knowledge that any uprising will result in increased bloodshed is well taken, but I think we all know that this regime will never step aside quietly anyways, so I’m not sure if sanctions change much on that front, except perhaps accelerating the inevitable.

  4. Another great piece of writing, and as a WASM (white, Anglo-Saxon Muslim) I feel similarly about the portrayal of Iranians in the US. Additionally, the continuation of sanctions against Iran is ridiculous and only hurts non-elite Iranians. The American expectation that, with enough sanctions and rising frustration among the Iranian population, will somehow initiate regime change is ludicrous and places all blame on Iran. Have we already forgotten about years of propping up the corrupt Pahlavi dynasty?

  5. What Are They Smoking?

  6. Long comment incoming…

    I agree with you 100% on the sanctions; the refugees I meet coming from Iran tell me they really do nothing but hurt ordinary people, and the government is so good about taking care of the (increasingly shrinking number of) people who ensure its survival that when those guys at namaze jom’e say the sanctions “have no effect,” they’re actually kind of right.

    You did touch on it but I think it needs to be stressed more: the most sinister part of it all is that the sanctions are actually not designed to change the government’s mind, but rather to make life so hard on ordinary people that they finally revolt and attempt to overthrow the government. Policymakers likely know that the Iranian government would just react to such moves by increasing bloodshed, rather than eventually stepping aside as Mubarak did in Egypt, so we can make of that what we will.

    I’m generally loath to defend establishment papers and I think his stance on sanctions in the first article is unforgivable, but just who/what are you angry at in your bit about Kristof’s second article? I can’t decide whether you think he’s judging Iranians for being into sex or if you think he’s a horse’s ass for being so caught off guard by the fact that they enjoy sex and then applauding them for mirroring our values. He can’t possibly be doing both, and I definitely don’t think he’s doing the first one. In fact, he only discusses sex in the first part of the piece, and I think he otherwise paints what is probably a pretty accurate picture of Iran’s youth: he does in fact laud their literacy, their resolve, and their activism (although somewhat condescendingly: “…change will come here, too…”).

    I don’t think his presumptions about Iranians are/were totally based on what is projected by the Iranian government or an assumption that the government represents the people (do you think anyone who writes even a cursory piece about Iran nowadays thinks that?); what about the ubiquitous, decades-long media propaganda campaign in our own country carried out to paint people from Middle Eastern countries as religious fanatics? It doesn’t take a bad government to create a hostile atmosphere towards that country in the US – go back and read what Bush said about Bolivia when their democratically-elected leader started messing with the status quo. I think Kristof’s biggest failure in that second article was missing a chance to call out policymakers and media figures for the role they play in creating an atmosphere that makes military action against Iran more acceptable and more attractive to the public.

    In my opinion (and I hope this doesn’t get me banned forever), his second piece essentially communicates many of the ideas that this blog does, just with the unfortunate addition of naive, slack-jawed surprise, whereas an average level of knowledge about modern Iranian culture, history, and even language is assumed in the readership here.

    Also, what were you doing in bed with a guy who says any sentence that starts with, “America is great because…?” I hope that led to a nice long talk about white privilege.

    • Hey Adam,

      Thank you for your comment! Let’s see if I can answer everything (hopefully) :)

      – In regards to sanctions, I completely agree. The Iranian regime proved a long time ago that it would stop at nothing and I hate that the international community is taking drastic measures to push ordinary people toward an uprising.

      In regards to Kristof’s second article– here are my thoughts:

      - You’re right, I really appreciate that he made it a point to say how there are women (and men) who are actively pursuing education, etc. But there is one very clear difference between our intentions with this blog and the article that he wrote. When Saaghi and I first started this blog- we wanted it to be an outlet for Iranian Americans- a place where they could come and NOT be embarrassed about things that are so natural to other people- i.e. sex. We do not claim to represent Iranians within Iran because at the end of the day, both Saaghi and I were raised in America. While our parents may have been strict, we were surrounded by a completely different environment than Iranians in Iran are.

      With that said, Nick Kristof has a completely different audience then we do. His audience isn’t just Iranians, or people who study or read about Iran– his audience also includes people who really don’t know anything about Iran (which you also mentioned in your comment). While at S&F, we might get readers who aren’t as well versed with Iran, the BULK of our audience (at least I think) are people who have either studied the Middle East or are of Middle Eastern background.

      For me personally, I was disappointed to read that Nick went to Iran, spoke to the youth and ONE of short paragraph from his ONE article about them was the “hook-up scene.” And not just that, I felt defensive toward it because I felt like he was making the assertion that it was so much “crazier” (for lack of a better term) than it is anywhere else.

      Having gone to Iran myself almost my entire life, I don’t think that the “hook-up” scene is representative of the youth of Iran. i would have loved to see him report more about how people FEEL toward the regime or how the youth perceives what’s happening with the international community. I know that it’s hard to get those answers from people who are constantly threatened for being political– but there is so much more to the youth that I was hoping he would focus on… ESPECIALLY when he’s reporting for an audience who again, may not know a lot about Iran.

      In a country that is so misunderstood like Iran– there is such a variety of topics to focus on– he could of reported on how women stay independent DESPITE the regime’s oppression. He could have reported on what the youth’s future hopes are– whether it’s for their country or just professionally and personally in terms of family. And yes, it would have been interesting if he had focused on the “party/sex” scene if he had actually reported Iranian’s opinions– instead he just made his own assertions about it and published it for the world. He could have talked to the youth about how they party- what the punishments are, and why that doesn’t stop them. Or what do they think about the whole virginity/marriage issue– rather than making the statement that it’s almost embarrassing the way these people hook up.

      Anyway, I hope this answers your questions. Thank you again for your comments — (all of them, we love receiving your comments).

      xoxo,

      Farrah

      PS– in regards to the guy, let’s just say… there wasn’t a second date. :)

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