Iran and sociological time: college education and wimmin

  • See another comparative article about out-of-wedlock births in Iran
  • See a page of articles on gender issues
  • See me complain to Theda Skocpol about having to write articles like this one

    BBC reported in 2006 that in Iran, wimmin had become the majority in college: “Well over half of university students in Iran are now women.”(1) This fact is evidence that Iran has a more advanced road to wimmin’s liberation than the United $tates.

    In the news we are apt to hear about stoning of adulterous females in Iran.(2) Next door in Afghanistan a womyn with a chopped off nose is in the news as evidence of the anti-wimmin views of the Taliban. She’s the cover of “Time Magazine.”(3)

    Iran is more than 99% Muslim(4) and ruled by a theocracy. This is liable to get the journalists in the West excited, but while we hear about stoning in Iran, we also hear about a French mother who killed eight of her babies.(5) So the question begs for asking, which society is more patriarchal, the Western society or Islamic Iran.

    There is no mystery that richer people can afford more education. Poor and working-class families cannot always educate all their children equally, and so in most societies excruciating choices are made. When families start to make more money, there is no surprise that they seek to educate their children more.

    According to the UN, in 2006, when the BBC article came out, Iran had a per capita income of $3198. The year before it was $2584.(4) What is more, the United $tates also had a female majority in college in 2006. So I am not going to compare two similar proportions. What the scientist should want to know is what the U.$. female college enrollments were when the United $tates had a per capita income of about $3000 per year. That is an example of thinking in sociological time to sort out class and gender.

    The snooty can always brag that they can afford more education for their whole families. The poorest of the poor do not make it through primary school. So the question is what was the U.$. attitude toward gender when the United $tates was poorer.

    It’s tough to answer this question. In 1967, which I just got done talking about, male college enrollments among U.$. youth aged 18-24 were about 50% higher than female college enrollments. Yet the U.$. per capita income in 1967 was about five times higher than Iran’s in 2006.(8)

    I’m lazy but experienced with data, so I already know the United $tates does not have the most advanced road to wimmin’s liberation. Just to spot my critics an advantage, I went to look up figures from 1929, when per capita income in the United $tates was just over $8000 (in 2005 dollars).(8) That’s more than double the per capita income what Iran had in 2006 according to the UN. In 1934 in the depths of the Depression, the United $tates was earning $6281 per capita in 2005 dollars. That’s a much closer comparison than 1967 or 2006. (Being only a factor of two apart also brings the method of calculating comparable incomes per capita across cultures into play.)

    Tough times you say? 1929? Even 1934? It gives one a measure of how difficult it is to understand economic conditions across cultures.

    The Britannica says there is evidence U.$. female college enrollments declined after 1929. So by picking 1929, we are spotting our critics another advantage of not going into the Depression.(9) Yet in 1929 we see again about a 50% U.$. male advantage over females in college graduation if we count two-year degrees and a more than 2 to 1 advantage in four-year degrees.

    It turns out that up till 1910, if one counted teacher’s colleges (two-year programs), U.$ females had been pretty even with males for decades.(10) I found this surprising, and it was only in looking at full four-year bachelor’s degrees where there was always a difference until recent times.

    Iran also has associate degrees for two or 2.5 years, so to make an apples to apples comparison we must dig into the four-year degrees, the universities. We can go to the bourgeois think tank Brookings, and we will obtain an answer for Iran and the Arab countries generally from Djavad Salehi-Isfahani.(11)

    If we look at his figure one, it is clear that the higher the income in the country, the more females outnumber males in the universities of the Islamic world. In fact, when the United $tates is put into the data, it shows up closer to the value for Algeria, but of course much richer. I’m fairly confident that what he found is not a fluke for the United $tates, and if he put in more countries from the West, we would see two separate lines to connect, one for the more feminist Islam and one for the more patriarchal West. It would become especially clear by putting in historical data from the West in order to see the picture of how the female proportion of college enrollments grew.

    People who grew up in the United $tates of the 1930s onward have no reason to look down on Iran regarding gender in education. In sociological time, the Iranian gender revolution was much faster than the Amerikan one, because the Iranian revolution occurred when people were much poorer. That is to say the Islamic revolution has been more feminist than U.$. imperialism.

    Even in regular chronological time,(12) the Amerikans and Iranians reached the state we are in now with more females than males in universities, at about the same time. One could even say that it was Amerikans that held back that change, because Amerikans backed the Shah up till the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Iran’s gains for wimmin came after Amerikan-backed puppets got the boot.

    Sensational stories about stoning and nose-chopping create the image of Islam that Amerikkkans are prepared to buy as they take military contracts to go to war. The media is filled with self-righteous questions about what will happen to Afghan wimmin if the United $tates withdraws from Afghanistan. Yet Afghanistan and Iran are not rich like the United $tates. Snooty Amerikans should learn to distinguish class and nation from gender. Bragging about how females have it so great in the United $tates is really bragging about the looting of the rest of the world via Ponzi schemes and super-exploitation. It has nothing to do with having a superior gender culture.

    When you are rich, you hire migrants to do the housework and raise the kids while you and your own female children go to university. It’s especially nasty to brag about that to people from developing countries.

    Notes:
    1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5359672.stm
    2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10832482
    3. “Time Magazine” featured the womyn on its cover http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/jul/30/time-magazine-news-photography
    4. http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Iran/Iran_EFA_MDA.pdf
    5. http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/Prosecutors-French-Mother-Confesses-to-Killing-Her-8-Newborns-99590654.html
    6. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5294/is_200408/ai_n24287501/
    The same study found evidence of economic convergence only within the richer countries MIM refers to as imperialist, further evidence of MIM’s class analysis.
    7. http://www.prb.org/articles/2007/crossoverinfemalemalecollegeenrollmentrates.aspx
    8. http://www.forbes.com/2006/10/16/demographics-income-population-biz_cx_tvr_1017median.html
    U.$. GDP per capita was almost $20,000 in 2005 dollars in 1967.
    http://www.measuringworth.org/datasets/usgdp/result.php
    9. http://www.britannica.com/bps/additionalcontent/18/23270279/The-Homecoming-of-American-College-Women-The-Reversal-of-the-College-Gender-Gap
    maybe citing http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/goldin/files/homecoming.pdf
    10. http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/goldin/files/homecoming.pdf
    11. “Are Iranian Women Overeducated?” http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2008/0305_education_salehi_isfahani.aspx
    12. Gulp, Iranians are at 65% female in college as of 2008,
    http://bazardispatch.blogspot.com/2008/02/iran-parliament-and-women-in-higher.html
    even higher than U.$. figures closer to 60% female.

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