Our Discussions

Our Culture

1 (a madar)
baz ham salaam,
After previous postings about "assertiveness", I realized that we do not have a proper translation of this word in Farsi. Perhaps due to the fact that in our culture one is either polite or aggressive, and there is no place there between as "assertive"!
This is a very interesting point about our culture and how different it is from (at least) American culture. Another parent mentioned the term "privacy" has no place in our language and he had a hard time explaining that he needed some privacy when he was on a visit to Iran.
So, I am collecting a set of terms that we do not have in our culture and first find it in English or other languages. Please contribute to this list.
kheylee mamnoon,
1. assertive
2. privacy
3. recycling (?)

2 (a madar)
Just a quick reply to answer your question;'
recycling has indeed tranlated as BAZGARDANI in Farsi and it is being used. privacy has been translated in several places as KHALVAT. And about assertive don' know. I will ask and may have an answer soon.
3 (a madar)
Good morning,
The only and the closest equivalent farsi term I could think of for assertiveness is "gostakh, jasour", however, I could think of very many opposite terms and "acceptable" adjectives in farsi which are used to disqualify assertiveness in us, ie: "mahjoob, ba vaghar, sar be zir, matin, oftadeh, movaghar, ...", and the irony is that unconsciously we attempt to seed these characteristics in our children! I believe the best way to teach our children about assertiveness is to set a good example for them by being assertive ourselves, and believe me you, I know how difficult this is, but my experience with Sanaz indicates that is the only practical way. Thanks for listening.
4 (a madar)
Salaam bar hamegi,
I have been a member of madar-pedar for at least a year, but so far I have only been listening. The resent discussion about assertiveness of our children has put a new perspective on the situation I have found myself in for the past few months. Let me explain, Last summer I asked my parents to come from Iran and stay with us to take care of our four-year old daughter (They were here when she was born, and left when she turned one year old). They came in August, every thing has been wonderful except for one thing, and that is the relationship between my daughter and my father. Don't get me wrong, they love each other dearly, but they sometimes don't get along with each other. At times it is a competition for my Mother's attention (my mother is one of those traditional wives who "takes care" of her husband just like another child), and that makes my daughter jealous. At other times it is my daughter's "assertiveness" that bothers my father. She will not give up easily and be quit when my father asks and expects her to be. She will insist on her view. My father of course has never experienced this behavior from his children or other grand children (most living in Iran). At best, after one of these "sessions", my daughter has been described as "Ghostakh", and at worst she has been described as "loos-v-nonor". At first the situation bothered me a lot, and I tried to intervene, but now I let them fight it out and come to an understanding of each other on their own. I have talked with my father, specially when I was accused of not disciplining her correctly, that her "assertiveness" is not a "bad" thing specially for a female growing up in US, and I think he understands it better. Actually (I believe), he even secretly admires her "courage" to be "assertive". Has any of you experienced anything like this?
We also have a son who will be twenty years old this April. Our son was born here in US, and so you could say we have been through a lot of the issues that have been brought up with madar-pedar already. I have talked enough for now, but I try to be more active (as my time permits) in the discussions.
5 (a madar)
I remember I was in second grade,
I got into an argument with my parents uncle. Although I was not rude at all I was described as "Vaghih", just for answering back.
I guess that is another word in our culture to fight with assertiveness Thanks to my mother who explained to her uncle that there was nothing wrong for children to have their own opinion, I understood that I was not "Vaghih"
6 (a madar)
On Wed, ... wrote:
> (Remember:"The shortest distance between two points, is an intention")
I don't find it quite true! I am at a point where I feel the heavy weight of our culture on my back, and I wish to reach the point where I am free from the cultural residue that bothers me. but I find it very difficult! I am at this point because of the way I was raised up as a "good Iranian girl"! and I find it difficult to reach the point of professional success. Following our discussion about assertiveness, remember how we were raised: A good child must "respect" any body who
1- is older (say salaam first, ...), or
2- is an authority (of any kind: religious, professional, political,...),
3- is a male! (for women)
Unfortunately, "respectful behavior" was formulated such that it kills assertiveness and guarantees failure in this society. To respect someone, a child
- should not make eye-contact!
- should not answer back!
- should obey without raising objections!
these are only some of the Iranian "good traits" that our parents happily passed to us :(
I wonder if it is only women who feel the suffering from our cultural traits?
7 (a madar)
yes! our men are raised to believe they own the universe and everything in it (including women). and, guess who taught them that? their mothers!!!!!
8 (a mother)
Hi - I have to laugh because I was raised fully American but I have all the same "problems" about being raised to respect elders, authorities, and men! Also, because much of my early training was in the Catholic Church, I can add a heaping tablespoon of guilt to that. Maybe the rules were less strictly enforced in my culture and there was less followup from my society and overall culture than in Iran.
I think my saving grace, oddly enough, was that my parents were both alcoholics who kind of left me alone from about age twelve on so I quickly learned that I would respect elders unless they were apparently not deserving, and authority only when it made logical sense and fit my ethics, and men only when they earned it and showed me respect in return. I give my kids a hard time about answering back in a disrespectful manner and insist that they show respect for most everyone but I always encourage them to have a say and so does my husband. I have always taught my kids to "do unto others" and "listen to their feelings" when dealing with other people. If they wouldn't like being treated some way or if their actions toward another person do not make them feel comfortable, they shouldn't be acting that way. And I treat them the same way so there doesn't seem to be too much confusion for them on this issue.
I think it is mostly a woman-thing to be cautious around men or authority-figures and sometimes I wish I was able to work around it with charm like so many women do but I have never been charming. It seems dishonest to me. I probably have hurt my career and certainly my income but I am comfortable with myself and that is worth more to me.
9 (a pedar)
I don't think it is just women who have deal with such cultural issues - we (males :-) do too - albeit maybe to a lesser degree.
Here are some of my ideas - and what i try to practice myself and what i try to teach my daughter, all migled together - all of course nice in theory and on email - given that she is just 4, there is quite a ways until we know what worked and what didn't (i forgot to mention before that i am a single parent - shared legal custody and visitation - ...
- I think children should display respect for older people. By respect I do not mean overt and blind submission but simple politeness and respect - which incidentally they (and us) should display to all other people regardless of age or gender. I have observed people treating older citizens with a less than gracious attitude and I would condone that. I treat them respectfully but I do my own thing.
- I don't see why saying hello first is not a good thing. It leads to good social behavior and grace. It also shows the other person that this is a confident child and as an adult this will tremendously help the kids. I guess I look at it as the one who takes the initiative and says hello/how-are-you first, is in more control than the receiving party. I always try to be the first one to say hello and go forward and shake hands and introduce myself and so on. (not that i am a control freak or anything ...:-)
- From the perspective of giving respect, we are (or try to be)gender neutral. 100%.
- In dealing with someone of "authority", I would enter the situation carefully, asking questions and getting the other person to open up and display their ware so to speak. You can then decide how much this person of authority is qualified. I don't want to generalize but I have encountered many people in our culture who are authorities on just about everything in the world, from raising kids to financial planning and how the US government should be run! Most of the time I just ask and absorb information. And then filter it out if necessary. I used to get bothered by "MY GOD!! This guy is so full of ....!!!" - now i just ignore it. let them bask in their ignorance.
- As far as the older members of the family go, i have displayed such "akhlAgheh sagi" that they do not "TELL" my daughter what to do as I step in and display my "sagee". :-)
- In terms of not talking back and obeying without raising an objection, I tend to respond back politely that I am unable to do this because of such and such reason and the I proceed to do what I need to do. If you believe in your reasons, your assertiveness will show and they will back off. when there is no room for argument, there won't be any.
- And i love, just aboslutely love to look people straight in the eye and smile. and say hi/how-are-you and so forth.
10 (a pedar)
>I am at this point because of the way I was raised up as a "good Iranian >girl"!
In no way I'm trying to issue advise or anything of such, and I just wanted to mention that it is very possible we all have inherited so much stuff from past which we had no roles in them and today we might not want to hold on to. I feel it's completely normal and all right, after all it is our life not someone's else.
At the same time, (again this is me) I think it would be impossible to do so as long as we don't take ownership and responsibility for our life TODAY! We got to redesign it for future, and let go of excuses.(including gender issues!)
Contrary to what you see as difficult point, I think you're in very courageous path, you're pretty much aware of it and that's the big first step. And one more note:
"The shortest distance between two points, is an intention"

11 (a madar)
Dear Madar #6 and every one else,
I very well understand what madar # 6 is talking about, and I have been dealing with this problem for a long time. I am now chair of a department that I got my B.S. degree from several years ago, so several of the people that work for me now were my professors before. You can imagine how awkward some situations have been for me, where I had to be "assertive" and fight my traditions of "respect for elders specially the ones that used to be in some authority position over me". One of the problems I am still fighting with is that if I disagree with someone, it doesn't mean that I am disrespecting them.
As far as our children, we need to still teach them to respect every one specially themselves. We need to work on identifying the "good" and the "bad" aspects of both Iranian and Western cultures, and try to teach the "good" and avoid the "bad". Now I know that is easier said than done, so I'm proposing that we the members of madar-pedar try to create a list. I am going to start by listing the following (some taken from Soheila's e-mail):
Good or appropriate (Iranian)
1. Say hello "Salaam" to every one
2. Don't talk back
Bad (Iranian)
1. Not making eye contact
2. Not being able to state an opinion freely (specially if it is to disagree), or to obey unconditionally. Correction for this should not mean talking back.
I am sure most of you can come up with other points to be added to these lists. So please try, and maybe we can help our children to have an easier time with these issues than we do.

12 (a pedar)
No, women are not alone. It took me years to shed the "wonderful" shyness that was instilled in me. Boys had to learn the same things. But I think some of it is good. Respecting my elders has helped me tremendously in my business and career. Of course, it takes the understanding that respecting someone does not mean that we must accept their views or agree with them.
God knows, I respected my father forever. But we had different views on most things. The part that made me respect him was the fact that he respected me.

13 (a mother)
Dear Friends,
I find this discussion very interesting and I am impressed with those of you who are assertive enough to put it out there.
I am wondering if this issue extends to husband and wife relationships as well. Is an Iranian wife expected not to "talk back" to her husband if she disagrees? How do you handle disagreement in a marriage and maintain the proper respect? Is a woman expected to "obey?"
As an American, I'm not all that assertive myself, but I know that sometimes I may have aggravated the situation with my own cultural style of dealing with disagreements (talking back or standing up for myself-- which is it?)

14 (a madar)
Dear mother # 13,
You have brought up a very interesting point. But I think we need to clarify something before we discuss this issue any farther, and that is what we mean by "talking back". To me "talking back" means disagreeing with someone in a rude way and not following the disagreement with an explanation. With that definition, I don't think anyone should "talk back". What do you mean by "talking back"?

15 (a daughter)
Boy, do I dislike the men sometimes. Some of them are sexist without even realizing it. Luckily, I was brought up by a very educated, feminist father (as much as possible, anyway), and I was told, very early on, that one of the reasons that we left Iran was so that I would NEVER feel that I was less than a man. Even though my life has been affected by both internal (mine) and external sexism, it was still wonderful to remember that at least in my father's eyes, I was an equal. And it has shaped my life - I have accomplished more than most women my age, and I am treated well in relationships.
16 (a pedar)

(In response to madar #1)

I'm afraid you will never see this posting, for the string of messages are very long on your initial comment.

(Depending on how one uses these words). As per your example, ref: someone relaying their being in Iran, and not being able to convey "I want my privacy":

1. "Meekhaham (or: "meekham") ba khodam basham"
2. "Meekhaham (or: "meekham") tanha basham"
also: "privacy": khosoosee, shakhsee (depending on how it's used) . Assertive: "ghay-re gha-be-le en-e-taf", "en-e-taf na-pa-zeer", "moh-kam"
(depending on how it's used in a sentence).
. Recycling: this is a very recent/new word in English, hence the new Persian word "bazgardanee" perfectly describes the meaning and intent. On a side-note and related to the issue of translations: It is very difficult to translate "Daryoush chandomeen padeshahe Iran bood?" as shortly and precisely as conveyed in Persian, into English. The word : "chandomeen" does not have an English equivalent in one word.

Please send your replies and/or opinions regarding this subject to madar-pedar@surya.eecs.berkeley.edu.

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