Embroidery — in Iran, vicious tongue versus double talk

“The tongue is a small member and boasts of great things” (James 3:5). This maxim from the Gospel speaks volumes about our daily lives.

We discuss... we plan... we boast... we report, and peddle, and gossip... This need for oratory is not always innocent. What is more pleasant than talking about yourself ? Talking about others ! Having a vicious tongue is as old as Genesis. Wasn't the vile serpent the first of the gossips ? By slandering God to Eve in order to convince her to taste the fruit of knowledge, the reptile no doubt justifies the phrase — “Whoever desires life, keep his tongue from evil”. Inspired by this verse from Psalms, Meir Hakoen of Radin devoted an entire work to it — the Hafets Haim. How can we escape such a natural vice?

Marjane Satrapi has a different answer. Backbiting is nothing more than a “heart ventilation session”. In other words, nothing could be healthier. Through her graphic novel Embroidery, the author of Persepolis invites us to a tasty session of “rumor has it”. In a convivial atmosphere, the women of the family share their secrets and, above all, their acquaintances’.

Much more than an anthology of gossip — the liberated voice of Iranian women

Marjane Satrapi describes one of her family dinners, when “her grandmother never called her grandfather by his first name, arguing that it was necessary to respect her husband”. Suddenly, there was a change of scenery and language. Leaving the table, the women of the house gather to revel in a much spicier dish — gossip. “Do you remember Nahia? From Shideh, that breadboard with a horse's head, well, the last time I saw her she was a blondie !” A flurry of names, all linked to intimate and provocative sentimental stories, emerge in turn from the mouths of this female assembly. The lightness with which the sensitive themes of sex, cosmetic surgery and early marriage shock. The cartoonist doesn't pull any punches, and that's how she succeeds in her tour de force — tackling the fundamental issues that undermine the lives of her Middle Eastern contemporaries.

 

In this respect, Marjane's aunt Parvine plays a central role. The very embodiment of the emancipated woman, she sketches a model of independence. Relating how she managed to refuse her marriage, her place of residence and even her aquiline nose inherited from her father and an aristocratic identity she rejects, Parvine escapes her fate. In this sense, she contrasts with the other women mentioned who, out of a desire to be one with society, have ended up mutilating their own (or that of others…). No longer taboo, no longer restrained, speech is free. But if tongues are as sharp as knives, it's to better free themselves from the bonds of a regime that holds Iranian women's bodies in its grip.

 

“If a word burns your tongue, let it be”

As the Persian proverb says — “If a word burns your tongue, let it be”. And yet, slander and calumny are among the most despicable of sins. In Judaism, as in Islam and Christianity, lachon hara* (backbiting*) is condemned for its ability to divide people. As Sura Hujourate 49 reminds us — “O you believers, let not one group mock another, for perhaps these are better”.


But in Embroidery, is peddling just a way of mocking the absent women ? On the contrary, they are complained about, applauded or defended by Marjane and her surrounding —  ‘So he proposed to Shideh that they stay together without getting married ? But what has Shideh done ? She's gorgeous!‘you know men, as soon as you give in to them, they ignore you…’ A form of sisterhood pierces the lines. In the case of backbiting, Rav Dessler recommends bringing the three people together — the one who told, the one who listened and the one on whom the evil was hurled. Isn't this the meeting that we attend ? Ventilating their hearts, these ladies gather and associate themselves with the subjects of their tale.  


Behind her frivolous tone, Marjane Satrapi weaves a strong political discourse — the emancipation of Iranian women. As the masses of Persepolis rise up against the oppressed status of women, reading or rereading Embroidery makes perfect sense.

Sources:  

Broderies, Marjane Satrapi, édition : l’association

https://fr.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/2602935/jewish/Les-lois-du-Lachone-Hara.htm https://www.bible-notes.org/article-2140-le-langage-du-chretien.html

https://www.evolution-101.com/proverbes-persans/

https://www.jardindelatorah.org/introduction-aux-lois-de-lashone-hara-preserver-sa-langue-du hafets-haim-rav-perets-bouhnik/

https://www.ajib.fr/islam-humilier-medire-frere/

https://cejnice.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/KI-TETSE.pdf