Ladan Rahbari


This article explores perceptions of Iranian academics of the relationship between women’s physical appearance and academic achievements. The research is conducted using interviews with academics working in different universities in the field of social sciences. Results included individual and structural explanations of the relationship between women’s physical appearance and academic achievements. Data showed a significant emphasis by the participants on the importance of beauty for women. Gender differences were observed in participants’ responses as well as in emotional reactions to the interview questions. Most male participants viewed beauty as the primary resource and an asset for marriage marketing for women. Some female participants denounced beauty as an objective notion and problematized the glorification of masculinity in the workplace. Female participants also discussed an existing backlash against women’s growing participation in academia and reflected on the political aspects of body management and feminine beauty in Iran. In conclusion, it is discussed that beauty discourses can be interpreted as a part of the broader social bias towards women’s participation in academia.

Author Biography

Ladan Rahbari is a feminist anthropologist. She holds a PhD in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Anthropology. She is currently affiliated with the Centre for Research on Culture and Gender (UGent, Belgium), and Centre of Expertise on Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality (VUB, Belgium) where she conducts a joint doctoral research project. Rahbari has teaching experience in several programs of social sciences and gender studies in different universities. Her research interests include gender and sexual politics, feminist and postcolonial theory, religion, space, body, and harm.