Throughout the 20th century, women significantly contributed towards independence and equality in American society. Despite the equal political rights and power between men and women, the supremacist ideologies, stereotypes, class and gender factors, and racist beliefs have not disappeared completely and have been indoctrinated into the American psyche. Media and film industries put these ideas every day in the minds of Americans, and spread negative stereotypes of minority representations of women though many thoughts of the audience are left behind. Historically, the portrayal of women in films and television is represented in disparaging light while men are the rulers of the world. Films are one of the main sources of entertainment for a great number of viewers who highly value everything they have watched or heard. Thus, the importance of women is misleading in American films where they are cruelly treated or are not considered as equals. American films depict minority representations of women within society, religion, family and work.
Nowadays, women are constantly regarded as sex objects despite being viewed as equal to men. Very often, male heroes degrade female characters because of race, gender or power abilities. Thus, Cyrus Nowrastehs film The Stoning of Soraya M. is a representation of such oppression of women where an abusive husband dominates his wife in many ways. The main character Soraya is a helpless victim of her ethnicity and religious laws, who suffers from remnants of the past. The film is based on Iranian-French journalist Freidoune Sahebjams best-selling book and was filmed in 2008 in an Iranian village. The minority representation of Iranian women is shown through Islamic law that permits death by stoning for adultery as a kind of female punishment. This cruel and unfaithful according to women law is a survival of cultural heritage that is contrary to the equality of women in the present society. Therefore, The Stoning of Soraya M. discovered Iranian women stripped of all rights, who are faced with gender and ability stereotypes of corrupt men that abuse their authority to demonstrate advantage above innocent and weak Soraya. However, the guilt of this woman was not falsified betrayal but misfortune to be born in a society where women had no rights, only responsibilities.
Cyrus Nowrasteh filmed a shocking and true drama that had exposed the dark power of human judgment and absolute lack of womens rights in Islamic society. Furthermore, The Stoning of Soraya M. represents todays practice of legitimized Islamic law, not the case of dark ages. Stoning to death exists in modern society and is a legal form of punishment for the adultery in Islamic countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates. According to Shahryar, in case of married (persons) there is (a punishment) of one hundred lashes and then stoning (to death) (17). Discriminatory laws and regulations allow Islamic men to have a temporary marriage to satisfy their sexual needs that in womens case would be recognized as adultery. Thus, the film The Stoning of Soraya M. shows that Muslim women have to be obedient, patient to abuse and silent concerning their men because other types of behavior are unacceptable. Fortunately, the laws of the United States proclaimed the equal rights of men and women and high moral values ??by which stoning was simply a barbaric and medieval punishment which had no place in the modern world. However, the representation of oppressed Muslim women in the media led to the harassment of this minority group.
In Hollywood films, Muslim women are often portrayed as silenced victims or sexually harassed beings. Therefore, the oppression and sexual abuse are always at the hands of men. The Stoning of Soraya M. is one of the constant reminders of hetero-normative society all people live in, and no matter where Muslim law can be acted, in America or Islamic country; the fact of female neglect stays the same. Insults of women always convey men in their powerful position that allows them to receive pleasure from the oppression. The demonstration of Muslim men in The Stoning of Soraya M. represents a male privileged society where female rights and desires are not taken into account, the voices of women no longer matter anyway in this country (The Stoning of Soraya M.). Thus, the impression of the audience after watching American films about Muslim women who suffer from privileged and defended by the law men creates prejudices and stereotypical attitude to this minority group within American society. The understanding of Muslim women in a Hollywood film reiterates the view of common American and European society about men possessing women, and their oppression by Islam.
The research indicated that women are disproportionately eliminated from the American films and play less substantive roles then white men. The appearance of white journalist in a film as savior for Zahra and all women in the village proves female insignificance. The journalist became a protector of Muslim women in spite of all male attempts to prevent spreading of fabricated story against Soraya. However, in his motion picture, Cyrus Nowrasteh depicted passionate and articulate voice of a strong woman who is an aunt of oppressed Soraya. Zahra is a symbol of all contemporary fiercely devout Muslim women who are not afraid of authority and direct expression of their aims and rights in spite of other voiceless and silent women in the film. Unfortunately, there are quite few women in the Muslim society, who can strongly assert their rights, and the example of Zahra shows that minority representation of women within men controlled social and religious spheres of life inhibits womens rights and independence. Today, Muslim women should remain obedient to their husbands as it was hundreds of years ago, and in modern American film industry they are depicted exactly as submissive and silent wives and daughters. Therefore, minority of Muslim women within society is perfectly represented in the Hollywood film The Stoning of Soraya M. where they are deprived of rights and protection.
Moreover, another factor of minority representation of women is the age of the character. According to Naomi Wolf, the term beauty myth is very suitable for involving in the film process young female heroines whose primary value is based on physical appearance and beauty of young body (36). In this case, character age is also related to beauty standards and intellectual capacity of women. Thus, in Nowrastehs film, Sorayas husband is portrayed as a man of 35 years old, who has desired to divorce and marry again with a young girl of 14. In The Stoning of Soraya M. stereotypes of female sexuality in the teens and twenties that attract audience, especially men, before women become mothers while men have maintained their intelligence and sexuality despite becoming fathers are demonstrated. Thus, it also suggests a lack of serious representation of women because of female insignificance within the film. The presence of mature men against young and less mature women and journalist in American film is another evidence of age difference between male and female characters. In addition, the ruling elite of the village consisted of aged and respected men who kept all women at bay.
Furthermore, male behavior in the film The Stoning of Soraya M. is aggressive and dominant; they are more likely to use violence and aggression to reach their goals or engage in problem solving than women: Sorayas husband beat and raped her to get a divorce. Thus, minority Muslim female characters are stereotypically powerless and passive; they submit to their fate. The white journalist is depicted as a masculine protector of all miserable rural women, who has to shed light on hard being of Muslim females. Although Muslim women crossed many traditional borders in the workforce, the Hollywood film industry stays owned and managed by males. The predominance of male directors, producers, writers, actors within media industry proves minority representations of women in American film. Men, in comparison to women, are portrayed as strong and powerful beings that control and teach vulnerable females. Thus, minority representations of women in The Stoning of Soraya M. can be explained by race, class, gender, age and sex roles of characters.
In addition, films, television and other sources of media promote human racist beliefs and acts because of ethnicity, gender or age factors. Despite the progress made in American film industry, many directors are led by stereotypes and prejudice against women, their importance and equal rights. The film The Stoning of Soraya M. demonstrates cruelty and injustice of some aspects of Islamic law, but the main aim of this film is to show minority representations of women who are depicted as objects of male desires and power. An American film narrows the Western understanding of Muslim women that both shows attitude to minorities and creates real cultural barriers for Muslim women in the modern society. Nevertheless, Muslim women are displayed as the victims of Muslim men, who yield to heroic upper-class white journalist. The depiction of Muslim women as male belongings and stereotypical silenced beings characterizes gender preference of men. The film The Stoning of Soraya M. reiterates common view that Muslim women are the property of men and the hostage of their origin.