Frombirth, human beings became surrounded by gender lore that isever-present and thoroughly embedded in institutions, beliefs,actions, and desire. Gender is unnatural and not something, a personis born with, but something that is performed. Alternatively, genderperformances can be available to any person, except that they comewith constraints. This is where gender and sex are joined together asthe society attempt to match behaviors with biologically-based sexassignments. While sex is categorized primarily based on biology andreproduction, gender is a societal elaboration of the biological sex.Commonly, gender is determined by the biological differences betweenfemales and males. This paper will analyze TheUnderground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance inAfghanistan,a fascinating book written by Jenny Nordberg where she performs aninvestigation of bachaposh,a tradition where girls are raised and dressed up like boys infamilies where there is no boy child (Giddens 163).
Withouta doubt, the Afghanistan culture is the most conservative,traditional and restrictive on the freedom of women. Firstly,Nordberg found outs about the old tradition of bachaposhunknowingly when the other daughters who reveal that the brother isin reality a girl introduce Azita son. The female parliamentarianconfirms the story and explains to the author that the Afghanistansociety, which is deeply patriarchal, requires every family to have amale child, in order to acquire respect as a wife and a politician.The culture in this region is fundamentally collective-centered andplaces high value on honor. Moreover, the honor of men is attached totheir responsibilities to defend and offer protection to women. Inthis region, Women pay the price of maintaining the honor of a familythrough the custom ofbacha posh(Nordberg 13).
Duringher investigation, the author found out that the Afghanistan womenexpressed envy on how American women enjoyed relative equality andother freedoms. The author states that even if the law allows womento drive, inherit property as well as to divorce their husband mostof the time they do not. In addition, gender roles and stereotypesare taught. As a result, women have devised coping mechanism inorder to deal with the challenges created by the patriarchal society(Giddens 146).
Furtherresearch shows that this phenomenon is widely practiced andwell-known in Afghanistan. In this book, the author has managed tocapture both the strengths and vulnerabilities of women in thisregion. It demonstrates the psychological toll on those who haveendured the bachaposhtradition and how women have been able to adapt the societyconstricts. Azita had lived as a man after being designated as thefamily bachaposhwhen she was born. In this region, taking male identity as a womanhelps to escape compelled marriage or to disguise in order to attainhigher education. The family structure focuses on male gender andthe society is strictly patriarchal, where exterior markers of anindividual to determine their rights. Azita, admits the only way fora female to acquire exceptional education is through the tradition ofbachaposh(Nordberg 13).
Furthermore,the author gives examples of other women who refuse to return totheir lives after bachaposhand want to remain a man. The book demonstrates the tendency forthose women who grow as boys to turn into rebels where they find ithard to revert to conservative and submissive role of an Afghanwoman. An example of a woman who is given after reverting from a boymarries, but later divorced because of her inability to conform tothe typical role of a woman.
Comparingthe two women story, I find Zahra is more interesting because first,it was her own choice and always wanted to be a boy. In fact, she wasdressed like a boy to help in carpet weaving and never did hardlabor. This is in contrast to Mehran’s story where the parents hadto make the decision to raise and dress her like a boy because thefamily had no son. I think bashaposhis a third kind of child, a made-up son. While certain genderdifferences are innate some are gained, and others shoved on us.Among those shoved on us, include the socially constructed,especially in a stereotype- dominated society.
Inconclusion, the author of this book suggests that it is inevitablefor this segregated society to make changes. The book shows howgender norms in the country have been deeply ingrained and womenbecome treated so poorly. Despite this, the book reflects womentrying to gain autonomy and freedom by navigating through a culture,mostly disadvantaging them by making the most of the out limitedalternatives available to them. Gender systems vary in all societieswhere male and females are validated through gender labels. Genderinequality should be addressed, but first the traditional systemsshould be studied in order to gain knowledge of the key components ofthe existing gender order. To undo gender inequality in Afghanistan,both men and women should be involved. This can be done througheducation and a sound discourse concerning gender in Afghanistan. Inaddition, it is also crucial to put into office male role models notassociated with violence, weapons and women virtues. Incentives canbe used in order to reduce any male resistance to change or backlash.Changes should be presented in a way that men do not feel as thoughthey have given up too much power. Finally, women should be assistedon how to cope with their newfound freedom, and especially how theycan negotiate their position among men.
Giddens,Anthony. Essentialsof Sociology.New York, N.Y. : W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2015. Print.
Nordberg,Jenny. AfghanBoys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part. Retrieved from:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/world/asia/21gender.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
Nordberg,Jenny. TheUnderground Girls Of Kabul.Crown publishers: Newyork, 2014. Print