Under valued

In Around the World on September 27, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Afghan boys are prized, so girls live the part

Here’s an interesting article I read in the New York Times on Afghani’s dressing their daughters up as boys. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/world/asia/21gender.html?_r=1&hp 

Basically, it’s bad luck not to have any boys, so family’s pretend they have a son. 

         “In a land where sons are more highly valued, since in the tribal culture usually only they can inherit the father’s wealth and pass down a name, families without boys are the objects of pity and contempt” 

          This daughter usually has more freedom because of it, though of course, under a false pretense which creates other restrictions.  Then there is the issue of what happens when the girl hits puberty.  Suddenly it’s not so easy to disguise her, and she has to go back to being a girl, after 6, 7, 8…years (depending on when she begins developing) of being viewed, treated, and acting as a male.  In Afghanistan, what does this entail? It means that she can wear pants, play soccer and cricket, escort her sisters around, run errands, have a job, go to University (if it carries on that long) – in short, it means greater education, economic benefits and respect for the family, and a huge identity crisis. 

            When Mrs. Rafaat and her husband presented the idea to their six year old daughter, she accepted without delay:  “Do you want to look like a boy and dress like a boy, and do more fun things like boys do, like bicycling, soccer and cricket? And would you like to be like your father?” Having three daughters, Mrs Rafaat was being pressured to try again, and juggling another child would be difficult with her job in the Parliament of Afghanistan, a position she can only keep with her husband’s consent.  She can’t leave her husband that is just unheard of, as that would entail leaving her daughters who have no rights whatsoever, so perhaps she chose the lesser of two evils, though some people could view these situations as selfish.  In the case of Mrs. Rafaat however, she is doing good work in her position, striving for women’s rights. 

            For Zahra 15, who wants to be a journalist and later a politician, would like to be a boy forever because women are “looked down upon and harassed.  People use bad words for girls,” she said. “They scream at them on the streets. When I see that, I don’t want to be a girl. When I am a boy, they don’t speak to me like that.” 

            For some girls, perhaps posing as boys is helpful in the long run, because it could help these girls deal better with men, receive a better education, not be afraid of confrontation…thus helping to form a greater Afghanistan where women have a voice.  That could be the case, and it might not be, but whatever the long term affect, it is still unfortunate that such practices are the norm, though I’m not really surprised. 

            Even in the U.S. when a girl is harassed or sexually assaulted what’s the first question that people ask?: “What were you wearing?” “Were you out alone or at night”? “Were you attracting attention to yourself?” Society is telling us that it’s our fault if we are given unwanted attention, and that men, I guess they can’t control what they do.  It’s worse in other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, Eurasian, and Asian countries.  I know from experience.  In eastern Asia girls were often killed or given away; or treated like scum, and even now though there is improvement in the developing countries, the situation is far from ideal.  Their societies are still hugely patriarchal where women, even those who are highly educated, cannot find decent jobs because they must stay in their ‘place’, and they do this until they become trapped within a marriage where they take care of some man’s children and his house and have sex with him while he goes off doing as he pleases.   

            China has a problem with over population of males.  According to an online news site, there are over 32 million more boys born than girls and this will continue to increase (http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/270819). They aborted, killed or put up for adoption their females and now their male society is realizing that sort of puts them at a disadvantage when looking for a wife.  In high school I began to wonder why it seemed every Korean family I met had one son, and one daughter, with the son usually being older and I came to the conclusion that families did this purposely ie: they aborted children until the desired result came about.  I don’t know if this is true, I mean I haven’t researched this, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this is the case.  I asked a Korean woman, who’s mother cried for days when she was born because they already had a daughter, and who’s father gave her the most masculine name possible and dressed her up as a boy (which she didn’t mind because growing up a tom boy was so much more fun), and she agreed with me without hesitation.  

So, though the world needs girls, they don’t necessarily want them.  Unless they can have them the way they please, when they please.  With the growing media market we are able to take notice of gender issues, and I just hope that this knowledge will inspire us to act.  We are human and should treat others and be treated as such.  Not as objects or lackeys; trophies or tools.


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