From the New York Times article, “Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part” by Jenny Nordberg, I was shocked of what women, especially young females have to go through for society to accept them and their families. Many families in Afghanistan commonly use the practice of “bacha posh,” which is when a young girl is dressed as a boy and thus becomes entitled to participate in Afghan life as a boy naturally would.
Mrs. Azita Rafaat, who endured several pregnancies, only to produce more daughters, states; “ I thought of dying…But I never thought of divorce. If I had separated from my husband, I would have lost my children, and they would have had no rights.” Given the limitations of society in which she lives, she and her husband made a deliberate choice to dress up their youngest daughter, Mehran, as a boy. Playing the part of a boy works well for sometime, since boys can easily gain education, work outside the home, and experience more freedom than girls are allowed by culture. From this article, I observed that Afghani girls dressed as boys were allowed to play sports freely, work jobs, and interact with both men and women, without society labeling or restricting them.
In Mehran’s society, the main responsibility for females is to maintain the family/household honor. As a result, to make sure that they do not disgrace their family, society limits women’s freedom and places certain restrictions on their behavior and activities of what they can and cannot do. The reasons for putting one’s daughter undercover as a son clearly originates from both sexism and traditional beliefs. Mrs. Azita Rafaat did not have much of choice when she decided to disguise her daughter as a male. The Afghanistan culture significantly regards a son as a prize to the family household. While, families without a son are dishonored and humiliated in the social aspect of Afghan culture. Consequently, Mehran’s passing as a boy was not a choice to make, but an obligation to improve life for her family. Guising herself as a boy allows Mehran to have an education and do simple chores such as buying groceries or doing laundry. With an education Mehran will have a greater opportunity of supporting her family financially. But in time how would cross-dressing as a male affect Mehran’s identity? Even though this may benefit her family, what are the psychological and cultural effects of bacha posh?