As I was browsing the PBS website, I came across preview videos concerning the progress of women in Afghanistan. Two particular previews caught my attention titled, “Women in Afghanistan Today” and “Fighting to be Heard.” The former video preview illustrates the danger that members of the Afghan Women’s Network must face as they administer teaching programs for illiterate women. A startling 90% of women are unable to read or write due to their unawareness that Islam allows them these rights. Furthermore after the 2001 decline of the militaristic Taliban government in Kabul, women began to exercise their “natural rights.” The “natural rights” that most American women enjoy such as attending school, working, healthcare, and voting is close to non-existent in Kandahar (origin of Taliban). Also women are allowed in certain provinces (specifically Kabul) to appear in public without a Burka as well as 25% of seats in parliament according to Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution.
The progress of Afghan women is best depicted in the latter video, “Fighting to be Heard,” in which two members of the Afghan Women’s Network are striving to be acknowledged in a political sphere dominated by men. The beginning of the video follows a woman on the campaign trail and the video ends with a woman speaking at an international conference held in Afghanistan. Both women attempt to obtain the attention and approval of men concerning the importance of women in the construction of a better Afghanistan. I was baffled by the ending because you can literally see how every man is ignoring her plea for women’s rights, including the United States. Until women are acknowledged internationally in the progress of Afghanistan, they fight alone.
PBS reminded me that the U.S. doesn’t act on what they preach. When it comes to Afghanistan, it’s value to the U.S is of a military strategy. In comparison to Afghan women, American women do possess more freedoms. However women continue to be paid less than men and are given strange looks when working in male dominated work forces such as politics. These examples of gender inequality have more than one cause that reinforces the belief of a woman’s inability to lead such as their historical role, portrayal in the media, and stereotypes (weak, emotional). Society has defined women as second class citizens by establishing stereotypes and norms. Professor Pok’s mention of a quote concerning the making of a woman best describes society’s view on the role of women. According to Andrea Dworkin (writer and radical feminist),
“Woman is not born: she is made. In the making , her humanity is destroyed. She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that: mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because it is forbidden for her to do so.”
Is there ever going to be a time when a woman’s gender doesn’t define who she is? If not, afghan women and women in general will attempt to lead their lives with society’s norms and stereotypes hanging over their heads. Women will remain second class inhabitants of a man’s world.