From Left to Write: Fundamentally Flawed

A woman who cannot birth a son in a patrilineal environment is — in the eyes of society and often herself — fundamentally flawed.

Holy crap, that’s a lot of pressure.

In modern, fully developed countries like the United States, daughters are celebrated as much as sons are. Boys attach to their mamas (I would know, it happened to me!) and girls wrap their daddies around their chubby little fingers. Parents express as much pride in the accomplishments of their daughters as much as they do their sons, and for good reason. Everyone is human, and everyone is capable of great things with the right amount of encouragement and support.

If only those beliefs were held in Afghanistan, parents wouldn’t have to dress their daughters like boys to deflect societal shame…

Sure, the tradition is the same throughout the world. In order to carry on a family name to new generations, a son must be born. But unlike the developed countries, in Afghanistan it seems that females serve no purpose aside from birthing and raising babies. Once upon a time, that was the case all over the world, but while much of the world has evolved in its stance toward women, Afghanistan has not. Women there have always been considered sub-human, which is funny to me because you just can’t have men without women. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If we’re getting Biblical, man was created first, but then biology took over and subsequent humans came into existence through the bodies of women. You can’t have eggs without chickens to create them, but those very chickens hatch from eggs (and last time I checked, males didn’t carry or lay eggs). Both genders are equally important and they play equally important roles in the conception, carriage, and delivery of both baby boys and girls. Believe what you want, Afghan men, but the science has been proven on that one.

That’s a bubble I’m all too happy to burst.

Now, about women being fundamentally flawed. Wow, the damage a statement like that can do! Women all over the world feel like second-class citizens to their male counterparts as it is; to be told that there’s something seriously wrong with them because they aren’t birthing male children is equal parts condescending and infuriating. Afghan men may live in a clueless past, but the truth remains that, if they’d only take the science seriously, the gender that truly carries the “fundamental flaw” is theirs.


This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 15 as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

You can find Jenny Nordberg on Twitter — be sure to stop by and say hi, and tell her I sent you!

  • thienkimlam

    I think the problem runs very deep, due to lack of education and unwillingness to change the status quo. Changing society and culture is difficult.

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  • This is good……really, really good. It’s incredibly hard to change a cultural norm but this is one that’s long overdue.

  • I wonder and think if Afghan men really do believe that or if they pretend to in order to continue to subjugate women? I really enjoyed the book and you post.

  • alison abbott

    I think a lack of education is the route of this problem. It will be a very slow process.