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The Underground Girls of Kabul
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Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

Created: 06/26/15

Replies: 12

Posted Jun. 26, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

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Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change the strict gender culture of Afghanistan? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?


Posted Jul. 14, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I have tried to see bacha posh as a positive for the people of Afghanistan, something they need in order to survive, but I don't think it will change anything. It makes it easier for the men to maintain control. It is an out and the women are supporting it by allowing their daughters to be treated in this manner. But when 90% of the women do not understand the workings of the human body and that the male determines the sex of the baby, they can so easily be made to feel guilty by their families, husbands and society.


Posted Jul. 14, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lorettaf

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I understand why some women practice bacha posh, but I don't think that it alone has the potential to change the culture. To me choosing a daughter to live temporarily as a son, and giving her all the freedoms that entails just reinforces the tremendous gender inequality between them. It elevates the status of males in the family just as Afghan society does. The status of females is not enhanced at all, so it's no wonder that some girls want to remain boys.


Posted Jul. 14, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

Neither. I think it is a coping mechanism that sometimes serves as a short-term fix (e.g. when someone needs help in the family business) and sometimes allows a rebellious female a mechanism for escape (like Nader). I don't see it as a way to change the status of women over all.


Posted Jul. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sallyh

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I agree with laurap that bacha posh is mainly a coping mechanism, though how having a daughter dressed as a son can enhance the reputation of a family when many people know he is really a she is beyond my comprehension. I suppose that if enough girls engaged in the practice, it might change Afghan culture in that more girls might be allowed to choose not to marry (if their fathers and the families' financial situations permitted). But in a culture where women are not permitted to leave the home unless accompanied by a male, where education for women is seen as a waste of time and money, where a woman's only worth is to produce male children and she is held responsible if she doesn't in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary, I don't believe that this practice is likely to cause any real change.


Posted Jul. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I think when talking of the culture of Afghanistan it is worth remember that it hasn't always been like this. For centuries the many trade routes known collectively as the Silk Road crossed through the country making it wealthy and a place where ideas and goods were exchanged. I'm not for one minute saying that everyone in the country had access to education and wealth, but compared to what much of Western Europe would have been like at the time it was well ahead.

The culture of the country we see now is not how it was even in some of our life times. E.g take a look around the web for pictures of Kabul in the '50s, such as this http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127914602, and you'll see men and women who would not have been out of place on New York streets. Again, not saying that every corner of the country would have been like this but it was certainly a country where women, maybe not all but some, could get a higher education, follow careers and so on, with leaders who wanted to be part of the modern world.

This doesn't really change our conversation of this book, which is about Afghanistan, and specifically Kabul, in the here and now, but still I think it worth keeping in mind.


Posted Jul. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lorettaf

Join Date: 04/22/11

Posts: 25

RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

Thank you for this very important historical information. I always assumed that the patriarchal system was extremely rigid and centuries old.


Posted Jul. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

To respond to Loretta - the patriarchal system is centuries old as is the Muslim culture. What I was hoping to convey is that a traveler from England visiting that part of the world during the 16th century, during the Mughal Empire would have found a society where there was a good degree of religious tolerance and trade was encouraged. Absolutely, things would have been patriarchal, and plenty of slaves to boot - but England wasn't exactly tolerant to religion back then, nor was it going to embrace equal rights for women any century soon.

Back in the 50s Afghanistan might have been on its way to developing a culture that would have looked like one of the more moderate Muslim countries today - still patriarchal but with opportunities for some, albeit probably not all, women. Both the USSR and the USA were keen to influence the area so provided funding for infrastructure and the monarchy was even dabbling with some political freedom.

But anyway, enough said, suffice to say this is one of those topics that scholars write multi-volume books on - I am way out of depth discussing it, I just think it's important to not assume that the status quo always has been, or always will be :)


Posted Jul. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
amberb

Join Date: 07/28/11

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I had never heard of it before, so what a fascinating read. It makes me so sad how little freedom these girls and women have.

My opinion is that it is women capitulating and reinforcing a system of segregation, but for them, it also seems like survival.

(Is it wrong to say that I would LOVE to see Khaled Hosseini tackle this subject?)


Posted Jul. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
louisee

Join Date: 06/29/15

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I don't think bacha posh is subversive or reinforcing a system of segregation. I see it as a way for the families to survive as others have stated. Don't forget some of these girls have fathers who go along with it because it benefits them as well. Too bad these fathers don't help change their society so there would be no bacha posh.
I also think it would be great if Khalid Hossieni would tackle this subject as well.


Posted Jul. 17, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
djn

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I dont think that we saw any changes with bacha posh in the book.. It didnt really lead to changes for the women, or at least those who wanted children


Posted Jul. 20, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lynneb

Join Date: 08/23/11

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RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

I agree with those who have said it seems more a method of survival than a subversive act. The present times in Afghanistan require this kind of culture for women and girls. We can only hope that their may be some progressive movement toward women's rights in the future but I would not expect the practice of bacha posh to be a big factor in change.


Posted Jul. 27, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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kellilee

Join Date: 11/18/14

Posts: 48

RE: Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change Afghan culture? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

It is definitely a subversive practice to disguise a girl as a boy, even if the intent of the individual family or bacha posh is something other than an attempt to transform the established social order and its structures of power, authority, and hierarchy. The family may point to honor or community reputation, and the bacha posh may point to freedom but the practice of intentionally disguising a girl as a boy to avoid certain religious restrictions or legal requirements is clearly subversive behavior.


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