Want a Boy? Dress Your Daughter as One!

Emblem of Afghanistan

Image via Wikipedia

Dress Your Daughter Like A Son!

Be a Boy for Your Childhood!

Experience Freedom While in Costume!

Make Your Parents Empowered!

All this and more for exchanging the life of a girl in Afghanistan for that of a boy.

This week the NY Times has a cover story on families who shave the heads of their daughters and raise them as sons often until they are married. Azita Rafaat, who is a Member of Parliament, has done this with her daughter, Mehran, and states that her life is better as a boy. I am confused by this article as it seems many know that these girls are really girls and am not fooled by the disguise. If, for example, teachers and coaches know the true gender of a child, what is the point of the disguise? Obviously giving an interview to the NY Times will blow Mehran’s cover and her mother will be exposed but this obviously doesn’t matter to the family or the society. Is there no one else out there who finds this crazy?

“In Some Afghan Families a Fake Son is Considered Better than None” NY Times,   9/21/10

This is the most confusing logic to me. It goes like this: if you have no sons but do have three daughters, you chose one daughter to be a son. You cut her hair off and dress her in boy’s clothes. You tell her school she is now a boy. She is allowed to go out of the house freely without as many restrictions as she had as a girl. Everyone in her family, neighborhood and school knows her true sex, yet she is allowed more freedom to experience life as a boy and not as restricted in her behavior.

I don’t know what to say about this as it is so weird. Why wouldn’t every girl want to be a boy in Afghanistan? Freedom of movement, more confidence, more attention? I guess they need some girls to stay girls so there will be something to compare male behavior and allowances to. What happens to these girls when they have to go back to being a girl at puberty or upon marriage? The article refers to some who looks back on their “boy” period as a wonderful one as they had so much freedom.

I like logical behavior and find this tradition most illogical as it is sexist but not sexist. A girl can become a boy overnight by cutting her hair and having her parents change her sex in schools. She can only live this life, however, until marriage or puberty. She can live out her childhood in relative freedom and compete in sports, speak her mind, and travel without much restriction in her neighborhood.

Why wouldn’t every girl want to be a boy? I know I would have. The truth is, I would have been really pissed to have to go back to being a girl and get married. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a transsexual, I just like freedom. I can’t imagine experiencing it and then having it taken away. Taking away freedom is done all the time in this world. Particularly to women. It’s almost as if men laugh a bit at this article as they know in their hearts how unfair this role playing is. Why should girls have to dress as boys to be allowed to do more in life? Tradition? Religion? Who knows?  I still find this practice confusing.

4 Comments on “Want a Boy? Dress Your Daughter as One!

  1. I like that you are asking these questions. I have not yet seen the NYT article but am going to look for it. Of course it is strange. I could not help thinking/feeling, while reading your article, how we sometimes see the world through the lens of our American eyes, and that we should try – as you are doing- to understand strange behavior in other cultures by walking a few steps in their shoes. I have learned this first hand in South America.

    • I will never agree to accepting customs that give men more freedom than women though it may be an accepted part of a society.There are too many behaviors that exist in the world which are cruel, physically abusive, and demeaning to women and while accepting the customs of a society is an understandable goal, it is not one I will strive for in this area.

  2. Of course I agree! I wasn’t talking about accepting it – just about trying to understand how such a strnge behavior came to be.

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