By Jenny Nordberg, author of The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan (Crown, September 2014)
Bacha posh, the practice of dressing a girl like a boy, offers a window into a system of severe gender apartheid—a system that exists not only in Afghanistan, but in many countries where women are oppressed. The Underground Girls of Kabul is about disguising oneself to survive in such a place.
Resistance to this kind of patriarchy has occurred throughout history when women were excluded from education and unable to freely choose who they married, or whether to have children. Many girls and women beyond Afghanistan, and in our own history, have had to pretend to be boys and men to reach for rights that society dictated were not theirs.
I wanted this book to be urgent. Because I am, frankly, angry that my own education did not include a conversation about why women have historically been seen as less valuable and less important than men—nor where these ideas come from. It was always presented as an accepted, unexamined fact. In my book, I’ve searched for the roots of these beliefs, in religion, biology and culture. Continue reading