Choice is the Big Issue.

This comment was left today on my earlier post about Using the Systems and the hairdressing school that is being instituted in Kabul Afghanistan as a way of training some women to support themselves. I’m posting the comment because it reflects how some of us make assumptions that put us at odds with other cultures. (Or maybe, as well, how some of us women make assumptions that put us at odds with other women.)
This is what “Debbie” the hairdresser in Kabul had to say:
I am one of the founders and trainers at the kabul beauty school. When i read the comments about the beauty school in kabul i must say i am saddened. I am not sure if the people realize that so many of the women in afghanistan can not read and write. doing hairdressing keeps them from begging and will feed there family. I think also one thing that the people dont realize is that the beauty salons have alway played a large roll for the women of afghanistan. The women have always cared for there hair and makeup much more than we do in the states. THis is a proud profession for the women of kabul. Often the women who are hairdresser make more money than there husbands. We are doing much more than just teaching them hairdressing. We are giving them hope and giving them a chance to have a brighter future. We are not changing them. we are giving them the skills to do what they have always done. Now when they give a haircut or color or perm they have the knowledge to do it correct. we also teach them bussiness classes. but the most important thing we do is become there friend and there familys friend. kabul has changed my life for the better and it is the afghan women who through there courage and strenth i have been able to face things in my life that i could never face before. we are not going into kabul and trying to make them westeren. why spoil a beautiful culture. they are perfect just the way they are. we just want to help then any way we can. If i was a reading teacher i would teach them to read. but i am a hairdresser so i teach them hair.
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Last night’s episode on The Practice actually had me thinking that I wanted to blog something about cultural differences. In that episode, one of the lawyers defends a twelve-year-old girl who is trying to escape an arranged marriage in her home country. The girl’s parents are sophisticated and educated (her mother is a visiting college professor) but they adhere to their cultural tradition of early arranged marriages. The girl makes an eloquent plea to the judge as she asks for political asylum, asserting that she doesn’t even like her intended spouse (who is 15 years old), does not want to have sex, and is sure that she will be raped by him on her wedding night if she refuses. She wants a life different from the one imposed on her by her parents’ culture.
The judge denies asylum and she is forced to go back to her country and succumb to her parents’ wishes.
By some feminist standards, setting up a beauty school in Kabul to teach women to be hairdressers might not be the optimum solution for helping women there to achieve better lives. But it works in their culture and it gives them an option; they can choose to learn that skill or not. At least it’s a viable choice.
I believe that we should all be pressing for cultural changes that ensure that the choices of individuals are honored, especially choices that are made on behalf of personal autonomy, integrity, and self-determination.
Of course, in the fictional television case, the individual was a minor and under parental supervision. But parents are not always the best judges of what’s right for the their child. The newspaper is full of cases of parental child abuse.
It’s a dilemma. We don’t want a Big Brother or Big Sister standing over us to make sure that we treat each other (regardless of age, sex, culture, or religious beliefs) with respect, dignity, compassion, and sovereignty. But, as a species, we sure do seem to have trouble behaving like that on our own.
And President Dumbya stands out among us as one of the worst offenders of all times.

3 thoughts on “Choice is the Big Issue.

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    The King is Dead.
    ++-

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