Several days ago CNN featured the collapse of the Afghanistan government and the fast take over of the Taliban. The newscaster was speaking to the extreme risk women now face by showing clips of an Afghani woman teaching a yoga class to other women in Kabul. All the students were in a familiar seated twist. In the last years, women have been able to move freely, remain uncovered, and —literally–to stretch to their potential. Now danger looms that women will be forced to contract, sequester and cover up. If the Taliban reinstate sharia, Islamic Holy Law, it will objectify women by demanding that they wear the burqa, stay at home and not go to school. This kind of inverse objectification of women is unfamiliar to us. For in the West, women are objectified through exposure, i.e fashion models, beauty queens in bikinis, and pictures of adolescent girls on Pornhub. Women who are sequestered are objectified through not being seen. Whether through concealment or exposure, women once again get caught in the crossfire of objectification. By squelching the maturation of women and girls, men become the subjects of power and suppression. According to the Indian publication First Post, under the previous Taliban’s rule:
1.) Women were effectively put under house arrest as they were not allowed to work or have an education.
2.) Any female above the age of eight had to wear a burqa and had to be escorted by a male relative if they wanted to leave their home.
3.) Women were not allowed high-heeled shoes as no man should hear a woman’s footsteps.
4.) A woman’s voice should not be heard by a stranger when she is speaking loudly in public.
5.) Photographing, filming or displaying pictures of females in newspapers, books, shops or the home was not allowed.
6.) Women were not allowed to appear on their balconies.
7.) The word “women” had to be removed from any place names.
8.) During the previous rule of the Taliban, women who broke the rules had to suffer the humiliation of a public beating, or even stoning and in extreme cases even public executions.
The erasure of women from the forefront of a society is to make them invisible and to deny their potency. By being put back in the closet through control and suppression she becomes a thing, an object, not seen and not heard. This would be tragic and lies right at the heart of the mayhem and struggle in Afghanistan, capturing headlines in every press release today.
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