I just finished reading “I Am a Bacha Posh: My Life as a Woman Living as a Man in Afghanistan” What an amazing woman. Here I am, newly retired and travelling the world on my own, you can’t get much more free than that and not much more different that Ukmina’s life and the lives of millions of women who are slaves to their men, their cultures and their religions. The book made me want to drop to my knees and thank the Goddess that I was born where and when I was. I have a new depth of gratitude for my freedom.
I was just going to write a FB post about it and be done with it but something kept nudging me to write more, explore more. Why did this small book feel like a profound inner shift for me?
How often do we get the chance to really peek into the world of women who are kept as property by their men, their cultures and their religions? There are likely a ton of books out there by outsiders looking in. While I am not denying the value they bring to the table, there is something very profound about the power of the first person narrative. At 40 she was still illiterate for gawd’s sake and didn’t speak English at all. That we have her story is a miracle… hell, how we got her story is probably book worthy in itself. And her voice feels authentic, not slicked up. My only complaint (other than it was too short) was the stupid picture on the front cover. It must have made Ukmina furious, she took pride in her masculine, over-weight and plain appearance. Most assuredly that beauty is NOT Ukmina!
In thinking about it I realize that it was actually three separate things, the book being one of them, that has brought me to my computer to write.
First was watching Netflix’s Hannah Gadsby: Nannette ( the Atlantic review). She is a comedian from Tasmania who has revolutionized what comedy is. She wrote this piece fully expecting it to flop and then she was going to quit the business. HA! Now she’s stuck with us cause after that mind-blowing work, we are not going to let her go.
Second, I watched a TEDX on Youtube by Paula Stone Williams called “I’ve lived as a man & a woman – here’s what I learned”. She was amazing on so many levels but the most profound for me was that she owned that she is a transgendered woman – not a woman, that there is no way that she can know what a cis woman has gone through and she knows she has brought her white male privilege with her into her new gender. You can’t be raised white & male and spend decades wallowing in all that privilege and not have it impact how you operate in the world.
And that folks is the link between the three experiences!
You know what you know, what you have lived thus far on your journey but but but that’s where being exposed to these kinds of first person narratives can engage your empathy and for a moment you can (if you are willing to be open to it) experience a taste of what an Afghan woman, a trans woman and a lesbian from Tasmania have experienced in their lives. We have a habit of judging the behavior of others based on what we know and through our assorted ‘privileges’ but that is wrong but we won’t know that unless we have walked in their shoes, right? I mean unless we expose ourselves to these people we won’t even know that we don’t know! sigh Sounds convoluted, eh? If the only frame of reference is what we’ve been personally exposed to, then we only see the world through that lens BUT if we listen to people outside our realm of reality, like Hannah, Paula and Ukmina and momentarily put aside our preconceived ideas about the subject, you will develop a broader perspective, never more be the same.
Empathy is a like a muscle, we need to exercise it for it to become and stay strong and empathy, not so much love, is what will deliver us to a better place. I may never come to love these women but because they had the courage to share a piece of their lives, in some cases with rut wrenching honesty, I was able to empathize with them. I will never more be the same because I chose to walk in their shoes for a brief time.
I think I may have been even more open to the experiences because I’m here in Sri Lanka and very much on my own and convalescing from a lung thing so I have very few distractions (other than kittens) from spending a lot of time thinking. It was nice to actually think about other people’s realities rather than navel gazing my own.
I’m know this isn’t new, revolutionary stuff but it was for me so I thought I’d share. Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.
Thanks for hanging out with me and to reward you I will give you a video of my Sri Lanka kittens being naughty and noisy.
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