Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad parachuted into Afghanistan and told the West exactly what it wanted to hear about that nation’s women. The truth, as usual, is more complicated.
By Ann Marlowe
There’s only one country foreigners write more self-righteous, intellectually assured rubbish about than Afghanistan: ours. To any American who’s been asked overseas whether we all — depending on gender — wear miniskirts or carry guns, the lurid colors and broad brushstrokes of most journalism about Afghanistan should look familiar. Afghan men, we’ve been reminded over and over, are savage warriors, jealous of their honor, harsh to their long-suffering women, fanatically religious. And Afghan women — forced to wear the burqa and be virtual slaves to their husbands — deserve our pity.
The reality, when I made two trips to Afghanistan in 2002 to teach English and buy supplies for schools, was otherwise. From schoolboys at play to university students, Cabinet ministers to legendary commanders, Afghans were quieter, gentler and more self-contained than Americans. One young man confided that to him and his friends in northern Afghanistan, Americans’ body language and loud voices seemed exaggerated, like the gestures of stage actors. (more…)