Independently of Time’s cover story on Afghan women, the New York Times ran a feature article on Afghan women, the Taliban, and the war. Like Time, it included a photo gallery of Afghan women, including this one.
In Mahmud-e Raqi, 12 teenage girls sat around a small trunk filled with beauticians’ tools — combs, boxes of hair dye, scissors, nail polish, hair spray — and watched closely as the instructor sat one of the girls in a desk chair and demonstrated how to cut off split ends evenly.
In most places in the world this scene would hardly be a sign of women’s liberation, but in this corner of Afghanistan, it meant a great deal. The girls, ages 15 to 17, had been allowed to come from their villages to the provincial capital; they will take home a trunk of beauty goods and can earn their own money in their homes by offering beauty services to women in their village.
The girls are attending a government supported course, one that empowers them to become the Avon ladies of Afghanistan.
Beauty and self-esteem
Contemplating Afghan teenagers doing their hair under conditions of war and Taliban rule gives one a different perspective on Western feminist crtitism of the objectification of beauty — as in this passage from the excellent book The Beauty Bias by Deborah L. Rhode.
The preoccupation with female appearance encourages evaluation of women in terms of sexual attractiveness rather than character, competence, hard-work, or achievement. Although some women benefit from their beauty, it is not a stable form of self-esteem.
In Afghanistan, these girls need all the self-esteem they can get. Let them worry about the down side of objectification later.
Image source: The New York Times
Alissa J. Rubin, Afghan Women Fear Loss of Modest Gains, The New York Times, July 30, 2010
Deborah L. Rhode, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law