Our withdrawal from Afghanistan has been seasoned with descriptions of Taliban treatment of women. As I listened to the stories, I harkened back to a time when policies across this nation were not as different as we would like to believe.
The 1983 movie, “Yentl,” starring and directed by Barbra Streisand was a tale about a young Jewish woman who pretended to be a boy so she could gain an education in her religion. That was a bailiwick of men; women need not apply.
I was raised Roman Catholic. Women could be nuns and spend their time praying and teaching children. Men held the positions of power. Only men could be priests; within the tradition, men were, and still are, the earthly representatives of Jesus Christ. Women need not apply.
I entered a one-semester typing course in high school. I had a little typing experience and I already could type fairly fast with only two of my fingers, especially on the IBM Selectric in the back corner of the classroom – one of only two electric typewriters in the classroom. About halfway through the course, I was asked to drop the class.
I already could type faster than I, as a man, would ever need to, the teacher said, and certainly faster than the girls who needed to learn without the distraction of my rapid keyfire so they could do the secretarial work that would be required of them.
Dad died in 1971. Mom went in 2000. In the intervening decades, she refused, at least publicly, to be more than arms-length friends with men. To her, and many of her generation, “one man, one woman” was more than a religious edict. And it was something not open to discussion.
She often complained that we built the new house, she was told the kitchen was hers, but the men who built it – my dad and uncle – never asked her whether she liked the ceiling light they installed “for her.”
With my parents’ permission In high school, there was a biology course about the birds and the bees. Nothing about boys and girls. Of course, by that time, I lived in Maine, in a rural county much like my home in Adams County, PA, and, I suspect like any other county across the nation where youngsters were familiar with hog and cow breeding and how food got to the table.
Fast forward to December 1971, and the arrival of my firstborn child. To my mom’s chagrin, I was present for the wonderful day. Dad had died in September, but he would have agreed with Mom’s declaration upon hearing I would be holding my wife’s hand and watching our son appear on the earthly stage.
“That is a woman’s private time,” Mom said.
No, it’s not. It was the most magical experience we ever had together. And women won’t be distracted from doing their job because a man is beside them doing his. And someone should have asked Mom what kind of light she wanted in her kitchen. And the Taliban must understand what some slave owners did here, that once people have received a little education – they want more, and then they want to use it.
Time has passed, though apparently not enough, and things have changed, though definitely not enough, but the beliefs of the Taliban, and the response of the Afghan people writ large, demonstrate the rift that remains. If anyone is going to change it, they must. We still have our own changes to make right here at home. As we have proven repeatedly, guns are not the best tools.
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