Men’s Ignorance Is The Devastation of Women

The moment I opened my mouth to talk about what’s happening in Afghanistan, someone was kind enough to remind me that, “It’s happening to most women in the world, as a majority of the population is in such countries.”


How uncouth of me to comment on something currently happening without including everyone on earth!

Giving others the benefit of the doubt saves a lot of time, but even assuming this PSA is earnest still feels less than helpful. More and more of us are speaking up, and this is a good thing. 

Speaking for myself, I usually focus on things at home because that’s my area of expertise. I don’t presume to speak for women in faraway countries.

And I don’t need to, they are eloquently articulate in their own right. In a widely-shared Guardian article, our unnamed author tells us about the Bachelor’s degree she had almost finished, and the devastation of her sisters and classmates, in her own voice.

A voice we may not hear again.

“All I could see around me were the fearful and scared faces of women and ugly faces of men who hate women, who do not like women to get educated, work and have freedom.

Most devastating to me were the ones who looked happy and made fun of women. Instead of standing my our side, they stand with the Taliban and give them even more power.”

No amount of explanation, be it cultural, religious, economic, patriarchal, whatever… Nothing makes this make sense to me. There’s a certain sick logic, but none of it passes the gut check. These men must be out of their minds. Their reaction reminds me of an addict at a party, tenuous sobriety flipped to hedonistic glee. I’d even go so far as to say these men are addicted to misogynistic power, to where overdose has fallen off the radar.

Our frightened guide overhears some of the jeers: “Meanwhile, the men standing around were making fun of girls and women, laughing at our terror. "Go and put on your chadari [burqa]," one called out. "It is your last days of being out on the streets," said another. "I will marry four of you in one day," said a third.”

In my country, we thankfully still prosecute and persecute men like this. Wanting more than one wife is not a sign of a sound mind. Women are not action figures.

Each of the three men close to me had a pretty similar initial reaction to my righteous fury – ‘Nothing much we can do about something so far away…’ Because charity is cheaper than umbrage, I’ll say this is a habitual reaction of most Americans to the name ‘Afghanistan.’ One guy was pretty offended when I suggested he didn’t understand, and they were all fairly convincing.

But it’s hard not to be afraid for all of us. For a while there, it looked like the forces of evil were in retreat. But, as recent rollbacks in healthcare show, women’s cultural gains of the past 100 years are still taking root. We are vulnerable to changes in the wind, and a cold breeze is blowing.


I don’t suppose a burqa is very warm…

But after I was done spazzing out and yelling at my friends, I thought about my sons. 

Considering some of my own experiences, the Universe demonstrated its sense of humor giving me sons. I’ve worked very hard not to take any of this out on them. My hope has been that if I treat them like whole, individual people, someday they would return the favor.

What I know about developmental psychology backs this up, and it seems to be working so far. But all of developmental psychology was conceived and written by Western academics whose work would be a joke to those men in Afghanistan.

I have to wonder – Where were those men while our anonymous author was being educated? Were they in the classroom next to her? 

I do believe these destructive practices can be brought to an end. Other barbaric things, like human sacrifice, used to be done all over the world. These days just about everyone, everywhere agrees that’s not the way to save the harvest.

Feminism is devoted to the liberation of women and girls. We often shun men, and with good reason. We tend to forget about little boys altogether.

And, sometimes, we speak from our anger: Women won’t be free until men pay for this.”

But for every one of those assholes in the street, there’s a little boy just as scared as his mother. We are connected to each other and, in hurting us, they hurt themselves. The men described here are obviously too far gone to see it.

It’s true – I do have it significantly better than many women in many places. I don’t need to speak for them to do what I can to elevate all of us. 

One aspect I don’t talk about much is the education of my sons. I’ve been told no mother can hope to even begin to counteract the siren song of patriarchy, but I have to try. 

Recently I have talked a lot about taking identity out of politics, about being women first and everything else second.

Above that, we are human first. Men and women are two sides of the same coin, and women won’t be free until all men know this from their first breath.


  1. Good Reason -

    Thank you so much for saying this. As we fight for our own humanity, we cannot erase theirs, though they seem to erase it for themselves all too frequently.

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