After reading a recent article in the New York Times, “Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry,” I was overcome by a myriad of emotions. Anger and empathy dominating them. Once again struck by the struggles of women who, bound by culture and fear, are forced to share their lives with men who lack the education and self confidence to embrace and appreciate the wild, fiery, passionate, dedicated (and, yes, at times dramatic and difficult) entity that is the female spirit. In attempts to thwart off his own handed-down insecurities and assure himself that she will never have the freedom nor independence to see a life outside the one he deems “honorable,” he robs not only himself of the limitless possibilities promised by her ravenous spirit…but he robs her of a spirit that defines her, empowers her, and inspires her. Leaving her trapped in a relationship void of love, in a body void of familiarity…where she can only be, say, or do what is dictated to her.
In spite of this centuries-old practice, some women still manage to find a way to thrive. To write.
This ambitious group of Afghan women featured in the NYT article has found an emotional outlet in poetry. Writing as a form of escape, a form of complaint, a form of freedom. But they do so in secret because the act of expressing her feelings, her ambitions, her worries in written form is cause for extreme physical punishment at the hands of her husband, brother, or father. The men they dutifully answer to are threatened by such things, seeing her expression as a possible flight risk from her strictly defined domestic role. So, she isn’t allowed education or exposure to outside influences that may mar that role.
Feeding an unspoken fear as old as time…education leads to independent thinking. And independent thinking leads to rebellion.
Damn straight it does. Thank goodness!
Expressing oneself through writing is not only a source of therapy, expression, and self exploration for the writer, but also a source of strength, understanding, and inspiration for the reader. Though separated by oceans, cultures, and cavemen hell-bent against evolution, we all have the desire and the right to grow and learn by literary means.
To inspire. And to be inspired.
May these women continue to find both the strength and courage to inspire all women, as they have me.
I wish I may, I wish I might
Be a solitary bird lost in flight
Free to be, to love, to write
No glow of red, only green light
No tether, wrong, or right
Soaring high over mountains, cloaked in night
Shedding, ridding all semblance of plight
And fervently anticipating, with dawn in sight
A bold new rush of wind as I graze the sunlight
~ Chick Hughes