In three weeks, I’m expecting my second daughter and I couldn’t be happier that it’s a girl again – a healthy baby I hope. When I did the ultrasound for my firstborn, I was in Kabul and the doctor who informed me that my child was a girl said it under his breath because most Afghans prefer sons to daughters. He wanted to lighten the blow. Instead, I jumped up and nearly did a dance. Am I prejudiced against boys? Judge for yourselves.
I’m sure if I had two sons, I would love them the same. But I would have to be up for the challenge. Having daughters is much easier in the Afghan community I am a part of right now in the San Francisco Bay Area.
When I take my parents’ to the doctor’s office, I see older immigrants just like them and it’s the daughters who have taken time out of work to bring them, the daughters who take care of them in old age, the daughters who take them on outings. When I ask relatives and friends about the younger generation, it’s the daughters going to college, becoming professionals and learning the importance of culture and language. The girls here are self-sufficient, confident and driven while our boys, well, some are. Others lag behind. That could simply be the international trend. From the US to Iran, girls and women are gaining ground rapidly in education and jobs. But I can only comfortably talk about my own community. Some in the community ask why I want daughters in this male dominated world. I say it’s precisely that struggle against male domination that will turn them into more efficient human beings. Boys have it too easy.
I don’t blame the kids–it’s the way we raise them that’s the problem. It’s often the mothers who spoil the sons, give them excessive freedoms, do all the housework for them and when they grow up, the parents ask: why are our daughters so much kinder and there for us? Because you trained them to be.
I do believe girls can be kinder but it’s not necessarily our nature. It’s much more about nurture. Since I grew up in this community, I cannot guarantee that I would be any different in raising a son and even if I tried, the environment around them would discriminate.
One of my friends had brothers who could bring their girlfriends to the house while she had to go home after school, cook for the family and had no right to even speak to men outside the family. Now she has her own sons and she’s teaching them to do housework. But her mother scolds my friend for ordering her sons to do “women’s chores.” My friend has bluntly told her mother she refuses to raise her sons the way her brothers were brought up. Bravo. But it’s a battle for her that has to be explained to the family and I’m glad I don’t have to fight that battle.
My daughters will learn how to do housework but they’ll also learn how to fix their own cars. And since they are both the same sex, I won’t have issues with gender differences — or so I hope.
While the majority of Afghanistan similar to the rest of patriarchal, patrilineal developing countries prefer sons for economic reasons, Diaspora Afghans may want sons because of the moral prejudice they harbor against girls. They believe that it’s much more dishonorable for their daughters to become morally corrupt (that means having a boyfriend or going out late at night) than their sons. Luckily, I don’t adhere to these sexist, misogynist beliefs and will try my best to let my daughters know that they can have the equal choices and freedoms that any boy or man can have.
Now I realize that this preference of mine is based on generalizations and there are many high achieving, empathetic and caring sons, including my own husband. By the same account, we have plenty of girls and women in our community who are apathetic, selfish leeches. Not every Afghan wants a boy of course. Ideally, most middle class Afghan families want one or two of each. If they could special order gender, they would say “two fair skinned, green-eyed, tall girls and two sons please.”
But I’m the wimp who looks at the people around me and thinks raising a child is hard enough so please God, just give me daughters so it’ll be that much easier. Check in with me when they’re both teenagers and I might be writing a different opinion.
So good to meet you at the San Francisco Book Festival where I bought your book Opium Nation about two weeks ago. I finished it feeling that you are doing outstanding work and I am glad to see you are getting the events and platforms to share your worldview, you have a firm and fair way of expressing horrific topics and I wanted you to know that I enjoyed it so very much, because of the way you interweave gender issues, with the other difficult situation (caused by men of all nations) in your Afghan homeland and many other places in the world. The conversations with your drivers, descriptions of places, and your personal attitudes enrich and counter the sad sad story of opium. Women’s issues are so enormous, and domination bt men so absolute. I sure hope that Afghan finds a way to untangle all the fear, pain, sorrow, addiction, and land use damage.
I didn’t read all the blog posts but I did read the Why I prefer daughters to sons and admire your ability to say what you believe and stimulate a conversation that needs participation and action.
I hope our paths cross again.
All the best
Thank you Wendy. It was a pleasure to meet you as well.