Do you ever find that after you read a book, you start seeing elements or concepts of it played out in the world around you?
I recently finished Margaret Atwood’s 1985 classic The Handmaid’s Tale. And let me tell you, that is one book you do not want to see played out in real life. Yet, Atwood is famous for saying she never included anything in her books that has not taken place at some point throughout history.
If you haven’t read the book or seen the Hulu television series, let me give you a quick synopsis without any spoilers. The story takes place in the Republic of Gilead a fictional place that becomes the future of Unite States after fertility rates plumet and a new order takes over, subjecting fertile women to an unimageable situation.
The phrase “Better doesn’t mean better for everyone,” is drilled into the psyche of those subjected to a nightmarishly imagined future America.
So, what does this have to do with the women and girls of Afghanistan? A few weeks ago, when discussing recent news headlines, my husband told me that women’s salons and spas were being forced to close by the Taliban government.
I was flooded with a deep sadness when I heard this. An article by the news outlet Al Jazeera, spoke to how the move by the Afghan government is cutting off women’s access to financial freedom and safe spaces.
According to reports by Al Jazeera and the BBC, the Taliban sent out a text message in early July to beauty salon owners across Afghanistan stating that they had one month to close shop.
Personally, I have one woman I go to, to cut my hair – a longtime friend who I see every three to six months, to catch up with, to complain to, and to joke with.
Many around the world recognize that salons are one of the few remaining public spaces where women can safely socialize in the rapidly changing country. These businesses also offered a source of income for women to support, not only themselves, but often their families.
This latest mandate is yet another blow to women since the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Shortly after taking power, women working in government jobs were relieved from their positions. Businesses catering to women were some of the few jobs remaining open for women, until now.
Going back to The Handmaid’s Tale, a comment made to the subjected Handmaids was that they struggled with the new ways because they were the “transition generation” – they remembered the world as it was before the new laws came into effect.
I think of the women of Afghanistan, I think of how they once had careers, they once strolled to the salon and laughed with their girlfriends. And now, the simple act of sitting in a chair, getting your hair cut and nails painted is illegal.
What respite do these women and girls now have with their rights and freedoms stripped away from them simply because they don’t have a Y chromosome?