Django Unchained and Afghan Women

Last night we went to see "Django Unchained." One of the most powerful elements is how well it shows the complexity of slavery and oppressed communities. That all is not black and white, good and evil. Sometimes the hero does things that don't sit right, that disappoint us. But he is doing what he must, to protect himself, and to protect who he loves. He is not out there trying to change the whole game of slavery, he is just trying to make his own world better. The audience expects that he'll inspire other slaves to follow his lead, but they are all too frightened, even though we might think they have nothing to lose.

At one point the character of DiCaprio asks why the black slaves have not risen up against the white oppressors, why they put up with the subservient role. We talked together after the movie and got onto the topic of women in Afghanistan. Why do they accept the situation they are in, why do they not band together and demand more rights? This is a question often asked, and has been asked of women in many societies in the past, including those that at some point did manage to move forward.

But the women in Afghanistan have so many reasons to be too frightened, like the other slaves in Django. They don't have spaces to come together and organize, and very few are willing to act alone. Why? Maybe because they have not just themselves to think about, but also those who they love - their children, their parents, their siblings. They suffer because they are strong enough to suffer, in hopes that life will be somehow easier for those they love. The way society is structured exacerbates this duty, with women marrying and having children very young, with ideas of honor within the family that cannot be left behind so easily. Many in the West probably think "but they have nothing to lose," when in fact there is so much at stake, and success is far from certain.

I guess, like in Django, it will take more time and important changes in the structure of society before a revolt can even be considered, before a majority of the oppressed individuals believe that the time for change has truly come.