Posted by: Natalie | February 19, 2010

Independent Traditionalist

I am now about 80 pages into this week’s fiction, ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’. It is truly fascinating. Obviously we have preconceived ideas about Afghanistan and the cultural issues there, but I am sorry to admit that my understanding ends there. I have no idea of the history, the culture, the war, the ethics, or were precisely the country is on a globe (eeek). I do intend to rectify some of these gaps in my geographical/historical knowledge!

Already in the novel it has dealt with the issues surrounding women. They have no rights. They are forced into whatever situation is deemed by their families and husband (sometimes one in the same thing) whether it be happy or not. I would like to generalise and suggest that maybe the latter is often the most prevalent, but who are we to assume?

But certain aspects do hit a traditionalist chord with me. No, I would never once wish that life on me; the dealing with multiple wives, being replaced by a younger model when the husband is bored of you; the forced arranged marriage with a man I may not have met; the wearing of the Burka; the constant humiliation of being a woman without rights or a voice; there is so much there that we would class as barbaric and seriously outdated. But I do like the idea of looking after your children and your man, when in a loving relationship obviously!

I can hear the feminists amongst you screaming now! Bare with me! I see myself as quite old fashioned, a traditionalist. I like the idea of making my home comfortable for those I love, making meals, trying to keep things tidy (I do fail on this point though), washing, baking etc. I love the look on someone’s face when I try and find them a thoughtful gift – just because I wanted to. If I had been a lady of the 50’s, I would have been the epitome of the perfect housewife!

I’m not saying this is all I want to be, not by a long shot. I like to think that I am an ambitious independent woman, but what is so wrong with wanting to look after those around me, wanting to make them happy? The first wife of Sultan, in ‘The Bookseller’ seems very happy with this arrangement, caring for her family, until the second wife comes along, but that’s another tale. She has a friendship with her husband. She would spend her days completing her chores so she could spend her evenings talking and laughing with her husband and family; quality time.

I like this picture as much as I like the traditional family picture of decades past in our own country. More and more of my female friends are turning to the traditionalist aspirations of the 20th Century. They are actively learning to sew, to cook, to knit, to bake. More and more of them are conforming to traditions and values, or at least wanting to conform, such as the marriage and the 2.4 children, in a decent sized house with a garden and good schools in the area. Is it because we are now at that age? Or is it true that more of us want something slightly more old fashioned and comfortable, secure?

Whichever it is, I want to be greedy. I want to maintain my ambitions, to get what I want career wise for life, but at the same time be the little home-bird, make the cakes, keep my man! All I ask in return is for the affection to be returned and happiness. I am a very lucky girl!




  1. fabulous writing Nat . x

  2. To my mind, feminism has always been about choice – if a woman chooses career over family or vice versa or even balances both (and why not? my mom did it without benefit of a man!), who are we to condemn that choice? I’ve heard of many different Muslin women who choose to wear the burqua or the hijab as a symbol of their faith, much in the same way a Christian woman wears a cross. Granted, such choices may reflect deep-rooted gender inequalities – for instance, the choice of conformity or condemnation is not really much of a choice at all – but the last thing any woman needs is knee-jerk judgement by others, male or female. I sew and (occasionally) bake because I enjoy the activity; I do the laundry and clean the house because I love my family. Dave does 99% of the cooking because he enjoys putting together a culinary feast (and because if it was left to me, we’d starve!). He takes care of the finances, and I bring home the proverbial bacon. I have always considered myself a feminist, and yes, that definition includes the more traditional “female” roles as well as “masculine” roles. There, that’s my rant for the day!

  3. If you want a bit more info in a fictional format on Afganistan, it is worth reading the Kite Runner. This explains that actually Afganistan was very forward thinking for a middle eastern nation just a few decades ago, with women in trousers, jobs and education. It was the communist rule and the ensuing wars that let the Taliban take over and completely change their way of life, throwing them back into the “dark ages”.

    Sorry, that was a very serious comment, but it is really interesting!


  4. Ooooo, I’m quite excited – I seem to have written something interesting! Yey me!

    Ahem, self indulgence over.

    Cheers Lauren for the suggestion, it is on the pile to be read! I think I will actually make it next. I am sooooo fascinated by this. The books so far has hinted at the various regime changes and how it has led to the country basically having to come back out of the dark ages, and the detail about the propaganda literature taught in schools is terrifying! Can’t wait to get to the end and start on the Kite Runner!

    Christie, you are right. Feminism is something that takes on very different roles, depending on who you talk too. I cannot stand those feminists who rant about our rights and freedoms and the chauvinism of men. That world doesn’t exist for us anymore, I don’t think. Women are almost expected these days to have the independence and life THEY choose, not what is forced upon them. In many ways, in certain aspects of our culture, it is the men who often end up under our tyranny! And not through choice! Heehee!

    Thank you so much for reading girls, it makes me feel all shiny!

  5. […] finished reading the “Book Seller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad. A previous post of mine Independent Traditionalist discussed the early themes that are addressed in this book; the role of women in the […]

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