Jenny Nordberg, who wrote “Undercover Sister” for our Oct/Nov issue this year, was interviewed last Monday on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In the interview she discussed a practice in Afghanistan, where some families disguise a daughter as a son and raise her as a boy until she hits puberty. The interview goes into the reasoning behind the practice, and its long-term effect psychologically on the girls who experience such shifts. 

Afghanistan being a deeply patriarchal society, the birth of a girl is often far from a joyous event. Quite the opposite, girls are often seen as a burden and forced to live a life filled with severely limited options and very little freedom. Having a son is seen as one of the only ways to show the outside world that there is strength and integrity within the family. Outside of the respect that having a son can garner, a son can also be helpful to bring income into the family, as young boys are allowed to work outside the home whereas young girls are not.  

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For some families who don’t have a son, gender bending is a creative way to buck the system. Jenny Nordberg explores this concept and practice in her most recent project, The Underground Girls of Kabul, In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan.

The full interview can be found here

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