Homebody/Kabul has a lot of focus on the hardships of women in Afghanistan.
“One of six newborn babies die here. One in every six. About half the remaining Afghan children die before they reach the age of five. And thirty-five percent of those hardy survivors are drastically malnourished, I mean little potbellied skeletons, starving slowly to death. On the Human Index Rank this place is 169th of 174 countries, it’s not really a state at all, it’s a populated disaster. The only reason it’s not considered the worst for women is because the Afghans don’t do genital mutilation. Most of the arable land is land-mined” (Kushner 51).
I find it interesting that after Homebody tells us how much she loves the world, she ends up entangled in and part of the most repressed culture for women. As an Englishwomen she had boundless opportunity to learn and explore the world, whereas in Kabul her Frank Sinatra CD is described as “Impious music which is an affront to Islam, to dress like so and then the music, these are regrettable” (Kushner 34). But she actually has the desire to join the “drowning” instead of “watching others perishing in the sea” (Kushner 28). The way she sees it, as a homebody, she isn’t a part of the world.
I think this photo (from 2010) of Afghani women passing by a German soldier speaks a lot about the position of Islam women, especially when thinking about some points Kushner brings up in his play. My Global Literary Landmarks class focuses on the Arab world and one of our texts describes “the virtuous woman.” Malise Ruthven quotes Qaradawi in saying “The Muslim woman is chaste, dignified, self-respecting and modest, while the woman who is ignorant of the divine guidance may be vain, showy, and anxious to display her attractions” (Ruthven 108). It is considered insulting for another male to even look at a married woman, regardless of their intentions. It’s the woman’s job to take care of the children, to take care of the household. It’s the husband’s job to provide for his wife and children. “Thirty thousand widows live in the city with three thousand children to feed, and they’re not allowed jobs!” (Kushner 86). When a woman is widowed and prohibited from employment, how can she fulfill her duties? As a widow, being a burden to the society seems unavoidable.
Works Cited: Kushner, Tony. Homebody/Kabul. New York: Theatre Communications Group, Inc., 2000; Ruthven, Malise. Islam A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997; Photo: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/02/09/uk-afghanistan-casualties-children-idUKTRE7181D020110209