Gender Issue on Osama
The topic of gender confusion and identity is no longer considered taboo as compared to the previous decades wherein feminism and gender awareness were merely suggestions and theories; and that this ideology only remained as thoughts that never to be put into application - Gender Issue on Osama introduction. However, due to the ever changing social environment, different studies related to gender have flourished. Articles and movies were made about women empowerment, women’s opinions, women’s rights, gender equality, and homosexuality.
One of these movies is Osama, a tragic tale of a girl who disguised as a boy just to survive in Afghanistan. Furthermore, alongside this growth was the rise of many academicians, scholars and ideologists who have published their own relevant researches and studies. One of these scholars was Judith Butler. A renowned academician who, gained popularity when her book Gender Trouble was published in 1990. She is a professor of Comparative Literature and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.
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According to Butler (1999), she was more concerned to criticize a pervasive heterosexual assumption in feminist literary theory. She sought to counter those views that made presumptions about the limits and propriety of gender and restricted meaning of gender to received notions of masculinity and femininity. She constantly questions that idea of being a woman or a man. That gender does not actually exist but a mere performance, a show put on by “subjects”, a set of signs they wear; gender is merely a costume or a disguise.
She also reiterated the idea that feminists rejected the idea that the anatomical composition of an individual is by fate or destiny, but somehow contradicted themselves when they developed an account of patriarchal culture which they claimed that the masculine and feminine genders were actually shaped upon by the very culture they grew up in. In short, Butler (1990) is insisting that rather than keeping gender as a fixed attribute, it should be seen as a fluid variable which shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times; which leads us to discuss the movie Osama by Siddick Barmak.
To further understand the connection between Butler and the movie, a brief summary is fittingly required. OSAMA Director Siddik Barmak acquaint the international audience with the plight of a young girl forced to disguise herself as a boy just to be able to earn a living for her and her mother. It was a bittersweet representation of the hardships and obstacles a female member of the Afghanistan society has gone through because of the very sacred gender discrimination custom that they follow. One article published in the New York Times aptly titled “In a Land of Female Repression, a Girl survives as a Boy” by A.
O. Scott (2004) called this movie a meticulously and beautifully made inquiry into the ways that ideological evil can infect and ultimately destroy, the intimacies and small pleasures of daily life. The movie started with a succinct display of Taliban violence directed against women when they tried to disperse a group of protesting women clad in light blue burqa. They hosed them down and threaten them with guns and heavy ammunitions should they not follow. In the midst of it all was a scared little girl who was living in poverty with her jobless mother.
This is the time when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and a very severe oppression and repression on the rights of women took place. Afghan women are not allowed to roam the streets without the company of a male relative. They are not allowed to work to feed themselves. Even in a household devoid of male because of the war, women were still not given the chance to work for a living. In this movie, the girl’s mother lost her job when the Taliban closed down the hospital where she’s working, escaping capture by the Taliban when a patient’s son declared himself to be her husband.
Left with no job and food on the table, and a wise grandmother who proposed that men and women are equal and one could interchange with the other. Thus, giving them an idea of the little girl, donning her father’s clothes, pretends to be a boy and goes to work in a bakery. For some time, this was a good arrangement and the little girl was christened Osama by one of the beggar boy who is on the deception. However, problem hits town when the Taliban recruits all young boys for a pseudo-religious military school. Here, Osama’s femininity was apparent and her lack of masculine features and gestures aroused suspicion among the other boys.
When it was found out that she was a girl and brought to a Taliban court for judgment, the court decided that she had broken the very sacred laws they abide to and she must be stoned to death. This stoning was then exemplified by a previous prisoner, a female journalist captured because of filming along with a male colleague, the demonstration held by the women of Kaboul. She was placed in a hole dug in the middle of the square with only her head showing, to be stoned to death by all men present. When it was Osama’s turn, the judge took pity on her and had her married to an old man who already had 3 wives.
This was the sad and dark fate that Osama had been led to trying to blend in and make a living. She was given a set of padlock by her “husband” symbolically representing that she can choose her own fate, she can choose the chains in which to lock her with; she can choose to be locked and be repressed or she can choose to rebel and face the consequences. This is the tragic ending that as affirmed by Scott (2004), Osama has no special resiliency or survival skills; her face is, at every moment, a study in suppressed panic and worried passivity.
Her unvarnished vulnerability, along with the director’s combination of tough-mindedness and lyricism, prevents the movie from becoming at all sentimental; instead, it is beautiful, thoughtful and almost unbearably sad. ANALYSIS As mentioned above, a girl disguised as a boy to trick the strict culture of the Taliban so that she could go out of the house and work. In this instance, Osama’s opportunity and survival largely depends on her being a boy or a girl. Her actions and choices were limited because, by anatomy, she is a female.
In a society where females are repressed and oppressed, what else is there for her to do but to pass herself as one of the superior gender, the male. It is very apparent that the division of gender, of the male and the female, meant life and death in a culture where one is considered superior over the other. This division castrated the rights of women to survive. It removed their right as human beings and they were belittled and stepped upon by the ominous dominance of the male specie. However, Osama was able to deceive the community by “performing” the way it is expected from a boy.
This act of pretension and performance coincides with Judith Butler’s view that gender is merely a performance, a disguise we put on to cover ourselves. Therefore, if Osama was able to blend in as boy in a very strict community it should not matter if she is a girl by anatomy. As the grandmother said in the movie, “there is no difference between men and women. Both work the same and both are the same unfortunate. A shaved man under the burqa looks like a woman; and every woman with short hair and wears a pair of trousers looks like a man. This part of the story solidifies Butler’s theories that gender is not real, it is culturally implanted and can be waived anytime upon a simple declaration. It can be learned at some point as well, demonstrated by Osama when following the old Baker’s lead; she’d wash her hands and feet like a man, and pray like a man. For this reason, gender is an act which has been rehearsed, similar to that of a movie or play script practiced by particular actors who make use of it; but which necessitates the participation of another group of individual “actors” in order to be accomplished and reproduced as reality once again, Butler (1990).
The prejudice that they hold against females placed an assumption on how an individual is supposed to act, according to the norms of the society that he or she was brought up to. Butler (1990) had wondered to what extent does one’s action is determined by one’s own regard, or was it determined by one’s pre-conceived position within language and convention. In the movie, the mother of Osama determined her fate and declared her to become a boy. Osama was then forced to come out of her feminine self and embody the features of a young boy.
Her fate is then decided again by the judge when found out, and they held her freedom so lightly and with just a whisper, they had her married off to an old man. In this context, Osama was expected to accept her fate since women are expected to be submissive and unspoken. CONCLUSION Upon reading all of Judith Butler’s theories and spending an hour watching the doomed story of Osama, I can’t help but agree with Butler’s ideas regarding gender and representation. In Osama’s situation, had there been no discrimination between the two existing genders of male and female, she wouldn’t have gone through those sufferings.
Her mother would not have been so scared to go out and look for work. She wouldn’t have wished she had a son instead of a daughter. And Osama shouldn’t have been so scared for the entirety of the film. If there were no religious laws that divide the participation of an individual in the society according to his or her gender roles, then young women like Osama, could freely roam the streets and be whoever she wants to be. Had there been no partition to clearly state how one should act according to his or her anatomical sex, then life would be easier and I believe people would be happier.
I trust that individuals have both the masculine and the feminine within. These masculine or feminine features would only be demonstrated once given permission by the society they belong to; and as long as it is acceptable and does not interfere with the traditional customs and laws. Although Butler made it clear that her views does not necessitate homosexuality or queer issues, one cannot help but make comparison on gender association regarding performance. An example is a gay man forced by his environment to act like a straight man to avoid being tagged as gay and be ridiculed.
This “act” of blending in or performance to live up to society’s expectation of gender hurdles one’s freedom. And just like Osama, trapped in a body of a female, there is no way for her to achieve freedom from repression, oppression and from the male dominated Taliban. If only gender is as variable as Butler’s proposition, wherein it could shift and change into one or the other on diverse situations and on different contexts and time; then life would have been easier and less tragic for Osama.