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Diary of a Reader - Writer: Enforced Silence

December 06, 2012

One of the most amazing things about being a librarian is the adventure of it. I am always discovering new things about our Library, despite the fact that I’ve been here for years. Just the other day, a coworker was showing me something new about our website. We have a database called Access Video on Demand that contains countless documentaries over a spectrum of topics. The particular video that my coworker talked to me about is titled "Afghanistan: Girl Power." It’s about all of the hardships that women endure in Afghanistan and about the complete devaluing of females in that culture. However, as she was explaining it to me, the part that caught my attention was not how women are taught to hate themselves; it was not even the part about how women travelling alone are assumed to be prostitutes. The fact that shocked me was that only thirteen percent of women in Afghanistan are literate – in a room of one hundred women, 87 of them cannot read or write.

Illiteracy is the simplest kind of captivity. If you can control one’s mind, then their body will follow. Denying women the ability to read or write inherently denies access to stable knowledge, stunts self-initiated thought, and perpetuates subservience. If you can’t read, then the only way that you can learn something is through the oral instruction of someone else. History has proven the propensity of the oppressor to abuse and distort the distribution of knowledge. Even if a woman formulates the idea that there should be a different way to go about things, there is nowhere that she can go to actualize that idea. Without the ability to read or write, there is no way to escape a society that supports the oppressive ideals to begin with. It traps these women in the existing situation where they become little more than things. In the book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi mentions that men in Iran often would give their girls to other families as a way to settle debt. Societies that view their women this way rob them of their humanity.

I know that I would not be half the woman I am today if I did not have the ability to express myself in words to share with others. With the ability to read and write comes a freedom that can never be taken away from you – a freedom of the mind. I once read a story about a man who traveled to Africa. There were many elephants being transported in a line with just a rope holding them together at the ankle. The traveler asked the man in charge why these massive animals never broke the rope for freedom. The coordinator explained that when the elephants were babies, they were tied together with a rope in the same manner, except they were not big enough to break it. By doing this, they were mentally trained to believe that they couldn’t break the rope. By being captivated like this throughout their youths, the adult elephants had been taught not to try. The same is true with humans. Restraints of the mind are often far more binding than any physical restraint.

Heather G.
Oak Grove Branch

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