THE REBELLION OF AN AFGHAN WOMAN AGAINST
TALIBAN OPPRESSION REVEALED THROUGH KAMILA’S
STRUGGLES IN GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON’S
DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA
AN UNDERGRADUATE THESIS
Presented as Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Sarjana Sastra
in English Letters
AUGUSTINA KRESIA AGASI
Student Number : 104214022
ENGLISH LETTERS STUDY PROGRAMME DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LETTERS
FACULTY OF LETTERS SANATA DHARMA UNIVERSITY
THE REBELLION OF AN AFGHAN WOMAN AGAINST
TALIBAN OPPRESSION REVEALED THROUGH KAMILA’S
STRUGGLES IN GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON’S
DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA
AN UNDERGRADUATE THESIS
Presented as Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Sarjana Sastra
in English Letters
AUGUSTINA KRESIA AGASI
Student Number : 104214022
ENGLISH LETTERS STUDY PROGRAMME DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LETTERS
FACULTY OF LETTERS SANATA DHARMA UNIVERSITY
“...talent means nothing, while experience,
acquired in humility and with hard work, means
This thesis is dedicated to
My forever motivator and hero, daddy
My guardian angel, mommy
My lovely brother and sister
I send my greatest thanks and gratitude to Almighty Jesus Christ, for His
great love, blessing, guidance and strength that He gives to me every day. He
guides and accompanies me in every single step in doing all things. I truly believe
that He has arranged everything which has happened and will happen in my life in
His perfect time arrangement.
I would like to give my great gratitude to Dra. A.B. Sri Mulyani, M.A.,
Ph.D. for her attention, guidance and support throughout the process of this thesis
writing. I would like to say thank to my co-advisor Dr. F.X. Siswadi, M.A for the
suggestions which are very helpful. I also would like to thank Ni Luh Putu
Rosiandani, S.S, M.Hum for her support so that I can finish my thesis.
My deepest gratitude is dedicated to my parents, my brother, my sister,
and my big family who always support, pray, and believe in me for what I am
doing. I am very lucky and blessed to have them as my family.
I thank Anggi Arumsari and Maria Yessy Christy to always support and
strengthen me to face all hard days, especially in doing my thesis. I thank Steve
Kamevan for his endless love and support in every single day. I also thank Priska,
Wawan, Ray, Cindy, Anna, Sinta, Tyas, Key, Chyntia, Jejes, and all my class A
classmates who always help, cherish, and show me many great adventures. Last
but not least, I would like to thank all my friends and everyone who intentionally
or unintentionally helps and supports me for all this time, whose names I cannot
mention in this acknowledgments page.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TITLE PAGE ... ii
APPROVAL PAGE ... iii
ACCEPTANCE PAGE ... iv
LEMBAR PERNYATAAN PERSETUJUAN PUBLIKASI KARYA ILMIAH ... v
STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY ... vi
3. Theory of Radical-Libertarian Feminism ... 15
4. Theory of Patriarchy ... 19
C. Review on Historical Background ... 20
1. The Role of Afghan Women ... 20
B. The Taliban Oppression toward Kamila as an Afghan Woman which is seen through Kamila’s Struggle ... 46
C. The Rebellion of Kamila as an Afghan Woman against Taliban Oppression ... 53
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION ... 67
BIBLIOGRAPHY ... 71
AGASI, AUGUSTINA KRESIA. The Rebellion of an Afghan Woman against Taliban Oppression Revealed through Kamila’s Struggles in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Yogyakarta: Department of English Letters, Faculty of Letters, Sanata Dharma University, 2014.
Gayle Tzemach’s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells about the struggle of an Afghan woman, Kamila, who struggles to keep her family survival and to maintain her freedom under Taliban regime. Taliban regime is a cruel regime that tortures Afghan people, especially women. Kamila has to suffer because the Taliban apply rules that eliminate women’s freedom and productive life. Realizing that her life should go back to normal, she decides to rebel against Taliban’s strict rules.
This research focuses on revealing Kamila’s rebellion against Taliban
oppression through her struggles. In this research, there are three questions related to the topic. The first question is how the character and the roles of Kamila are described in the novel, the second question is how Taliban oppression is depicted
through Kamila’s struggles, and the third question is how Kamila’s rebellion as an
Afghan woman is revealed in the novel.
In analyzing the questions the writer conducts library research. The primary source is the novel The Dressmaker of Khair Khana itself while the secondary sources are some theoretical books, the sites from internet, and other sources that support the research. The approach that is used in this research is radical-libertarian feminist perspective because this research aims to show
Kamila’s rebellion to reject patriarchal system that oppresses her to be a passive
and unproductive woman.
undergoing her own life and in maintaining other women’s freedom. Hence, she
rebels against the Taliban by creating new perspective for being “true” woman, becoming androgynous woman, and empowering women.
AGASI, AUGUSTINA KRESIA. The Rebellion of an Afghan Woman against Taliban Oppression Revealed through Kamila’s Struggles in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Yogyakarta: Program Studi Sastra Inggris, Fakultas Sastra, Universitas Sanata Dharma, 2014.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana karya Gayle Tzemach menceritakan tentang perjuangan seorang wanita Afghanistan, Kamila yang berjuang untuk menjaga hidup keluarganya dan mempertahankan kebebasan selama rezim Taliban. Kamila harus menderita karena Taliban membatasi kebebasan dan kehidupan produktif wanita. Menyadari bahwa hidupnya harus kembali seperti semula, ia memutuskan untuk memberontak melawan aturan Taliban yang mengekang tersebut.
Penelitian ini bertujuan untuk mengungkap pemberontakan Kamila melawan penindasan Taliban melalui perjuangannya. Pada penelitian ini terdapat tiga pertanyaan yang berkenaan pada topik. Pertama, bagaimana karakter dan peranan Kamila digambarkan dalam novel, yang kedua bagaimana penindasan Taliban tergambar melalui perjuangan-perjuangan Kamila, dan yang ketiga bagaimana pemberontakan Kamila sebagai seorang wanita Afghanistan terungkap di dalam novel.
Dalam menganalisa pertanyaan tersebut, penulis melakukan studi pustaka. Sumber utama adalah novel The Dressmaker of Khair Khana sedangkan sumber pendukung adalah beberapa buku teori, situs internet, dan sumber lain yang mendukung penilitian. Pendekatan yang digunakan adalah radikal liberal feminis karena penelitian ini bertujuan untuk menunjukkan pemberontakan Kamila menolak sistem patriarki yang menekan ia untuk menjadi wanita yang pasif dan tidak produktif.
1 CHAPTER I
A. Background of The Study
Every nation has its own process to develop. The process of
developing a nation can bring the nation’s condition to have a better or worse
future. Usually, there are many factors that cause the development of a nation.
They are politics, religions, humanity, relationship, and other factors. Those
factors also affect citizen’s life, whether they can live in peaceful life or not.
One of the nations that has passed through the process is Afghanistan.
The process that this nation experienced in the past was very difficult. Many
wars and violations happened during the process. Because of that,
Afghanistan had experienced many changes, especially in political and
Since Afghanistan was invaded by Soviet in 1979 to 1989, the war
was declared at that time. Because of that situation, this country was covered
by terrified atmosphere (Iacopino, 1998:1). This war caused not only the loss
of 15.000 troops, but also the violation of human rights and freedom.
The subsequent civil war, fueled by support from neighboring countries and other regional powers for various factions following the collapse of the Soviet-backed regime in 1992, witnessed extensive abuses by the armed factions vying for power, including the virtual destruction of the capital city, Kabul, from rocket shelling, aerial bombardment and mortaring. Indiscriminate use of force, torture, killing in detention of both civilians and combatants, the extensive laying of antipersonnel landmines, and the arbitrary exercise of
authority principally through military force characterized Afghanistan for much of this period (Iacopino, 1998:1).
Although the Mujahedeen could beat the Russian army and kick them
out from the country, it did not mean that the war ended.
The real tension actually happened when some of secret Afghan rebels
called Taliban began their action. The Taliban was motivated by the zeal of
Islam and the belief that they were ordained to bring stability in Afghanistan.
They also wanted to bring Islam’s rule back to their land
(http://www.afghangovernment.com/briefhistory.htm) (March29, 2014). They
began to occupy many vital spots in the country. They set many strict rules
based on strict Islam rules. They did not hesitate to torture or even kill people
who broke the rule.
This incident brought many negative effects for Afghan people,
especially for women. Afghanistan for many years had changed to be the
worst place for women and children to live in. Its strict rules and power
actually failed the development of the country because it brought depressing
and devastating change for women (Iacopino, 1998:2).
Many writers and artists have been inspired in developing this
situation to many stories, poets, songs, and even movies. The situation and
condition of women during Taliban’s war have become the important issue
for many years even up to now.
Through literature this issue can be delivered and understood by many
people around the world. According to Wellek and Warren in Theory of
experience, and other things which can give people information about a social
situation of a certain place.
Literature can obviously take the place of many things-of travel or sojourn in foreign lands, of direct experience, vicarious life; and it can be used by historian as a social document (Wellek and Warren, 1956:22).
Literature also ―imitates life‖ (Wellek and Warren, 1956:89) which
means through literature, the reader can know and understand what kind of
society and social condition that are written in the story. The reader also can
feel, imagine and understand what kind of experiences that the characters
Novel as one of a kind of literature which according to Drs. E. Van De
Laar and Dr. N. Schoonderwoerd in An Approach to English Literature can
introduce the reader into a living world. A Novel is a kind of art work that
introduce people into many experiences in the world (Laar and
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in The Dressmaker of Khair Khana has
packed an inspiring and interesting story about the oppression of the Taliban
toward Afghan women and their struggles toward it. The story is written
based on true story of a Sidiqi family and community in a district named
Khair Khana. The family, especially Kamila becomes the center of the story.
She is the founder of Kaweyan business consultancy that gives
entrepreneurship skills to Afghan. Today, Sidiqi runs a business consultancy
called Kaweyan, which teaches entrepreneurship skills to Afghan people
around the country (http://www.npr.org) (March 29, 2014).
Women in the Taliban regime are prohibited to work, pursue high
education, walk alone outside their house, or even laugh and talk to men who
are not their husband or relatives. They also have to wear burqa, a
body-length covering with only a mesh opening to see and breathe through.
The Taliban issued edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a husband, father, brother, or son. In public, women must be covered from head to toe in a burqa, a body-length covering with only a mesh opening to see and breathe through. (Iacopino, 1998:2).
That situation gives repression toward women in Afghanistan. Their
productive life such as working, studying, even talking are banned by the
rules. Women only have to do feminine things such as; obeying their
husband, father, or brother, approving whatever their husband or father
speaks, and covering all their body and head. If they break the rules, they can
be beaten or even killed by the Taliban. Health and job access are also banned
Women were brutally beaten, publicly flogged, and killed for violating Taliban decrees. Even after international condemnation, the Taliban made only slight changes. Some say it was progress when the Taliban allowed a few women doctors and nurses to work, even while hospitals still had segregated wards for women. In Kabul and other
Taliban uses the power of men, ―The Taliban is comprised of young men and
(http://www.feminist.org) (March 29, 2014). This situation becomes worst
since men have absolute power over women in Afghanistan. It means that the
patriarchy system is practiced very strictly in Afghanistan.
Based on the facts above, the writer is interested in choosing the
Taliban oppression toward women and the rebellion actions that they do
against the oppression as the topics of the study. Many women suffer from
the inhuman rules that the Taliban sets up. The Taliban which consists of men
control every personal life aspect that women have. It means patriarchal
system is applied in that situation. The rules that are forced also create a
social system. The social system which is run by Taliban as male’s
organization control the entire female’s life. The Taliban really eliminates
women’s freedom and productive lives in society. They have to face the
vicious and cruel situation day by day that make them mute and silent. Men
create system where they use female’s characteristics as their justification to
make women helpless and weak.
The situation where Afghan women have to suffer under Taliban
regime then motivates them to do something that can help them to survive
from the oppression. Afghan women who once worked before the arrival of
Taliban then try to do some activities that help them to regain their productive
life even though they have to live under the pressure of Taliban. Elaheh
Rostami Povey in Afghan Women Identity and Invasion states that for some
professional women who remain in Afghanistan, they do some survival
strategies which are based on forming networks and groups of solidarity with
poorer women. By doing this, they build the foundation that is essential for
their survival (Povey, 2007: 28-29). Based on their struggle over the
oppression, the writer then interests in showing and analyzing what kind of
survival strategies that Afghan women do in Taliban regime which actually
imply the rebellious actions. It is because what they do does not have similar
purpose and goal with the Taliban’s rules.
This situation also becomes the interest of radical-libertarian feminist
which is according to Rosemarie Tong in Feminist Thought: A More
Comprehensive Introduction, focuses on rejection of patriarchal society’s
assumption that there is connection and similarity between one’s sex (male
and female) and one’s gender (masculine or feminine) which leads the society
to develop system that uses rigid gender roles to keep women being passive
and unproductive (Tong, 2009:64). In other words, radical-libertarian
feminist rejects domination by men toward women through social system that
The writer is interested in choosing The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
as the subject of the study because the novel is based on true story. The story
is written by a Western writer. Lemmon took several years to do the research
on the life of a Afghan family before and after the arrival of Taliban.
The story tells about a woman character named Kamila who struggles
from Taliban oppression and then rebels against the rules in order to survive.
Her struggles in the story can be the representative of women’s struggles that
place in the story is Khair Khana (one of the district in Kabul). All the
characters are also the real community of the district.
To specify the study, the writer focuses on one of the main characters
who can reveal the related points that are analyzed. The main character that
writer uses is Kamila. The writer analyzes how Kamila’s characterization can
reflect her struggles as a woman who is repressed by Taliban rules. Through
her struggles, the writer then wants to show some rebellious actions that
Kamila does in order to survive and to reject Taliban inhuman treatment
through radical-libertarian feminist point of view. Hopefully this study can
enrich our knowledge and understanding about other kinds of rebellion that
Afghan women do by using radical-libertarian feminist perspective in Taliban
era in order to get freedom, rights and fair treatment.
B. Problem Formulation
1. How is Kamila described in novel?
2. How is the Taliban oppression depicted through Kamila’s struggles in the
3. How is the rebellion of Kamila, as an Afghan woman, against the Taliban
oppression revealed in the novel?
C. Objectives of the Study
The writer focuses on three problems that are stated above as the
objectives of study. First, the writer wants to know the description of Kamila
in the novel. Second, the writer wants to know how the Taliban oppression is
depicted through Kamila’s struggle during the Taliban regime. Third, from
the explanation of how Kamila struggles under the Taliban oppression, the
writer tries to figure what things that she does or thinks that can reflect the
rebellion toward the Taliban oppression.
D. Definition of Terms
In this part, the writer gives the clear explanation about some
important related terms that are stated previously in problem formulation.
According to The New International Webster’s Comprehensive
Dictionary, oppression has the meaning of burdening some people and
keeping them in subjugation and unjust by using harsh treatments of
force or authority; tyrant. Oppression is then divided into two, which are
mentally and physically (Morris, 1996:1633)
According to Merriam Webster Concise Encyclopedia, Taliban is a
political and religious faction and militia that came to power in
Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. Following the Soviet Union's 1989
withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban (Persian: ―Students‖)—whose
name refers to the Islamic religious students who formed the group's
main recruits—arose as a popular reaction to the chaos that gripped the
Omar, the Taliban extended its control in Afghanistan from a single city
to more than half the country, and in 1996 it captured Kabul and
instituted a strict Islamic regime. By 1999, the Taliban controlled most of
Afghanistan but failed to win international recognition of its regime
because of its harsh social policies—which included the almost complete
removal of women from public life—and its role as a haven for Islamic
extremists (http://www.merriam-webster.com) (March 30, 2014).
According to Camus as cited by Elizabeth Ann Barlett in Rebellious
Feminism: Camus’s Ethic of Rebellion and Feminist Thought, rebellion
is the action that does not only involve a negative activity of resisting
oppression, but also involves the positive way to affirm human dignity,
solidarity, friendship, justice, liberation, and beauty. (Barlett, 2004:1).
10 CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
A. Review of Related Studies
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is the first novel that Gayle Tzemach
Lemmon writes which based on long research of what Afghan women
experienced during the Taliban regime. Through the story, Gayle tries to share
about Afghan women experiences when they have to follow the strict Taliban
rules, what they have to do to make them survive from injustice and muteness
and how they keep their own family‘s safety under Taliban‘s violence.
In this novel, the writer analyzes activities that an Afghan woman do
during the regime that actually are the form of rebellion against the Taliban
which is revealed through one of main characters, Kamila. Unfortunately, this
novel has not been discussed yet by many researchers. Because of that, the
writer is difficult to find the source and information that discuss the same
novel. In this part of the study, the writer tries to review some related studies
and comments that have been written by other people which can support this
In Yudith Mariran Tresnowati‘s thesis entitled Latifa’s Liberation
during the Taliban Era in Afghanistan as seen in Her Work My Forbidden
Face, she discusses an Afghan woman named Latifa who has to struggle
Latifa hates the situation in which she is banned from doing everything. She often curses the Taliban because she has to stay at home and does not do anything. She is an active girl who cannot stay at home. She likes to do something challenging for instance studying English, making magazine, reading books, or doing sports. It is shocking for her because from an active girl she suddenly has to be a passive girl. Latifa shall have a big curiosity about the things around her (Tresnowati, 2004:43).
According to the quotation above, Tresnowati states that Latifa as an
Afghan woman is banned for every outdoor activity. Latifa experiences the
stressful situation in her life. She, as an active girl who has a high dream
cannot get her freedom in doing everything she likes. The Taliban‘s rule
actually gives bad impact for women. Tresnowati emphasizes that the rule
makes Latifa as an Afghan woman becomes passive and unproductive.
Another researcher who discusses the struggle of Afghan women
during Taliban regime is Orzala Ashraf Nemat. In her paper entitled Afghan
Women at the Crossroads: Agents of Peace-Or Its Victims?
Women who had been educated as teachers or public service officers turned their houses into secret home based literacy classes or home-based schools. From Herat to Nangarhar to Balkh, clandestine literacy classes were going on. By Taliban decree, such home schooling was forbidden, but local communities found ways to justify their girls‘ attending these invisible schools—mainly, to give them religious education (Nemat, 2011:14).
According to Nemat, before the Taliban takes power, Afghan women
previously have education and jobs. Because the Taliban forbids women to get
education, then they do something that actually breaks the rules. They open
secret home-based schools that can maintain and give other women freedom to
get education. For Afghan women, education is important. In the contrary, the
Taliban does not allow women to get education.
Nemat also argues that Afghan women during Taliban regime suffer
from two radical and extreme ideologies that Taliban give to them.
Afghan people in general and women in particular went through two ideologically radical extremes—one side trying to ―liberate‖ and ―free‖ them from their traditions by government decree, with the pendulum then swinging to the other extreme of imprisoning them in their houses and severely restricting their mobility (Nemat, 2011:15).
Afghan women try their best not to be trapped in Taliban ideology as
if it gives women freedom from previous capitalist government-Soviet, while
actually it makes them mute as neglected human who only have to be silent in
their home. They try to rebel to get their own liberation and true freedom as
human and as women.
From other previous studies, it is shown that Afghan women have to
struggle during Taliban regime. They have no choice instead of doing every
risky activities to make them survive. The writer then tries to develop more
about other activities by using radical-libertarian feminist point of view that
Afghan women do during Taliban regime to make them survive. The writer is
interested in analyzing the struggle of one of the main characters named
Kamila who must follow Taliban rules which oppress her and the rebellious
actions and ideas that she has in order to survive.
This study is different from previous studies because the media and
elements that the writer uses. The writer uses the different novel entitled The
Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon which is based on the
true story as the media to analyze the study and uses intrinsic element of a
Taliban regime. Thus, this analysis is different from the previous study, but it is
B. Review of Related Theories
1. Theory of Character
Theory of character can be used to answer the first problem. By
understanding the theory, the character of Kamila can be analyzed. M.H
Abrams in Glossary of Literary Terms states
Characters are the persons presented in a dramatic or narrative work, who are interpreted by the reader as being endowed with moral, dispositional, and emotional qualities that are expressed in what they say the dialogue and by what they do the action. A character remains stable or changes, the reader of traditional and realistic work except ―consistency‖ –the character should not suddenly break off and act in a way not plausibly grounded in his or her temperament as we have already come to know it (Abrams, 1993:23).
According to Abrams, character is an element in literary work that can
be interpreted by the reader. A character‘s characteristic can change or remain
stable. This change can be analyzed in novel through various experiences that
he or she experiences through his/her environment or society.
2. Theory of Characterization
To analyze further about the character in the plot, theory of
characterization from Understanding Unseen: an Introduction of English
Poetry and the English Novel for Overseas Student by Murphy can be used.
The writer only uses eight theories from nine theories in finding character
personality and characterization in a novel. First is a character as seen by
another. Here according to Murphy, the author tries to describe the character
through another character‘s point of view and opinions. Through this way, the
readers can get the description of a character directly from others. Second is
the description of a character through her/his speech. The author gives the
description of a character through her/his speech in which the character
involved. By using this way, we can understand the characterization through
what the character says. Whenever a character speaks, whenever she/he is
having conversation with another, whenever she/he puts forward an opinion, so
the character can give the clue about what her/his characterization to the
reader. Third is through a character‘s past life. By understanding a character‘s
past life, the readers can learn something. Here the author also gives clues
related to the events at that time that have helped to shape a character‘s
character. Fourth is conversation of others. Through the conversation between
other characters, the author wants to reveal the information about the character
through other characters conversation that involved about her/him. Fifth is
reaction. The author gives clues about a character‘s personality through her/his
reaction to various situations and events. Here the readers can understand about
a character‘s personality by knowing how the character gives reaction to
various situations and events that happen at that time. Sixth is direct comment.
Through author‘s direct comment, the author gives his personal comment or
opinion on the character, so the reader can understand a character‘s
characterization directly. Seventh is Thoughts. The author gives the readers
information and understanding about the character‘s personality from different
can get some clues by knowing the author‘s description of a character‘s
personality through his/her mannerism, habits, and many more in the novel
Through those ways, the author can make the readers aware and
understand about the personality and characteristic of a character which the
author tries to deliver to. The readers also can understand the main idea about
who and what kind of character that the author wants to say.
3. Theory of Radical-Libertarian Feminism
This thesis tries to show the rebellion of inequality of gender.
Therefore, it is important to understand the general idea about feminism which
is equality. Both of women and men have same freedom to be free. Jo Freeman
in Women: The Feminist Perspective says that either men or women are born to
be free and to want to place equally. They have the same rights in front of God.
(Freeman, 1975:439). Therefore, women should have the same rights as men to
be treated equally. Unfortunately, women are still treated differently. Jane
Pitcher and Imelda Whelehan in Fifty Key Concepts in Gender Study says that
women suffer social and/or material inequitites because of their biological
identity. Based on this situation, feminism then tries to challenge it (Pitcher
and Whelehan, 2004:48). Peter Barry in Beginning Theory, states that
feminism concerns about how women‘s role and images are constructed by the
society and how those representation can affect literary works and culture. All
the methods are used to reconstruct the acceptable versions of being feminine
Deborah L Madsen in Feminist Theory and Literary Practice states
that feminist literary theory has three main aims. First is to show the readers
about the issue of patriarchal power that has structured in society. Second is to
re-establish various achievements of women. Third is to find the new
perspective about women and theory that shapes our lives (Madsen, 2000:15).
Particularly, this thesis deals with the unequal treatment that women
get in patriarchal society because they are considered as inferior people who
are powerless and useless. Madsen argues that the existance of women and
men forms ‗sex class‘ which is assigned to biological aspects. The division of
gender roles which is based on ‗sex class‘ then triggers inequality which
affects other oppressions toward women economically, culturally and
socially. This situation then occurs radical feminist theory that tries to oppose
the oppression toward women which is based on sex class. This theory tries to
show how women as different sex from men accept different treatment in
society. The aim of this radical feminist theory is to emphasize in
―destroying‖ sex-class system by showing and proving that women have the
same power to struggle with men. The agent who suppresses women‘s
movement is the supremacy privileges that men have over women (Madsen,
Radical feminist then splits into two parts which are radical-libertarian
feminist and radical-cultural feminist. This thesis uses radical-libertarian
feminist theory because it discusses about the struggle of a woman to regain
the role that women do not have freedom to choose their own role. They only
have to live in domestic sphere without having freedom to live in public
Gayle Rubin, a radical-libertarian feminist in Rosemarie Tong‘s
Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction states that
radical-libertarian feminist theory has a goal to free women from the constraints of
female biology. It emphasizes that just because a woman has biological
features it does not mean that she is destined to exhibit only feminine
characteristics. Women can choose their own gender role and identity
whether they want to be masculine or feminine. They also can mix and match
those two identities and roles as they desire to (Tong, 2009:63). According to
radical-feminist perspective, a woman has to become an androgynous person
who embodies both (good) masculine and (good) feminine characteristics.
Therefore, a woman can be survived and freed from men domination (Tong,
According to Tong, the difference between radical-libertarian
feminist with other feminist schools is only in the matter of perspective,
approaches, and frameworks that feminists have to be used to shape both their
explanations for women‘s oppression and their solutions for the elimination
of its oppression (Tong, 2006:1). Radical feminist is the renewal of feminist
action from the old movement in the first wave movement called traditional
liberal feminism. This kind of feminism first concerns to give liberation for
women to get their freedom from the gender discrimination publicly.
However, many of modern feminists think that this movement does not
enough to completely undo women‘s oppression. Therefore, radical feminist
grows with more comprehensive and detail perspectives in seeing the reason
of women‘s oppression. Radical feminists starts to claim that patriarchal
system is the root of the oppression. Then, this movement grows bigger and
occurs various perspectives and concerns. One of them is radical-libertarian
feminist which focuses on sex, gender, and reproduction as the locus for the
development of feminist thought. Radical-libertarian feminist asks other
feminists to think that woman should be androgyny in order to survive from
the oppression. However, other schools of feminist such as radical-cultural
feminist and anti-androgynists reject that notion. They assume that patriarchy
does not respect and treat feminine qualities lowly (Tong, 2006: 2-3).
Therefore, there are still many debates on some schools of feminist regarding
on their understanding and opinions.
In conclusion, radical-libertarian feminist is fighting in changing the
perception that women are helpless just because they do not have same
biology structure like men. They promote the deconstruction of text that
shows patriarchal role and criticize the sex-class system that still exist in
society which actually give restriction toward women‘s freedom in choosing
4. Theory of Patriarchy
Patriarchal system is the root of oppression toward women. Jane and
Imelda in Fifty Key Concepts say that feminist uses patriarchy to refer the
domination over women using stereotype of masculine traits in studying
gender (Jane and Imelda, 2004:93). Walby as cited by Jane and Imelda says
that patriarchy is a system constructed by society which is practiced by men
to dominate, to oppress and to exploit women. Moreover, he says that men in
patriarchy system oppress women through six aspects such as in family,
productive life, work, state, violence, sexuality, and culture. All of those
oppressions make women cannot get their freedom to live either in public or
private life. Women‘s activities in public are made difficult. Instead, they
have to stay in home and do only household matters under men pressure
Adrienne Rich as cited by Hester Eisenstein in Contemporary
Feminist Thought also emphasizes that through patriarchy, men have power
through force, direct pressure, ritual, tradition, law, language, customs,
etiquette, education, and the division of labor to determine what women
should and should not do in society (Eisenstein, 1983:5). To realize their
control, men then construct gender role and behavior which are based on sex.
Women then are associated with feminine traits and men are associated with
masculine traits. Millet as cited by Hester says that if women want to be seen
as ―normal‖, they have to be passive, while for men it means active. Society
constracts that men have instrumental traits, such as tenacious, aggressive,
curious, ambitious, planul, responsible, original, and competitive while
women have expressive traits, such as affectionate, obedient, responsive to
sympathy and approval, cheerful, kind and friendly. The pressure of
patriarchal system in society then forces women to perform the expressive
role and to be passive so that they can be accepted in society. In contrary,
men perform the instrumental role (Eisenstein, 1983:8).
C. Review on Historical Background
1. The Role of Afghan Women
According to Shaista Wahab and Barry Youngerman in A Brief
History of Afghanistan, citizens of Afghanistan are called Afghans, ―a term
that originally referred to Pasthun alone‖ (Wahab and Youngerman, 2007:13).
It is because Pashtun is the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan which the
population is up to 40 percent. Because of the domination of Pashtun, all the
code of ethics that are practiced in Afghanistan based on ―Pasthunwali‖ or
Pashtun‘s way of life (Wahab and Youngerman, 2007: 4). Even there are
many ethnic groups, Islam as the largest religion can be the unifier between
Afghan people hold their tribal tradition and religious very strongly.
They often make their rules and laws based on the combination of the
culture‘s value which is ―Pasthunwali‖ and religion which is Islam.
According to traditional Afghanistan culture, Afghan women both in
done by women. Melvin Ember and Carol R. Embers in Countries and Their
Cultures Volume 1 state
Male and female roles are strongly differentiated. The public sphere is the domain of men, and the domestic one is the realm of women. Women take care of young children, cook for the household, and clean the house (Ember and Embers, 2001:7).
Ember and Embers also say that Afghan women are not allowed to
involve in public activities and also to give opinions or decisions. However,
they give big contribution to households if their male relatives go to war.
They are given task to guard the home and children.
Women have never participated publicly in decision making processes. They are admonished to be modest and obey the orders of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. Nevertheless, as guardians of family honor, women have more power. Nomadic and peasant women play an important role in the domestic economy and are not secluded in the same way as many urban women (Ember and Embers, 2001:7).
Commonly, Afghan women in rural and urban area live under
patriarchal system because they are controlled by the older men. Older men
have absolute authority toward their entire family members.
Linda Merrill, Donald Paxson, and Thomas Tobey in An Introduction
to Afghanistan Culture state that characteristically, the Afghan family is
endogamous because they are permitted to practice parallel and cross-cousin
marriage, patriarchal because the highest authority is owned by male elders,
patrilineal because the inheritance will be inherited through the male line and
patriotic because girl moves to husband's place of residence after the marriage
(Merril et al, 2006:7).
They also state that Afghan women are the property for their family,
because of that they cannot go outside the family without permission.
A woman belongs to her family and should not be available, in any sense, to outsiders. The male has the right to make decisions that control female behavior and it is done to preserve male prestige and family honor. Women‘s independence is not encouraged and the families‘ social standing may suffer if the women do not remain dependent and submissive to her husband‘s rules (Merril et al, 2006:7-8).
Afghan women also have to hold family‘s dignity so they will not
ruin their family‘s name. Womenhave to follow all their husband‘s rules and
have to lean upon them.
However, women can get their rights to be equal with men in pursuing
education and job after King Amanullah‘s starting movement toward Afghan
women independency. Melvin Ember and Carol R. Embers in Countries and
Their Cultures Volume 1 state that women who lived in urban area had more
freedom to seek their rights because between 1919 and 1929, King Amanullah
succeded in promoting female empowerenment. During King Amanullah
period, many schools, universities, and work places were opened widely for
women. This trend then continued during the Communist government. Many
of women who lived in urban area were able to study in universities (Ember
and Embers, 2001:7). Unfortunately, Nancy Dupree as cited by Sultan Barakat
and Gareth Wardell in Capitalizing on Capacities of Afghan Women:
Women’s Role in Afghanistan’s Reconstruction and Development says that
their freedom are not accepted by religious conservative group. Dupree notes
Kabul universities and threw them with acid. Urban women then responded it
by demonstrating as a group for the first time. They then built the
anti-government protests in 1970s as their emancipation movement (Barakat and
2. Taliban Regime
Afghanistan once had been invaded by Soviet. According to Elaheh
Rostami Povey in Afghan Women Identity and Invasion, during the Soviet
invasion, women in Kabul and few other major cities worked as scientists,
pharmacist, teachers, medical doctors and civil servants (Povey, 2007:12).
However, the invasion was driven away by Mujahedeen. In the beginning,
Mujahedeen was the rebellious group that was built by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
and the United States in order to bring back peace and freedom to
Afghanistan. Unfortunately after Soviet invasion ended, they used strict rule
which was based on Sharia as their basis ideology and led Afghanistan to
civil war. They also used their strict rule for women to make women return to
the traditional values and norms. They tortured and raped women. This
situation then made the chaos in Afghanistan (Povey, 2007:20).
Povey also states that the young Mujahedeen generation felt that their
precursor could not bring stability and righteousness in Afghanistan. Because
of that, they began to search for a solution and decided to make a new plan to
restore peace, to enforce strict Sharia ‘a (Islamic) law and to disarm Afghan
people (Povey, 2007: 22-23).
In the mid-1990s, some Pashtun people who declared themselves as
―holy fighter‖ then formed a new group called the ―Taliban‖ (Akhtar, 2008:
56). Cory Gunderson in Afghanistan’s struggles states that Taliban members
were the students of Islamic school or commonly called as Madrassa. Most of
them were not educated. Even they could not read and write. They were only
taught to memorize the Koran. Their goal was to purify their country to be a
pure Islamic nation (Gunderson, 2004:35).
They made strict laws which were the combination of ―Sharia‖ which
was written in Koran (Islamic law) and ―Pasthunwali‖. Nasreen Akhtar in
International Journal of World Peace Vol. XXV No.4 December 2008 states
that Taliban members used their own conservative ideology and attitude in
interpreting ―Sharia‖ and ―Pasthunwali‖ law. As the result, their interpretation
created law which restrained not only women‘s freedom, but also men‘s
freedom (Akhtar, 2008:8).
One of their conservative and controversial rules was about the
prohibition to get education for women. Mawlawi Said Shahidkhayl, the
Taliban undersecretary of education in Robert D.Crews and Amin Tarzi‘s The
Taliban and The Crisis of Afghanistan states
The Taliban closed all schools for women because according to the
Taliban, women could not be given right to get education. It was because
according to their interpretation, there was no verse in Koran which showed
that women were allowed to get education. Unfortunately, the Taliban did not
discuss that verse furthermore. They only picked some parts of the sentences
from Koran that they could understand easily without reading the whole
context and content of Koran. It was because they could not read and write.
It assumes that Taliban members are not educated. They do not have
any knowledge about other disciplines instead of Koran. This fact then implies
that the Taliban only can interpret some Koran‘s verses based on their instinct
and their own understanding without compare it with other disciplines, such as
philosophy, sociology, and others. This also means that their interpretation of
Koran is still superficial which makes the result of the interpretation is wrong
then harms many people.
The Taliban was able to put their control in Afghanistan by using a
system. They used their armies to occupy some important positions in
government. They used system which was called a ―shadow government‖.
According to the Atlantic Council in Stefanie Nijssen‘s Government in
Afghanistan, shadow government is a parallel political power structure which
can be associated with the official government apparatus. The Taliban was
estimated to have a total of 60.000-70.000 active members, with only a small
portion was mobilized for fighting (Nijssen, 2011:1).
By having thousands of armies, the Taliban used their power to
control Afghanistan government. They used a system where they could use
their armies to control the political power structure and the population at once
in the same time. They were able to replace the official government
instruments by the guardian of the Taliban‘s soldiers.
D. Theoretical Framework
In this part the writer explains the application of theories in answering
the problems of the study. All related studies and related theories are useful to
be used as instruments to analyze problem formulation in this study. The
reviews which are mainly taken from internet and books are important to be
used in the writer‘s analysis.
The first related theory is the theory of character and characterization.
These theories are used to answer problem number one which is how
Kamila‘s character is described in The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.
The second related theory is the theory of radical-libertarian feminism.
This theory is used to give description and basic idea of how the unequal
treatments and rights are given to Kamila during Taliban regime. Theory of
patriarchy is used to answer problem number two because patriarchal system
is the basic system that the Taliban uses in controlling Kamila‘s life as an
Those two theories; radical-libertarian feminism and patriarchy can
help the writer to show the rebellion of Kamila as an Afghan woman against
can be used to answer problem number three. The historical background of
Afghan women and Taliban regime can be used to answer problem
formulation two and three because they give description of what kind of
tradition, culture value, law, and rule that Kamila has to follow as an Afghan
woman before and during Taliban regime.
28 CHAPTER III
A. Object of the Study
The object of this study is a novel entitled The Dressmaker of Khair
Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. The hardcover edition of this book was
published in 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers in New York. The writer used
another edition that was published in 2012. That edition was also published by
HarperCollins Publisher in New York. This novel consists of 256 pages and 9
chapters. This novel becomes New York Times best seller novel.
This novel tells a true story about a heroine woman, Kamila who has
to struggle in order to survive under Taliban regime by opening a tailoring
business. The setting of this story based on the true event, which is Taliban
regime. This novel shares the successful and dramatic story about Kamila’s
struggle to create a new job opportunity for herself and other women in her
community. Kamila becomes a young entrepreneur who dares to risk her life
in order to get financial support for her family’s life.
Her journey to be an entrepreneur is not easy. She has to act secretly
because the Taliban does not allow women to have contact with the outside
world. Her own life can be taken by the Taliban if she is discovered doing
something which violates the rules. Her family financial condition which is
continuously decreasing makes her to think that she has to do something even
Fortunately, Kamila’s belief of her hope and devotion to her religion
can make her to achieve what she and her community need; opportunity to be
productive. Until now, Kamila still actively spreads her hope and voice to
other Afghan people to get their right and freedom. She opened her business
consultancy service named Kaweyan Business Development Services (KBDS)
in 2004. Through KBDS, she tries to develop professionalism in business. She
becomes an inspiration of how a woman can survive even in the most
B. Approach of the Study
Feminist approach is the appropriate approach in analyzing this study
because the focus of the study of Lemmon’s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
is to show the rebellion against the unfair treatment of patriarchal society
toward women which is revealed by the female character in the novel.
Maggie Humm in Contemporary Feminist Literary Criticism, states
that “Feminist criticism addresses social ideologies and practices shape
literary text,” (1994: viii). Feminist criticism is used to show some problems
which concern on women’s position and women’s role in society. By using
feminist criticism, the writer can emphasize the issue about feminism in
McManus in Classics and Feminism: Gendering the Classics, states
“Feminist approach is an approach that the major purpose is to revise our way of considering history, society, literature, etc. So that neither male nor female is taken as normative, but both are seen as equally conditioned by the gender constructions of their culture” (1997:58).
According to the quotation above, feminist approach is used to revise
our way of thinking that women and men do not have the equal opportunity
and freedom in all aspects of life. This approach is also used to show various
rebellious actions that women do to reject the oppression and to achieve their
freedom and equality with men.
The fundamental source of unfair treatment toward women is from the
system that is set in society. System has a dominant role to determine
someone’s position and role in society. If the system is held by men and it is
set to discriminate and eliminate women’s existence, then women’s freedom
will always be controlled and dominated by men.
Radical-libertarian feminist approach is used to analyze the oppression
of women’s freedom which is caused by male-dominated system. According
to Rosemarie Tong in Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive
Introduction, the aim of radical-libertarian feminist is to end the male’s
domination and privilege on women. The theory also aims to reconstruct the
notion that women do not only posses feminine traits, but also masculine
traits. Women can have both masculine and feminine characteristics, or in
another word, women have to be androgynous in order to maintain their
freedom. By possessing both qualities, women’s role that is constructed by
patriarchal society class can be revised and destroyed. It is because the role is
based on sex classification. (2009:2). Therefore, radical-libertarian feminist is
used to show the rebellion of women to get their freedom and equality from
C. Method of the Study
The writer uses library research as the method of this study. The
writer collects data from books of literature, theories, and some other books
that might complete this analysis. The writer also uses other information
source such as online sources.
In analyzing this study, the writer uses the novel entitled The
Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon as the primary
source. The secondary source are several books such as Glossary of Literary
Terms and Understanding Unseen’s: An Introduction of English Poetry and
the English Novel for Overseas which help the writer to understand how to
analyze a character, Beginning Theory by Peter Barry, A Handbook of Critical
Approaches to Literature by Guerin et al, Feminist Theory and Literary
Practice by Deborah L Madsen, Feminist Thought A More Comprehensive
Introduction by Rosemarie Tong that contains some feminist and radical
feminist theories, Sexual Politics by Kate Millet, Fifty Key Concepts by Jane
and Imelda, Contemporary Feminist Thought by Hester Eisenstein which
contains of patriarchy theory, A Brief History of Afghanistan by Shaista
Wahab and Barry Youngerman, Countries and Their Cultures Volume 1 by
Melvin Ember and Carol R, Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The
Limits of Postmodern Analysis by Haideh Moghissi, The Veil and the Male
Elite: a Feminist Interpretation on Women’s Right in Islam by Fatima
Mernissi, An Introduction to Afghanistan Culture by Linda Merrill, Donald
Paxson, and Thomas Tobey which reveal some facts about women role in
Afghanistan and Islam for many years ago until now, Afghanistan’s struggles
by Cory Gunderson and International Journal of World Peace Vol. XXV No.4
December 2008 by Nasreen Akhtar which give some information about
To answer the problem formulation the writer used some steps. First,
the writer read the novel for several times for the deep and clear understanding
about what the novel was about. By understanding the content of the novel,
the writer found the issue about Taliban oppression toward women and the
rebellious actions that women did at that time, then the writer formulated it
into some questions.
Second, the writer collected some data to support the study. The writer
used reliable sources, such as books and internet to help the writer to
understand the character and the theory well. By doing this way, the writer
tried to answer the problem formulation, such as: describing the character in
the novel, explaining Taliban oppression through the character’s struggles,
and finding the rebellious actions that the character did to survive in Taliban
33 CHAPTER IV
This chapter aims to answer the three problems that are stated in the first
chapter. There are three parts in this chapter. The focus of the first part is to
answer the first problem which is the description of Kamila as the main character
in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, who is the victim
of Taliban’s inhuman rule toward Afghan women. The description of Kamila’s
characterization is analyzed by applying the theory of character and
characterization. In M.J Murphy’s Understanding Unseen: an Introduction to
English Poetry and the English Novel for Overseas Student states there are nine
ways in analyzing a character’s description. Direct comment, conversation with
others, speech, thought, mannerism, and past life are some ways that the writer
applies in answering the first problem.
After analyzing the description of Kamila’s characterization in the novel,
the focus of the second part is to discuss how the oppressions are depicted through
Kamila’s sufferings under Taliban regime. Then the third part focuses on how
Kamila shows her action to rebel against the situation that represses her and her
A. The Description of Kamila
1. Kamila as an Afghan woman
In The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, Kamila is described as an educated,
open minded, innovative, responsible and brave Afghan woman.
First, Kamila as an educated woman. Kamila lives and grows up in one
of urban cities in Afghanistan, Kabul, where modernity has already spread
throughout the city. In Kabul, there are many schools and universities. Before the
Taliban takes power over all cities in Afghanistan, including Kabul and other
urban cities, everyone, without any gender exception is given the same
opportunity to get education. Even so, not all Afghan women can have
opportunity to get education, especially women in rural area. It is because their
families still hold strong patriarchal tradition. The tradition says that only men
can get education, whereas women cannot get education.
Fortunately, Kamila grows in a family who has high concern toward
education. Kamila is given opportunity to finish her study by her father in Sayed
Jamaluddin’s two-year course before the Taliban takes control the city, “She was
the second woman in her family to finish Sayed Jamaluddin’s two-year course”
(Lemmon, 2012:2). Based on author’s direct description about Kamila, it is
shown that Kamila is an educated woman. However, Kamila has to struggle in
keeping her spirit to study during the Taliban era. She has to receive the fact that
she cannot continue her study because the Taliban closes all schools for women.
way to study or to work, even if the universities remained off-limits (Lemmon, 2012:29).
Based on quotation above, it shows that Kamila feels depressed because
she cannot continue her study. She struggles to accept the reality that she is not
able to pursue her education. As an educated woman, this kind of restriction
makes Kamila depressed. Because of that, she tries to search the way that makes
herself keeps learning something in order to maintain her productivity.
Furthermore, Kamila’s style of dress which is different from common
uneducated Afghan women shows her educated quality.
Like most educated women in Kabul, she usually wore her scarf draped casually over her hair and across her shoulders. But today was different; if the Taliban really were on their way to Kabul they would be
women never cover their entire body. They just cover their hair with short veil.
However, since the Taliban forces them to use burqa, Kamila does not have
other choice instead follows the rules. She has to struggle to use the clothes that
makes her hard to move and see.
Second, Kamila is seen as an open-minded Afghan woman. It can be
seen through author’s description about Kamila.
With her new teaching certificate in hand, Kamila would soon begin her studies at Kabul Pedagogical Institute...After two years, she would earn a bachelor’s degree and begin her teaching career there in Kabul. She hoped to become professor of Dari or perhaps even literature one day (Lemmon, 2012:3).
By earning the teaching certificate, Kamila has strong foundation to go
further and to build her dream to be a professor in literature. It is shown through
Kamila’s way of thinking. She is described as an open-minded woman because
she has openness toward her goal and role as an independent woman someday.
She has her own desire to choose her own career so that she can earn money by
herself to support both her life and family. She does not think about activity
which only can be done at home, such as cooking and taking care family. Instead
of that, she thinks about her future to get higher degree and job. It also shows
that she as a woman has a perspective that as a woman she can determine what
she has to do for her own future and how she will achieve that.
However, her desire and goal to be an independent woman are vanish
because the Taliban closes all job accesses for women. The Taliban forces
women to stay indoor without doing any public activity.
Kamila found herself growing more and more restless. How long can I just sit here?... The Taliban issued more edicts...:
“We kindly request all our Afghan sisters to not apply for any job... otherwise, if they were chased, threatened, and investigated by us” (Lemmon, 2012:44-47).
Taliban’s rule that aims to close all offices for women shows that Afghan
women are not given opportunity to be productive and independent. If women
dare to seek job, they will be beaten and put into the jail. This situation makes
Kamila has to struggle in maintaing her life to survive and her goal to be
There is another reason why Kamila can be seen as an open minded
woman. It is because she does not really follow the Afghanistan tradition. One of
them is in the matter of wearing clothes. Before the Taliban comes, she likes to
use Western style of clothing and let her head uncovered by veil. Her action is
not like most other traditional Afghan women in rural area who have to cover
their head. Her open minded character and different behavior in society show her
different understanding toward traditional culture which lead her to do the
different action in society. However, since Taliban comes, she has to use burqa.
Kabul’s women were known for stretching the sartorial limits of their traditional country, and Kamila was no exception...many Kabuli women traveled the cosmopolitan capital in Western clothing, their heads uncovered (Lemmon, 2012:2).
Kamila succeeds in developing her tailoring business. Nevertheless, she
does not forget about other people suffering. After she has been able to empower
herself to be productive again by earning money for her family, Kamila then
tries to find way to extend her goal to also empower other women. Kamila’s
concern over other women’s suffering which is similar to hers then grows her
attention toward her “sisters” destiny. She feels responsible to help these women
to survive. It can be seen through Kamila’s thought about her community.
At first Kamila was too moved to speak. Everyone who had remained in Kabul had a similar story, and lately she had been feeling a growing sense of responsibility to do as much as she possibly could to help. Her father had told her, and her religion had taught her, that she had a duty to support as many as she was able. Right now that meant she must quickly build upon the modest successes they had achieved so far. This business was her best-and right now her only-hope for helping her community (Lemmon, 2012:111).