The rebellion of an Afghan woman against Taliban oppression revealed through Kamila`s struggles in Gayle Tzemach Lemmon`s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana - USD Repository







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Presented as Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Sarjana Sastra

in English Letters



Student Number : 104214022











Presented as Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Sarjana Sastra

in English Letters



Student Number : 104214022






“...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.









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







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.




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

humanity aspects.

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

( (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 ( (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

for women.

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



( (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

disempowers women.

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.

1. Oppression

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)

2. Taliban

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 ( (March 30, 2014).

3. Rebellion

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).




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

still related.

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

(Murphy, 1972:161-173).

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

(Barry, 2002:122).


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

those ethnics.

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

Wardell, 2011:11).

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

Afghan woman.

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.




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

repressing situation.

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

literary work.

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

Taliban regime.

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




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).