National security advisor H.R. McMaster showed President Donald Trump a 1972 picture of Afghan women in skirts as a way to motivate him to continue the war efforts in Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post. The picture was used to convince Trump that the country had once adopted Western values, and still could if the U.S. continues its fight.
Journalist Jamil White was right when he tweeted, “This is creepy, considering Trump’s history with women. But Afghanistan wasn’t worth the fight unless they could be culturally colonialized?”
Afghani women in miniskirts isn't alarming. They should be free to dress as they wish. It's that McMaster knew that tactic would sway Trump.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 22, 2017
McMaster’s actions were problematic in many ways but above all, why does he equate winning to cultural colonization? In addition, women wearing skirts as opposed to hijab doesn’t mean more democracy, liberation or feminist ideals. The war in Afghanistan is not a cultural war, but a political and military war.
Also, pre-Taliban era, there were Afghan women who wore European-styled clothing as well as traditional Afghan clothing. Afghan women who opted to wear European styled clothing didn’t think they were superior in culture or value to other who women who chose to dress more traditionally, or vice versa. There was respect and freedom in choice of clothing.
The diversity of clothing is a reflection of Afghanistan’s rich history of ethnic and cultural groups, immigration from different countries and wars and colonization by different countries. The different groups include Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazara and Uzbek, among others.
A picture of Afghan women in skirts doesn’t show that Afghanistan once fully adopted Western values, it is merely a reflection of the country’s diverse history in culture and frankly, fashion. We can’t paintbrush people with a picture, something no one, not only Afghan women, would want.