illustration of two women standing in burkas with two overlapping circles between them and the title A Thousand Splendid Suns written above them

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

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What type of feminism applies to A Thousand Splendid Suns?

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I think that cultural feminism can be applicable to Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.

In cultural feminism, there is a stress on the differences between men and women.  This brand of feminism does not seek to make women like men.  It seeks to validate how both genders are distinct from one another.  In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam learns this quickly when she is told that, "A man's heart is a wretched, wretched thing, Mariam. It isn't like a mother's womb. It won't bleed, it won't stretch to make room for you."  The emphasis on how a "mother's womb" makes women different from men is a part of the cultural feminism that defines Mariam's approach to the world.

As a result of the emphasis on differences between men and women, cultural feminism argues that women must develop their own social place.  It affirms the need to create spaces apart from the domains that men have established. The world that the Taliban in Afghanistan has created for women is vastly different than what men experience.  This can be seen in the way that Rasheed views his place and the place of women in Taliban society. When Mariam befriends Laila and when the two women establish a sisterhood, it is a striking example of cultural feminism.  The fact that Mariam willingly sacrifices herself for Mariam shows a culturally feminist response to male- dominated rule.

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Is there a theme of feminism in A Thousand Splendid Suns?

It is certain that there is a central theme of feminism in this great novel. The way in which the two central characters are both women and how the novel explores their relationship with each other and their own personal life story seems to set the position of women against the backdrop of the larger political changes that are occurring around them. This is of course brought into sharp relief by the way in which the rise of the Taliban corresponds with the repression of women, as is shown through the kind of lives that Laila and Mariam are expected to live.

In particular, this novel explores the particularly brutal position that women are forced to occupy. They are literally deprived of any rights whatsoever in the patriarchal world in which they find themselves. Laila is forced to wear a full veil and is not even able to travel by herself with a male escort. When they kill their husband, it becomes clear that in this brutal world, one of them must pay the price, and the shocking execution of Mariam is the supreme example of the brutality of the Taliban regime and the way in which women were not recognised as having any rights whatsoever.

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