There was this story on Afghanistan that hit the newswires a few weeks ago. Unlike most stories about Afghanistan that comment on the ouster of the Taliban and the end of the totalitarian regime in that country, this news story appeared to be on the other hand of the spectrum as far as seriousness and relevance are concerned, at least on the surface. The story told about this documentary that was focused on setting up a beauty school in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
According to the story, the documentary tells the story of six American women who travel to Afghanistan to train the locals to be hairdressers. It is entitled “The Beauty Academy of Kabul” and is directed by Liz Mermin. The documentary narrates how some major manufacturers of beauty products bank-rolled six volunteer American hairstylists to set up a beauty school in Kabul.
The documentary follows the six women as they prepare for their trip, how they were concerned about the uncertainty of their mission and their fears about going to a faraway land where war and controversy are in full swing. Upon reaching Kabul and beginning their mission, the woman are pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic welcome accord to them by the local women who practically swarm the beauty school with high hopes of learning a trade that is actually acceptable for women in their culture.
For three months, the six Americans teach the locals all about the latest techniques in cutting, coloring and styling. Many of the local women are delighted about what they learn. Many of them are filled with pride as they explain how they will be able to help their husbands so much if they were able to successfully launch their own beauty parlors. Some of the women visibly reveled at the prospect of earning more money than their husbands. For most of them, attending the beauty school was a welcome respite from the everyday concerns of their lives, particularly how to overcome starvation and ward off disease.
In the final analysis, the documentary tells us two important things. First, despite a view of some grotesquely mangled buildings and other signs of conflict, the war in Afghanistan is not as bad as we think. And second, it tells us that Afghan women (and probably the men) are just like us, blessed with a healthy concern for beauty and excited about the chance to look good for their husbands.