Can a pop singer change gender history?

Lima Sahar is causing controversy as the first female finalist on "Afghan Star," her country's version of "American Idol."


Carol Lloyd
March 14, 2008 5:50PM (UTC)

Chatter about the gender of "American Idol" finalists has always struck a discordant note in me. Maybe in politics we need to keep an eye on gender imbalances, but on pop star reality shows? Who the *%@&$ cares?

But a recent Associated Press story makes abundantly clear that sometimes those silly battles of the sexes are nothing short of radical -- especially if the woman is gaining purchase via a popular vote in a country where some citizens would happily strip women of most of their civil rights.

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According the article, Lima Sahar, a young woman from the Pashtun region of Afghanistan, has emerged as one of three finalists for "Afghan Star," the country's "American Idol" copycat. There have been female contestants in the past but none have risen as far as Sahar.

Watching Sahar draped in head scarf and traditional modest (if colorful) garb, singing in a warbly complex cadence of middle Eastern "pop" with not so much as a swinging of the shoulders, much less the hips, it's hard to see the what the fuss is all about. But make no mistake -- the 18-year-old has got some serious huevos. Already her emergence as a finalist has compelled Afghanistan's conservative clerics council to complain to President Hamid Karzai.

"In the situation that we have in Afghanistan right now, we don't need a woman singer. We don't need 'Afghan Star.' We are in need of a good economy, good education," council member Ali Ahmad Jebra-ali told the AP. "If Lima Sahar wins 'Afghan Star,' how can she help the poor? This is not the way to help the Afghan people."

Dude, so women singing offends your concern for the poor? Whatever criticism flies her way, Sahar seems steeled against the prospect of a lot of pissed-off people: "No pain, no gain," she reportedly told a press conference.

Want to help make gender history in Afghanistan? You can vote for Sahar here.


Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

MORE FROM Carol Lloyd

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