When the Taliban swept through Kabul, stunning the world, leader Zabihullah Mujahid tried to soften the extremists' image. "We want to build the future and forget what happened in the past," he insisted. But forgetting will not come so easily for the West, who watched for years as hard-line Islamists brutalized their women and tortured non-conformists. Even now, reporters, former interpreters, and soldiers are being hunted down and massacred by death squads — sparking plenty of doubts about a kinder, gentler Taliban.
The leaders' charm offensive, which started when the Taliban took the capital, has been interesting to watch. Girls, the regime promised in August, will be free. They can work, play, and continue their education, a spokesman said – ignoring the fact that women had just been ordered home indefinitely. Mujahid tried to explain, "We are worried our forces who are new and have not been yet trained very well may mistreat women," proving how institutionalized the inhumanity is. Since then, reality has seemed to catch up even more with the Taliban's rhetoric. Things as harmless as playing music in public have been outlawed — along with any semblance of a free press or media.
Anyone hoping for a more benevolent Taliban, NRO's Judson Berger argued, is fooling themselves. "... [N]o matter the spin from Taliban spokesmen (and spokeswomen, once that gender-equity program kicks in), hopeful media reports, and wish-casting administration figures, the Taliban are still the Taliban, the same group that once converted Kabul's soccer stadium into a coliseum for stonings and amputations. No, they haven't changed, not in any fundamental way beyond their becoming a bit more PR-savvy." In the extremists' bid to look normal and legitimate, the international community is being played.
Just last week, the same Taliban that promised a more "inclusive" society banned women from playing sports. The head of the regime's "cultural commission," Ahmadullah Wasiq, told the Australian Press that women's sports are neither "appropriate nor necessary." They might face a situation, Wasiq insisted, "where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this." In a nod to the seriousness of the situation, most of the country's female athletes have been in hiding since the Taliban swept to power, worried about whatever punishment the group's fighters would dole out.
Others, who saw the terror on the horizon, got out of Afghanistan as quickly as they could. As many as 25 members of the country's women's cycling team fled to the United Arab Emirates. For them, leaving home was necessary but hard. "It's really difficult because the main reason, specific reason, that I leave Afghanistan was because I was not secure as an athlete. I was doing sports in Afghanistan, but nowadays, that is not safe ... I was forced to leave my country."
Here at home, the Biden administration, who's busy positioning itself as a cheerleader of women's rights, has taken a different path toward eradicating girls' sports. To be clear, the Taliban's actions are more brutal — but this president's policies will ultimately lead to the same outcome: the end of female athletics. It's a goal that Biden has been working toward since day one, when he signed his first executive order on transgenderism — effectively wiping away a half century of women's progress. "Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the rest room, the locker room, or school sports," the edict read. "All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation."
In only 8 months, the Biden administration has had an impressive start at completely redefining womanhood in sports. "Finished. Done," was how Olympic track-and-field coach Linda Blade described the future of women's athletics to the Wall Street Journal's Abigail Shrier. The Biden presidency, we were told, was supposed to be a historic win for women. Barely 24 hours in, Americans realized the lie they'd been fed. This administration isn't interested in protecting feminism — it's in the business of undoing it. And the damage, Shrier says, is much more debilitating than anyone realizes:
"It isn't merely the trophies and scholarships and opportunities at stake. It isn't even all the benefits sports have so long provided to young women — in self-esteem and health and camaraderie with friends. It isn't merely that girls who participate in sports tend to earn better grades, that so many female Fortune 500 executives were athletes, or that sports force teen girls out of their own heads, where they might otherwise sit and stew to their detriment. It's the profound and glaring injustice of it: the spectacular records and achievements that Jackie Joyner, Althea Gibson and Wilma Rudolph would never have achieved had the world pitted their bodies against men."
The president can complain all he wants that the Taliban is marginalizing women, but when his own idea of "gender equality" is letting stronger men outrace, outplace, and rough up women, he's not going to be taken very seriously. Just this weekend, spectators watched — horrified — as a former special forces operator, posing as a transgender woman, destroyed fellow mixed-martial arts fighter Celine Provost. "It made me sick," Piers Morgan lamented, as images of the final chokehold started circulating the internet. Pinned down, with blood on the mat, most people are surprised Celine wasn't killed. "It's unfair, unequal, and in the case of combat sport, incredibly dangerous," Morgan argued.
"What kind of man wants to fight a woman?" feminist Meghan Murphy asked angrily. "Certainly a man with no shame or ethics." And what kind of president passes it off as progress? Ours.
Originally published at the Family Research Council.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.