Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The Times has a fascinating article about Albania's sworn virgins: rural women who, finding a loophole in an ancient code called the Kunun, get around the abysmal lot it decrees for them ("a woman is a sack made to endure") by taking an oath of celibacy, and then dressing and living as men. Completely.

The accompanying photos are lovely, though few. I went looking for more pictures and found this piece in the Washington Post, which takes a different angle (along the lines of "sure, they have agency and rights, but how sad that they never got to have families and children"), but has an interesting video clip from a Swiss documentary called Sworn Virgins.

But National Geographic comes through:

Most news sources sort of poke gingerly at the homo possibility, then dismiss it, but doesn't Pashe for one come across as an elegant butch, in that classic gaslight way? There are also clear parallels in Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence (a book that sounds like John Waters fodder and/but is in fact an incredible read.) Except the Albanian virgins wield much greater authority, and their lives are worth as much as a man's (12 oxen, per the Times; other women are worth half that.)

Fiction-related: I have an apparently inexplicable, some would say inexcusable, indifference to Alice Munro, but her story "The Albanian Virgin" captivated me. (I read it so many years ago I couldn't even tell you if this post is a spoiler.)

No comments: