Posts Tagged ‘pakistani feminists’

I used to be a pretty normal girl. Quite geeky, not very fashionable or stylish, or interested in it to be honest, but still fond of bright colours and nail polish. I liked boys. I had a poster of Orlando Bloom, another one of Buffy and Angel and Spike and Cordelia. I watched Star Plus and Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill and 90210.

Then I made the fatal mistake of learning about feminism. What was worst though, is the fact that I actually agreed with a lot of what I read. To my horror, I found myself taking up that dreaded mantle, and calling myself The F-Word: Feminist.

And that is the moment when Feminism ruined my life.

No more did I go into bro mode around guys and objectify women. No, now I bristle at men who constantly have nothing to discuss other than so-and-so hot girls. No more did I make fun of girls wearing capris in university with the guys; I started telling them to mind their own goddamned business and take care of their lothario-like dressing first. Heck, even a mild “bachi” from a guy, designed simply to infantilize women and make them weak and helpless beings in need of protection like a child, reeking of pedophilia, makes me angry! No more did I crack crass rape jokes; I started to tell people to knock it off when they spoke of “raping” someone’s Facebook wall, telling them that it was wrong to do so. I mean, GOD! The context, right? The context is all that matters when making light of the violation of a person’s body and the trauma associated with that incident.

When guys try to pick up the check for me, I get angry. If they pull out a chair for me, I’m offended. If a guy gives up his seat to me, I push him back down and tell him I’m fine with standing. If a guy lets me cut in line simply because of my gender, I’m actually upset about it! Seriously, what is wrong with me? So what if chivalry is misogynist in nature? Other women who pander to patriarchy and internalize misogyny are perfectly happy to be reduced to weak helpless creatures, pretending that they’re weak by virtue of being a woman, and they’re perfectly happy doing so, so why can’t I do the same?

I mean seriously, I’ve gotten so uptight and high maintenance, that if anyone, male or female, says “women have their roles and men have theirs” I actually start going on about how gender is a social and cultural construct. How. Fucking. BORING. I mean, who cares what science or sociology or theory or logic says? Personal, limited opinions and subjective experiences are ALL that matter when it comes to making an informed decision!

Heck, I used to be sweet and romantic, thinking about prince charmings and knights in shining armour. Now, I’m anti-marriage and anti-relationships. Heck, I write about why Disney princesses and traditional faerietales center around the concept of female morality and controlling female sexuality. Who CARES as long as there’s a beautiful princess involved, right? And its messed up my love life. I’m so indifferent to guys when they try to flirt with me because I’m a feminist. And this is the rare occasions when guys actually do flirt with me. Because who wants to hit on a bitch of a feminazi, right? As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’m fat and short, instead of tall and thin and leggy like glossy magazines, the fashion industry, and the capitalist patriarchy tell me I’m supposed to. Plus, I recently chopped off my beautiful, impossible to manage long locks for a shorter haircut, which, to make matters worse, makes me look like a “butch lesbian” and you know how awful it is to look “butch” you know. I mean again, never mind that gender is a social construct, that sexual binaries are stupid, who wants to hear any of that when they’re flirting with someone, right?

I lost my best friend because of feminism. He meant the world to me. He literally was my whole world. One day, he jokingly called me a slut. Loser that I am, I actually got offended. I mean, obviously, OBVIOUSLY he meant it fondly. Clearly, he was saying it out of pride, since I used to be the innocent, naïve sort and changed a lot over the years. And what did I do? I hung up on him in anger. And that was it. That was the moment our friendship started to unravel. That was the day we died.

Simply because I couldn’t tolerate my friend calling me a slut.

Now, look at me. I’m all alone on a Friday night, sad and lonely for my own reasons. On a normal day, I’m fierce and assertive and though I have a timid, not-confrontational nature, I’m driven to stand up for myself and for others, when I see someone being sexist or misogynist. I talk about boring things like the patriarchy, instead of flipping my hair and tilting my head with those slightly widened eyes that slays them every time (evidently, the usage of the word “slay” demonstrates how much I date… not) and giving a fake laugh to make the guy think I’m adorable. I refuse to watch Bollywood because of the rampant stereotypical misogyny and sexual exploitation in every movie.  I have intelligent conversations with people about male privilege and FEMEN and rape apologia. I don’t even listen to rap music anymore! So what if it’s homophobic and offensive? Normal people don’t have a problem with it, so why do I have to try to be different and cool?

So what if I’m intelligent and more aware of social issues and more knowledgeable than the average person? The average person gets laid more than me, after all. The average person is liked at parties. The average person is happier living in their privileged bubble because they’re just ignorant and uninformed about, well, quite a bit, if not everything. Sure, I still dress in bright colours and I still like boys and nail polish and of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of that. But hey, what’s the point of putting on nail polish when no guy is interested in seeing how pretty and delicate my weak feminine hands are, and thus liking how I appeal to his chivalrous side by appealing to his masculinity and boosting his ego by looking like a soft, small thing that must be protected? Obviously, no amount of nail polish or eyeliner can mask the stench of bored indifference, that reek of feminism, that distinct air of “I like you but really, I couldn’t care less because my existence does not revolve around being a man’s property and my happiness is not dependent on the attention men give me, or in conforming to the gender-specific behaviours of a patriarchal society. Your mother would possibly be scandalized that I even exist. I’m never going to procreate. Marriage is a problematic concept.” I mean sure, there are men whose mothers wouldn’t be scandalized but actually adore me, and there are male feminists who seek out feminist partners but hey, those ones get snapped up by the other feminists quite quickly, seeing as they’re an unfortunate rarity in a place like Pakistan.

And this is why feminism has ruined my life. If I could go back, would I change any of it? Stay uninformed, making rape jokes, calling feminists butch lesbians, using gender-specific slurs, objectifying women, and just being an offensive douchebag in general?

Fuck, no.

I met up with an old college friend of mine today. We were friends before I was anti-establishment and she, pro-military, before I was a feminist atheist, and she, a spiritual, bohemian artist. It is often the people you know, before you were anybody, or had found your place in the world, who remain with you throughout life, which is why, despite our radical differences, we’ve been friends all these years.I had an interesting conversation with her regarding feminism today. She expressed dislike of feminism and said, “Ugh god no, I’m not a feminist!” And I asked her, “why not?” And she claimed she wasn’t. This was the conversation that followed.

Justin to me: I’m not a feminist.

Me: Do you believe in educational opportunities for women?

Justin: Yes.

Me: Do you believe in freedom of movement and more independence for women?

Justin: Yes.

Me: Do you believe that a woman’s dress should not be dictated by whether it violates the honour of her father or husband, because her dress is not another person’s honour?

Justin: Yes.

Me: Do you believe in career opportunities for women?

Justin: Yes.

Me: Do you believe women have the right to decide if they want to marry, when they marry, or whom they marry?

Justin: Yes, definitely!

Me: Do you believe that marriage, in many ways, actually restricts the independence and freedom of women?

Justin: A little bit, yes.

Me: Do you feel a woman should be able to study, work, travel the city, without fear of sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of her gender?

Justin: Yes.

Me: Congratulations! You’re a feminist!

Its interesting to note that after this conversation, Justin explained that she didn’t want to be one of those women screeching on and on about how men are horrible and how you hate men. I often forget how often, and how easily, feminist women are stereotyped as “man-haters” or my personal favorite, “man-hating lesbians”. What’s even more amusing is that feminism isn’t a system that promotes inequality of the sexes, it strives to bring a balance between the genders, removing men from their disadvantaged, male privilege, women from their inferior chattel status, and putting them both on equal footing. It would stand to reason that any attempts to discredit feminism can only stem from a desire of male privilege prevailing. After all, many women do prefer to be “taken care of” in a patriarchal system. (What, you thought only men were misogynists? Some of the biggest misogynists I know are women.)

The kind of thinking that would lead to many women who would actually serve as excellent feminist role models viewing feminism with contempt is best illustrated by a hasty illustration, courtesy of Shumaila from Mellow Creativity. Originally made for an article she contributed to my final year project, I’ve been itching for the chance to share it.

Image

I’ve refrained from blogging for a while because I felt as if I was lapsing into a routine about ranting on feminist issues. Speaking for women’s rights is a great thing; becoming a serial ranter is not. But I absolutely must share this with the general public, its a conversation I had with a girl on my Facebook, and I think its a classic example of the submissive mentality that women in Pakistan suffer from.

R: (Facebook status update) “Yes, I’m a female. I push doors that clearly say PULL. I laugh harder when I try to explain why I’m laughing. I walk into a room and forget why I was there. I count on my fingers. I hide pain from my loved ones. I say it is a long story, when it really is not, just to get out of having to tell it. I cry a lot more than you think I do. I care about people who don’t care about me. I am strong because I have to be, not because I want to be. I listen to you, even when you don’t listen to me. And a hug will always help. Yes, I am a Female, and i am proud of it! ♥ Re-post if you’re a female and proud of it.”

Me: Wow, so you’re proud to fulfil every single negative stereotype there is about women in a society that is strongly, determinedly patriarchal? One giant step backward for every single Pakistani feminist risking everything to ensure that morons like you receive their rights.

R: (deletes my comment, posts on wall) Everyone has their own opinions and you should learn to respect that. I hope you understand what I mean.

Me: (on her wall) Why? I don’t agree with your opinion, nor do I respect it. There’s nothing to respect about being proud of amnesia and counting on your fingers childishly, which aren’t particularly positive traits. While you may own up to them yourself you really shouldn’t generalise them for the female sex, which suffers from enough negative generalisations already. In fact, pretty much all the things on that list are fairly negative traits. Why would anyone be proud of them? And even if you are, good for you, but please don’t say or even think that they apply to a larger population. Positivity about being female is good, but can be derived from much more flattering traits, such as the fact that we suffer so bloody much in society but we’re still on our feet and fighting – our courage in the face of adversity, our determination to achieve rights long denied, our tenacity in the face of adverse circumstances so severe in some places that women might as well be a different caste. And lastly, as a feminist, I reserve the right to call out both men and women for promoting sexist, negative stereotypes of women, and that too on a public forum.

(less than 24 hours, R deletes me)

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say anymore. How can a woman degrade herself so easily? How can a woman mock herself? How can a woman percieve herself as flawed, full of negative stereotypes, and accept it as part of being female?

Women are strong.

They’re smart.

They’re brave.

They’re talented.

They have the ability to suffer the worst things in life, and still remain strong and brave.

Women can work. They can vote. They can sue anyone who harasses them in the workplace. They can fight for justice if they are abused in any way. They can sleep easier knowing their rapist is behind bars. They can choose whether they want to give birth or abort. They can and will have financial rights. They can get married on their own conditions. They can attain as much education as they want. They can become doctors, teachers, lawyers, writers, social workers, businesswomen, entrepreneurs, heck, they can actually pursue any career that men pursue! Gadzooks! They can fight sexism and challenge misogynist perceptions about women as the weak, inferior sex every single day because guess what? Believing that is as ridiculous as well, believing that faeries live in the sky.

And if you need further proof, lets take a glance at history, and present-day, and see some of the women that defy cultural and social stereotypes to become great people.

Susan B. Anthony. “Men, their rights, and nothing more, women, their rights, and nothing less”. Among other things, the Susan B. Anthony became the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, allowing women the right vote, as well as being an abolitionist.

Simone de Beauvoir: Feminist, philosopher, and writer. Interestingly, in her book “The Second Sex”, Simone discusses how men stereotype women and thus organize society into a patriarchy.

Marie Curie: First women to win a Nobel Prize, first person to win two Nobel Prizes.

Margaret Fuller: Journalist, critic, women’s right advocate, author of the first American text on feminism.

Helen Keller: Deaf, blind, and dumb, Helen still lived a remarkable life as a prominent socialist and suffragette.

Rosa Parks: In 1955, as Rosa Parks tiredly made her way home in a bus, a white man told her to  give up her seat for him, since as a white man, he had superiority over the black Rosa Parks. Rosa refuses. And so began the American Civil Rights Movement, which resulted in African-Americans receiving the same civil rights as any white citizen of the United States.

Eleanor Roosevelt: Writer, chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights, co-founder of Freedom House.

Gloria Steinem: American writer, journalist, and feminist, who has written in support of reproductive freedom, a term she coined, created awareness about genital mutilation, advocates same-sex marriage, and supported the Equal Rights Amendment.

Harriet Beecher Stowe: Writer of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she was referred to jokingly by Abraham Lincoln as “the little lady that started the Civil War”.

Nabiha Meher Sheikh: Blogger, writer, teacher, feminist, activist, and one of my idols.

Sherry Rehman: Journalist, politician, and current Pakistani ambassador to the United States, and a strong advocate of women’s rights in Pakistan.

Naseem Hamid: First woman to win the South Asian Federation Games 100 mile sprint in its entire history. at the age of 22, no less.

Sana Bucha: Journalist and anchor for Geo News “Lekin”.

Ayesha Siddiqua: Journalist, writer, military analyst, and visiting scholar at John Hopkins University.

Tehmina Durrani: Writer and social worker, author of My Feudal Lord,  works for rehabilitation of abused women.

Bilquis Edhi: Humanitarian and social worker. Wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Asma Jahangir: Lawyer, president of Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, human rights activist, advocate for minority rights, author if several publications as well as two books.

Nefer Sehgal: Photographer for the Express Tribune, Nefer has dodged bullets, played arcade games at Lyari, traveled to Badin, and… you know what, a couple of lines won’t do her justice.

Aamina Jahangir: An entrepreneur at the age of 17, today at 21, Aamina is a savvy businesswomen, and on her way to opening her very own cafe/bakery. At 21. Yes, you heard that right. 21. That’s how old she is. You know how old she was when she started running  her own business? 17. When she was still at school.

Some of the women on the latter half of the list are friends, or at least people I know. That doesn’t create a bias, it gives me firsthand insight into what incredible women they all are.

So a little postscript to R, who inspired this blogpost: While you’re busy giggling over how silly and inferior and stupid and ditzy you are, rest assured; there are plenty of women to prove how wrong idiots like you are.