By Mariam Goraya
22 November 2012
Forget male misogynists; let us first talk about female misogynists. Alice Albinia in her book ‘Empires of the Indus’ rightly points out, that most ardent upholders of traditional faith in Pakistan are the housewives.
No wonder that the first person to teach you (rather enforce upon you) how to compromise, when to keep your mouth shut and wait for your turn before putting food in your plate is indeed your own mother. The first one to proclaim you a slut for wearing jeans in college is your female class fellow and last but not the least; first one to judge you or reject you as potential Bahu Rani on the basis of your character is a Rishta Aunty as uncles only come along to tell how tasty Samosas were.
Just like extremist mindset, education or class has made no difference at all when it comes to challenging gender bias and female doormat mentality. It is naïve to expect that supposedly ‘independent’ woman would not judge her female counterparts on the basis of the length of her sleeves and worse if a female colleague of hers is ‘caught’ on a date. Not to forget that it was Maya Khan (a woman and not some male Maulvi) along with her squad of righteous aunties who decided to chase young lose girls dating in public parks.
For woman in Pakistan everything can go as perfectly as it can get within the limited and selective definition of Feminism we have, i.e. she can be a highly educated, highly paid individual but that wouldn’t make her remind her brother that it’s his turn to wash the dishes today because it’s beyond her comprehension. That wouldn’t prevent her from spending endless hours in the kitchen alone while her husband patiently waits for the dinner to be served. Her education wouldn’t help any bit for buying an expensive dress of her choice, because her favourite colour is indeed the favourite colour of her hubby in the first place. Needless to say, her better half is also her parent’s choice.
Contrary to the impression it’s giving, No, there is nothing miserable about her life. There is no gap for the choices she is supposed to make, as she is free to decide what she is going to cook for the day, sabzi or aloo gosht? Provided that her hubby was too busy in giving an opinion that day.
After all, that’s all what she had asked from her life, not to mention that she is absolutely content and proud of what she has achieved so far, that is: a marriage certificate at the age of 21 and several kids. This is where she fits in the process of evolution; free to move but not enough to shake the status quo. Therefore she has chosen her battles (if that’s how we like to think) wisely. After all who wants to end up living alone with their pets for being too strong headed?
This is where the dilemma of feminism in Pakistan lies. Feminists, it seems to me, only ask for rights that will liberate them on selective occasions but miserably fail to come in the way of a man’s right to slap her and her inability to hit him back at the least. As women we might stand for our rights but only when we have acknowledged a man’s right to rape someone who was being too ‘out’.
As a result we have women who can pass as all-rounders, multi taskers and even women rights workers, but a sad disappointment when it comes to being a feminist refusing to do the chores alone and telling her hubby to make her a sandwich instead because she feels like watching her favourite show on the TV. Consequently even an effort to challenge stereotypes and misogynistic attitudes is executed from a male perspective and not how women will take it. For example, a standard logic often used by both women rights workers and ‘normal lot’ is; ‘don’t harass women because one day your sister might as well face the same problem’. Instead of, ‘don't harass because it’s outright unethical and you are an ill-mannered prick for doing so’.
As if sexist men weren’t enough to judge us, at least I need a break from supposedly ‘pakeeza kahawateens’ to stop passing remarks at my back for something as personal as my dress. No wait; there is actually a list of things we as women badly need to stop pretending. Here it goes:
Pakistani women need to get over this Naik Parveen complex and stop pretending as aliens from mars without emotions while secretly wishing to look as sexy as Kareena or for that matter Veena does. Stop pretending as queen of morality, while secretly having a relationship and in the meanwhile harshly denouncing that lose character girl who did not care to go an extra mile to hide her affairs (yes that happens, I didn’t make this up). Stop pretending that you are capable of falling in love within two minutes as soon as the ‘rishta-pakka’ signal goes green. Last but not the least; stop pretending that the hen’s den you choose to live in is made for humans (No, that’s for hens only). After all we have as much right and capability of fulfilling our needs and wishes as our male counterparts!
Mariam Goraya is an annoying liberal Fascist and a feminist whiner and has special interest in political satire, feminism, Indo-Pak history. She is studying Masters in Environmental Science in University of Cologne.