Screaming from the margins

Published: August 14, 2010

Is it wrong for women to question the status quo?

Persecution doesn’t always have to be physical. I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors of being physically abused, which is a daily reality for millions of women (and men) all around me (although the threat of that too is omnipresent), but there is a more subtle kind of persecution that absolutely none of us escape. Being a woman is bad enough, but if you are a woman and a hardcore feminist (and perhaps a few other progressive things along with that), well than god be with you.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not a women versus. men thing. I almost wish it was then it would have been infinitely simpler. I feel just as harrassed by other women for my beliefs than I am by men. I see how women (extremely educated women that is, who supposedly know their rights) rationalize their own oppression and it’s disgusting. And even more disgusting is how they rationalize oppressing other women! It is reminiscent of the complaint of the “natives” in post-colonized countries that their local brown sahibs are somehow even more cruel than the gora sahibs were.

So here’s how it rolls. They find out that you identitfy yourself with the forbidden F-word, and lo and behold, they begin to see you in a new light (or shall i say a whole load of darkness?). First they’ll stare at you like you’re bonkers. Then they’ll start to laugh. Overtime, the jokes would cease to be jokes and you’ll realize you have been permenantly castigated: put in a box and labelled the loose woman, the girl you don’t really want your family to meet for who knows what maddness comes out of her mouth?

Ofcourse you deserved all that. How dare you question authority? How dare you find fault with traditional wisdom? How dare you propose the same moral values for women as men? How dare you demand absolute freedom? How dare you point out that marriage and family are extremely oppressive institutions meant for controlling women’s sexuality, cashing in on their free labor power and limiting their intellectual and political development?

Plus its all in your head anyway.

The propositions they come up with are often mindboggling. Take for instance the premise that men always need to marry younger women because guess what, women age quicker. On my protesting, the sophomore at my university tells me in all seriousness that I need to stop bullshitting because this is biology and perhaps I should go ask my mom. (Perhaps I should. Considering she’s a little older than my dad and isn’t any wrinklier than him, I really wonder what she’ll say).

And these are people lucky enough to be studying social sciences at an elite institute. Makes me wonder, were these kids sleeping when the instructor mentioned something called “social construction”? Or how about “truth regimes”? Maybe not. Maybe they just choose to ignore it. For being introduced to radical social criticism at university is simply too late for most people. Its the hardest thing in the world to get rid of  the prejudices you have been fed on for your first 18 years. Not everyone’s piece of cake.

So where does that leave those few of us who were unfortunate enough to have ‘opened up their minds’? In a ditch, so to speak. I keep wondering how is it my fault if other people are too dumb or lazy or apathetic to think for themselves? Well, i guess its not. But I’m starting to realize that there is serious catch to being progressive and questioning social norms: long before you become a serious threat to your enemies, you would have already become a serious joke to your friends.

I’m reminded of the words of an instructor, herself a feminist and an LGBT rights activist. As I complained about how outlawed sometimes I felt, she replied:

“Ofcourse they will marginalize us. They will hurt us, ridicule us, even ignore us. But what will we do? It’s better to have a tiny voice then no voice at all. We can’t give in, we can’t stop being ourselves. We have to and we will continue screaming…even if we are only screaming from the margins!”


Sonia Qadir

A law student at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.