Stories about sexism

Why I teach my daughter to raise her hand

Upon her return home from school, I asked my daughter whether or not she raises her hand in class, to which she replied,  “Yes mom, I did,” she said. “In fact, I raise my hand all the time now, even when I am not sure if I have the right answer.” I can’t describe how proud I am that my daughter raises her hand to speak up. Not being sure of the answer is fine by me, as long as she takes a risk and tries anyway. On the contrary, I would be a little upset if she would not engage and ...

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Battling for votes: Mud-slinging and the maa-behen dilemma

I walked into my house on a very crisp and warm evening this week, only to find that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had passed disgusting comments about the women who attended the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Lahore jalsa, on their apparent ‘character’. The crude statements targeted women who participated in the PTI rally and Member National Assembly (MNA) Shireen Mazari. Where Sanaullah raised ‘concerns’ over the ‘character’ of PTI’s women supporters, Abid Sher Ali’s tirade elaborated the scuffle between him and MNA Murad Saeed during the parliament’s budget session on April 27. Unsurprisingly, the comments received severe backlash from all ...

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When you don’t wear makeup to work and get asked, “beemar ho?”

I rarely wear makeup to work. Most days, I wear none. Not even BB cream, or eyeliner, or even a basic sort of lipstick. I don’t wear makeup, and I get asked about it, every single day. “Kya hua, kisi se larayi hui hai?” (What happened, have you had a fight with someone?) “Thori si lipstick tou laga lo, acha lagta hai.” (Put some lipstick on at least, it looks nice.) “You don’t want people to think you don’t care about your appearance.” “Listen, women should put some effort into their looks. Istarah achi image thori jaata hai.” (Otherwise it doesn’t present a good image.) “Dekho; presentation ...

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“Dua karo iss dafa beta ho” – Is being a ‘beti’ really the curse it’s made out to be?

Being the fourth daughter my parents were blessed with, I always used to ask them if they had ever wished I had been born a boy. I spent a lot of time wondering if, after having three girls, they were disappointed to see yet another daughter instead of a son. To my relief, my parents always responded to this question with a resounding ‘no’. Rather, they would get surprised and question me instead on the kind of nonsense that fills up my brain with questions such as these.   It is true that I have never felt loved any less by ...

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Women empowerment in rural Balochistan: Applause is louder and real when men and women clap together as equals

In December 2017, I paid a visit to the Kech District in Balochistan, during which I had a very stimulating interaction with members of the community organisations formed by the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP). However, the biggest surprise for me undeniably was to see the social mobilisation of local women, as they participated in the meetings alongside the male members of their village. Such a high rate of female participation in these meetings was a shock, to say the least, particularly given the conservative nature of the province of Balochistan. Decision-making here is a domain solely belonging to its men, ...

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The Pakistani male conundrum: If you date a girl, don’t marry her

“Yaar ab aisi larki se shaadi thori karsaktay hain!” (One cannot possibly marry such a girl!) “Yaar wo Sunni hai or mein Shia; meray ghar walay kabhi nahi manein gay.” (She is a Sunni and I am a Shia; my family will never agree.) “Aisi larkian toh sirf time pass hoti hain; shaadi thori kartay hain in say.” (Such girls are there for fun, to pass the time only; you are not supposed to marry them.) “Ammi abbu nahi manein gay. Wo hamari zaat ki nahi hai.” (My mom and dad won’t agree. She doesn’t belong to our caste.) These comments, unsurprisingly, came from some of my very ...

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I boycotted IoBM’s convocation because of its prevalent misogyny and commercialisation

It was a day I wanted to dedicate to my parents; a day which would have made me realise that I am a normal person – a knowledge seeker who loved to study and who managed to not get the label of a ‘drop out’. It was a day which would have amassed all the bits of happiness from the six years of exhaustive struggle of getting a university education, finally making me smile cheerfully. But no, I had to stand by the principles I had learnt all these years, while studying independently as well as at my college, and ...

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Why hypermasculinity is ruining the boys and men of today

My little brother and I have always been close, even when we were little babies. I’ve watched him grow from a chubby, cuddly little toddler to a tanned, jaunty middle school boy. As he matures in this world, I sometimes get the urge to protect him from the harsh aspects of reality. Realistically, this is impossible. No matter how much I want to consider him as my “little kitty”, I know that I can’t shelter him from all the horrible things in the world, like pain or injustice. It bothers me to no end that he will, if he hasn’t ...

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No, my ripped jeans do not allow you to believe that it is your right to harass and rape me

They are just clothes, I tell my father, when he passes a comment about my ripped jeans. He doesn’t understand – perhaps he never will. I run my hands along the tiny rips, feeling bits of skin and wondering if the freedom I feel is the oppression they want me to see. I see my legs in a pair of jeans, they see skin that is fighting the patriarchy. I see my choice, they see my rebellion. On November 3, 2017, Egyptian lawyer, Nabih al-Wahsh, stated that any woman wearing ripped jeans deserves to be harassed and raped. He ...

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Why I choose not to speak up and say #MeToo

Social media is surreal most of the time; however, this past week has seemed more unreal than usual. My timeline on every social media platform has been flooded, or dare I say bombarded, with #MeToo status updates, tweets and posts. The hashtag went viral after American actress Alyssa Milano tweeted it to encourage more women to come forward with their experiences with sexual harassment, in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal that shook Hollywood. If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n — Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017 My feelings on this hashtag, which ...

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