Stories about social pressures

When a dupatta and a nose ring become agents of patriarchy

Coming from a conservative Muslim family where your male cousins won’t even look at you if you are not wearing a dupatta, I have always felt that my body was constantly scrutinised and kept under the male gaze. Forcing clothing around my breasts and a silver wire around my nose was equivalent to patriarchy establishing its territory. My gender which is deemed to be the ‘lesser one’ was expected to wear a sexualised cloth and a ring in order to assert my cultural identity as it makes me ‘unique’ and less ‘westernised’. Women and their bodies have always been pedestalised to ...

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Let the women of Iran take off their hijabs, give them the right to choose!

Where citizens are forced to abide by the norms of a certain culture, disrespect for that culture for the mere sake of disrespect, becomes a mode of resistance. Thousands of Iranian women are posting pictures of themselves online with their hijabs removed, as part of a rapidly growing movement across the country. Last year, an Iranian journalist, Masih Alinejad, in an act of defiance of her nation’s ultra-conservative culture, posted a picture of herself on Facebook without her hijab. She launched a Facebook group – ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ – which has now snowballed into a movement of over 800,000 followers, inspiring thousands of Iranian women to ...

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Does your child deserve a lower grade because he is an introvert?

Our society consists of an extrovert-dominated culture and students usually realise this when they enter an education system. However, it is not until after their university life that they are able to grasp the true magnitude of this trend. Teachers endorse a societal prejudice against introverts by valuing and praising students who are more expressive, communicative and vocal. The general perception amongst teachers is that introversion is something that needs to be overcome. The attitude of students is no better; introverts are looked down upon and treated as if there is something wrong with them or that they are somehow inferior to others. I ...

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If I am an introvert will society not accept me?

My mother, in that vexing and endearing way in which mothers operate, called me up recently to confide about my brother’s faltering performance at school. Concerned, I inquired about this new development to which I got the following response: “His teacher says that he doesn’t participate in class. She says he’s just average.” I was dumbfounded, not because my brother had under-performed but as to how the criteria for being ‘average’ had been relegated to class participation. I had to ask myself – what ever happened in this socially constipated century that has us so vehemently convinced of the inferiority of introversion? Introversion, for a ...

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An innie in an outie’s world

Growing up, I was such a quiet child, especially compared to my loud, older sisters that my parents would often forget me. They sometimes failed to remember they had a third child. Once, they lost me at a supermarket and realised it when the store manager called. Had it not been for him, I’d be a feral child living in aisle six gorging on cereal and candy bars for the rest of my life. No offense to my parents, they just didn’t know what to do with a little person like me. Innately introverted Had someone explained to them that I was innately ...

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11 rules for the Pakistani do-gooder

There’s much to be said about the spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy, so deeply ingrained in desi culture. In a material world, it’s great to see people making the effort to venture beyond their personal spheres.  Before leaving one’s comfort zone, however, it might be important to be a little prepared. This is true not only for the good-hearted burger-bachas, but also their proactive supervisors, armed to the teeth with terrifyingly good intentions.  After squirming in my shoes watching just such an army of angels at work, I thought it might be useful to have a Community Service Orientation Pack, ...

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Fat people have feelings too!

It has been observed that obese individuals are the last people on Earth you can make fun of without a strong legal or social backlash. I concur with that observation. Having a weight problem myself, I understand what it’s like to be at constant war with one’s own physical form. My day starts with me standing in front of the mirror, and staring at a round face, wearing an expression of sheer disappointment. I suck in my tummy hoping that it improves the way I look. It does not. On my way to my university, I can sense hundreds of judgmental ...

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Female genital mutilation in Pakistan, and beyond

Warning: The following article contains information that readers may find uncomfortable or disturbing to read “Female genital mutilation is a torture, not a culture.” Alice Walker According to the World Health Organisation, female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined as all “procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The process is carried out for a wide number of reasons, none of which have positive health implications. As a social cause, young girls and their families are pressurized to surrender to the tradition of FGM that has been carried out ...

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Money 101: When cash ruins relationships

Amir and Kyran are college buddies; they shared the proverbial dhabay ki chai during their skint student days and were quite comfortable sharing their monetary (or lack of) woes. Three years after graduation, Amir is a rising star in a leading investment bank and Kyran is a do-gooder in the non-profit sector working for the betterment of Pakistani women. Sheer finances have managed to complicate this relationship which has survived difficult parents, three break ups, erratic bosses and so on. Kyran’s income is roughly half of what Amir takes home. While she does enjoy going to fancy restaurants once in a while, ...

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If you’re ‘fair and innocent’, will you marry my son?

A few weeks ago, I went to a wedding where upon introduction, an aunty made the following comment: “Oh, beta how wonderful to see you’ve done your MBA.  But why aren’t you married yet?” The “why aren’t u married yet” was repeated in a derogatory tone as I was dragged to meet another aunty. This aunty seemed to be looking for a “suitable” wife for her son who  was living in America. Her plan was to short list 5-8 girls for her son, who would be visiting Pakistan for just a week, so she could ask him to choose one ...

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