Image by United Nations Photo via Flickr
She must be allowed to be who she truly is and not be defined by labels awarded to her.
I speak of this having seen patriarchal Pakistan and other Middle Eastern-esque social systems such as Afghanistan dealing with their women differently. I do know that culturally Middle Eastern countries like to label their women and have strictly defined roles for every woman to fill, regardless of her personality and need to be who she really is. Should she dare try to define any given role in terms of her individuality, she runs the risk of being called a whore, which she is anyway since she is a woman, but you know it becomes official once she takes the initiative to do things her way.
I must make myself clear that I am differentiating between all women, from women living in Middle Eastern-esque societies. Because it means different things to be treated unfairly in the United States. Here, unfair treatment would mean things like not being paid as much as a man would be paid for doing the same work or not being able to move as far along a career path as a man would, in the same line of work. Which granted, is unfair to women in the United States, but quite honestly not of my primary concern here. Because I do believe things are changing for women in the US, and I think women do what they want, and achieve as much as men do. Which is great. They can do whatever they want, with whomever they want to, whenever they want. Awesome, it should be that way. It makes me happy that it is so, since a woman is essentially as willed of a human being as a man is.
Thus I do not count women in the United States as being particularly prevented from being who they want to be. Going back to my concern for women from Middle Eastern cultures. The disparity in the attitude towards a woman varies between subcultures within a culture too. All women are not underprivileged the same way. Some experience a more relaxed social atmosphere and much more acceptance for being who she is, while others can find themselves dealing with harsh punishments for things she has no idea she has done wrong.
For example, while living in Pakistan, the subculture that I lived in was breathable in comparison to what the Pakistani woman living in rural Punjab could experience. Think Mukhtar Mai, who was gang raped and marched around the village naked for a social misappropriation she did not commit.
Within the same country, the overall attitude towards women, mildly put, is quite impaired. It bothers me, this unevenness. I wish something would be done. I’d like to magically wipe away the spots.
I don’t believe in fighting or violence. Those things produce unfruitful results and consequences that are far worse than the root issue. I think the most effective and most needed form of change must be achieved within a woman’s head.
Just like right here, I’m saying I want to think about being a Pakistani woman in a positive, liberated way, so that no matter what my situation may be, I perform exactly as I wish, within my own capacity. I will define how to play a role I choose for myself, not you. If I’m a mother, I’ll decide how to raise my children (I’m not a mother, but if/when I am, this shall apply). As a daughter I already choose what I want to do with myself, taking in to consideration my parents loving advice, but choosing for myself ultimately what I know I most need to do to be who I am.
It is important to make sure that as a woman I recognize, cultivate and foster my individuality since the sum of all of the above is who I will always be regardless of country of origin. Yes, I am a Pakistani woman, but I cant let my Pakistani-ness alone by my only identity; as it can either translate as an oppressed woman, or a woman fighting oppression. I am both and I’m neither of the two at once.
Although I can not run away from who I am and what I have seen of Pakistani women living lives chosen not for themselves. I can know that I am someone more than a statistic, or a news piece. I choose to be known for my works, my thoughts, my words, my decisions, my views and my desires for myself. I want to give expression to who I really am. I want to be happy just like any other living person, and I want to do it my way, because that is what I most desire to do.
Every woman must choose the same for herself, being honest and truthful to who she really is, and conducting her life making sure she is picking out and playing the roles she knows she is meant to play. And choosing how she wants to play them. That, in my opinion is true liberation.
P.S: I’m writing this because I had a dream this morning concerning Pakistani and Afghani women. It had to do with what I just wrote.