To say that I was surprised at what a woman said on national television, while in company with other women, about how divorce rates are higher than before because women aren’t staying quiet in the face of atrocity and oppression would be an overstatement. I wasn’t surprised at her. Not only have I met many such Mrs. Khans, I have also been a victim to them. The life of a Pakistani woman isn’t very different from woman to woman. We all face misogyny and patriarchy in some form and are truly blessed sometimes with supreme naïveté to not identify it. We are also sometimes blessed with an amazingly inherent, genetic and in-built version of indifference to it. Some of us are so blessed in how we can easily become a part of it by having a penchant to look for newer and faster ways to conform to misogyny and patriarchy.
But some of us aren’t so lucky. Trust me this isn’t sarcasm because my life is almost a 180 from what it would’ve been if I could just say yes to misogyny. If I could just accept how my tongue is my worst body part I would have been a happier, more likable person. If I could just stop myself from treating misogynists exactly how they should be treated my husband wouldn’t have had to give up on so many relationships and friendships. I have been truly unfortunate in how nature forgot to build me with an automatic lock on my tongue. But that I could forgive nature for. What I can’t forgive nature for is the amount of brains it gave me, then a society that thinks my brains should’ve been replaced with dung and then a set of parents who instilled self-esteem and self-awareness in me.
Because oppression truly has to happen a hundred percent in order to be successful. You have to be born to submissive parents who have been told for years that bearing a girl-child would be the biggest test that nature could prepare for them. You have to be raised with the constant reminder that before you’re a human, you’re a woman and even though humans have rights, women don’t have the same rights. This message needs to be driven deep because women can’t think of themselves as humans. Women thinking of themselves as sub-human beings and non-humans is the carefully woven fabric of the society that Mrs. Khans et. al are so proud of .
So my true misfortune didn’t start when I started using my brains. My true misfortune started many years ago when an independent feminist married another feminist. Together they gave birth to me. Together they raised me. And even though my mother questioned her parenting a lot when she saw how it was landing me in regular hot waters with society, my father squashed all her doubts by saying that I was exactly how I was expected to be. Slowly my mom became okay with it. Slowly she even became proud of it. But then she saw Mrs. Khan’s interview on TV where she belittled women and their thinking capacity and asked me if I’d ever blame her in the event my mouth got me into trouble with my husband. I’ll tell you what I told her,
“Weak men find comfort in weak women. Strong men don’t find comfort in weak women. When strong men meet weak women they tend to do exactly what women do when they meet a weak man. They can’t connect. The relationship disintegrates and ultimately dissolves completely. Any woman who is quiet in the face of atrocity isn’t quiet because she is a product of patriarchy and misogyny and therefore weak and unaware of her strength. It’s because she’s married to a product of patriarchy and misogyny. And what’s weaker than a woman borne of misogyny is a man borne of patriarchy. So I’ll be okay with my husband. Because he has six sisters whom he tells everyday to not forget to count on him when they need him. He has an autistic daughter that he champions for everyday and asks for equity, equality and inclusion. Because he has a wife whom he has supported in the face of open opposition in being her own person. So I’ll be okay because neither of us were borne of misogyny and neither of us own patriarchy. We both think and act independently and love each other independently too. Strong men make strong women and strong women make strong men. Holding our tongue perpetuates the cycle of oppression. It doesn’t add to a man’s status. It actually is demeaning to him when we ask his wife to be a maid of sorts to him. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, raising kids, tag teaming are the basic asks of life from two partners. And these can be done very well by maintaining our identity and individuality. These don’t have to be oppressive, dictatorial operations”.