Most Pakistanis I’ve come across don’t believe in feminism, don’t have a stance when it comes to feminism or simply don’t care enough to have an opinion of what feminism is. And let me be honest, most of these Pakistanis are women.
I’ve noticed that whenever I am surrounded by Pakistanis who come to know that I am a feminist, it becomes a joke.
“What is that even, a feminist?”
“I don’t believe in this feminism stuff, women are just bored.”
“Are you really a feminist?”
I don’t take any of these remarks personally because I truly believe that my fellow Pakistanis do not understand feminism. Belonging to a culture that is so rooted in systemic patriarchy and is struggling to dismantle traditional gender roles in which women are subordinate to men, I understand why feminism is a foreign ideology and one that just doesn’t want to be understood.
When I say I’m a feminist, I am in no way saying that I hate men. What I am saying is that I believe that women be given equal opportunities as men, that they are treated with the same regard and respect as men, that they are able to choose the lifestyle they want to lead without society favouring the efforts of men more than women. That the society which has for too long been structured to cater to a man’s needs and wants to shift this backward focus to cater to a woman’s need and wants as well.
Really, that’s all there is to feminism.
For someone who has grown up in a Pakistani household and has visited Pakistan numerous times, I can tell you that both places are not ideal for a feminist. Countless times have I heard men speak of how they wish women should act and what their roles should be. In both instances, men speak as if they have the right to prescribe women specific gender roles. Growing up as the only girl, I’ve definitely felt a difference in the way my parents have raised me versus my brothers. And whenever I have questioned this discrimination, it always trickles down to
“We trust you, but not the world around you.”
And so, this makes me ponder — are we not part of the world around us?
If we don’t break the harmful norms that bring about the danger to a woman’s wellbeing then who will? If a woman is asking for her right to an education, the opportunity to compete at a workplace, the chance to be both a mom and an office woman — will the world around her ever be just enough to allow her to do it? Will the world around her make it easy?
Every society has its drawbacks. Every culture has setbacks. But every society and every culture should not share the way in which they treat their women — as second class citizens. I have yet to see society or culture that values a woman just as much as it values a man — both in the home and workplace. As hard as it is being a feminist when you’re both a Pakistani and American, I believe that as long as I engrain the fundamentals of feminism as part of my identity, I’ll continue to show those around me that feminism demands equality. Really, that's all a feminist believes in.