Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pakistani women (and bringing my pakistani housewife fantasy back to earth)

So I haven't really been keeping up with pakistani politics, and I do care so I am a little bothered about not knowing what I am talking about and not knowing what to believe (though I do think all this celebration over Musharraf resigning and support of PPP is a little short sighted and naive on the "liberal"'s part)... which is all well and good (or not) ... But on a separate topic, I realized something about the not so liberal portions of pakistani society (which I have known for years, but I guess I finally articulated it in a succinct form in my head):

1) The ones that aren't very "westernized" are super insecure about not being "westernized enough".

(-> And others are trying to "take back" the idea, and be proud of their heritage which is great, but at the same time it is sad because most of the ones that are doing that are the more westernized ones (which usually also means, the more privileged ones), rather than the ones who need to start being proud of their heritage - but it's a step in the right direction i.e. towards stopping self hatred).

2) Within the group of insecure people, the men are incredibly sexist, which may have to do with being insecure about losing their hold over the one thing they can feel superior to - women (and other typical sexist macho crap).

Of course, some women are allowed to be smart... I am sure you can guess why though. If you are androgynous enough, then you are allowed.

but pretty AND smart? No f-ing way!

Anywho, this leads to an awkward situation when hanging out with family members who fall into this category. When you challenge the sexist status quo, when you dare to have an opinion or thoughts or you demonstrate an interest in intellectual debate, you are immediately put down or mocked. So then if you try to protest or stand up for yourself, the other WOMEN will call you naive and immature and laraka and bewaqoof etc.

This is probably a combination of two things:
i) Misery loves company. If I cant have an opinion, you shouldn't get to have one either!
ii) Peace. We are financially dependent on the men, so stop being an idiot and pissing them off. Let them think they are smarter.

At which point, you have a few options:

you either have to concede that you are the naive, silly girl who thinks she is allowed to have a brain and as a way of showing your "maturity" start sticking to safe topics.

be labeled someone who thinks she is better because she is "westernized".

be labeled a naive trouble maker (ghuswar, bad-mizaaj).

So yeah.. I am ashamed to say that I took the first lameo option... Of course, the only way I can live with that option is by living far far away.

But now that I have put all this down I am realising there might be other, less obvious options, which I guess I didnt have when I was a teenage girl living in Pakistan. You can actually be the older, wiser, more mature person and try to make changes.

This involves, first of all, to NOT estrange the idiots who are allowing the status quo to continue thriving, cuz then they won't be interested in listening to you. You don't respect people, they don't give a shit about your opinion, it's as simple as that. And fair enough this respect won't be sincere, but it should be. You want to change society, not hate and destroy it. You don't hate the people, you hate the culture. Just remember that.

Second of all, it involves having a little patience, being persistent, but don't expect changes to happen overnight.

That's it.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough I was talking the other day with a young irish catholic woman who grew up in the final years of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland. One of the things she told me was that North Irish Women (specifically the wives of the IRA but others too) were amongst the loudest anti-peace voices. Not sure if this is similar to the mentality in Pakistan but your post made me think of it.

Thakki Patang said...

I am not sure. Cuz honestly this posting was based on my family i.e. Urdu-speaking Mahajir Pakistanis - <-read super repressed->. I would think the Punjabi and Pakhtoon women are probably more like the Irish Catholics.

Anonymous said...