I had a conversation with a Danish woman recently about patriarchal societies and the different ethnic women that reside in them. The woman I was speaking to had lived in Pakistan for 4 months (I thought that was cool. I’m Pakistani and I’ve only been in Pakistan for 2 weeks at a time lol), and so she was telling me about her experiences in Pakistan with regards to it being a patriarchal social system.
She mentioned how she noticed that Pakistani women, are more rebellious in their mindsets and opinions, than Muslim women from other cultures (in her experience). – I couldn’t help but to think, that it must be a result of Pakistan being such a regressive country as a whole. I constantly see bloggers from Pakistan (as in bloggers that live in Pakistan) voicing their opinions in the attempt of dismantling the patriarchal system and inferiority complex that exists between man and woman, whereas I haven’t actually seen Muslim bloggers from other countries doing the same (let me know if I’m wrong), which I guess is a sign that patriarchy isn’t evident enough where they live, for it to be an issue? – I totally see it though, I mean, I can get frustrated about A LOT of things that take place in South Asian cultures, whereas my friends who’re not South Asian don’t experience the same, and therefore can’t relate to my rebellious self – and sometimes I stand back, wondering if I’m over exaggerating and being a “dumb feminist”, so to speak.
This whole conversation I had with the Danish woman, really had me wondering what made intersectional feminism come into existence for me. I think it’s important to talk about, because we all talk about being feminists and standing for dismantling oppression and mysogynism, but we should also come forward with our experiences, and the situations that molded us into the women we like to believe we are today. For me personally, I feel like I’ve just always kind of had it in me? It came natural to me, to have a mindset of my own in situations where it would be more “appropriate” to keep quite, or shut up, basically. I’d like to say that I’ve been lucky though. I’m not born in a home where my life is literally in danger for doing things/thinking differently (yes, women’s/girl’s lives are in danger in a lot of South Asian households) – If I was born in a home where my life would be at stake for having an opinion, I wouldn’t be able to blog, let alone publish my own book. I’ve experienced this overall inferiority complex, that a woman is less intelligent than a man and therefore her opinions are not valid. Every time there would occur a discussion in my home, I was told to be quite and that would PISS ME OFF. My input could’ve perhaps helped, you know? Why should I be quite? Keep in mind I’m the eldest sibling (I have 2 little brothers), and although I’m the eldest, my little brother would get validation straight away upon voicing his opinions, simply because he’s a boy? I’m highlighting the fact that I’m elder, because it confirms that the issue lies in the male superiority mindset and not in the age-gap between my brother and I. Thankfully that’s changed now though. Every one holds the right to voice their opinions in family matters without being disregarded because of their gender.
My mother had been trying to work since she came to Denmark, and it never worked out for her. She had to set aside her ambitions, her identity, her wishes, to nurture sexist ideas, literally. This whole idea, that a woman’s true purpose is to cook and look out for children is a VERY evident mindset amongst our lovely men. That’s what I grew up seeing, mainly. My mother trying to work and be a housewife at the same time, and in the end giving up. Nothing is possible without compromise, and our men are not the best at compromising, although they expect women to compromise their whole existence in order to adhere to their comfort – till this day, my mom always tells me two things: 1. Education is the most important thing, 2. Don’t get married before completing your education.
Growing up while being exposed to this mentality, I automatically assumed that it’s Islam. And so, I couldn’t “dare” to question it (cause obviously when you question Islam you’re kafir and hellfire is awaiting you. A topic for another day.) – So connecting all the dots to Islam, I was trying to justify the patriarchal mentality. And I became one of “those” Muslims. You don’t even wanna know, honestly. Just no. Thankfully (Alhamdulillah) Allah put some sense in me, and brought me back on track. I always had this gut feeling, that something was wrong with the mindset I was developing. As cliché as it sounds, I researched about Islam (Not on the internet, but in actual books) and everything changed from there. This is why one of my favourite verses from the Quran is: “Read in the name of your Lord who has Created” – Quran 96:1 – I felt this sense of relief, for having confirmed that I wasn’t wrong for having that gut feeling, and that Islam is NOT what you see and hear. Even as a born Muslim it took me forever to realize that feminism and Islam aren’t two separate things. Islam ultimately created equality. Islam stands FOR feminism and people who disregard that are disregarding basic Islamic values.
Men have become so comfortable with their own self proclaimed superiority that they feel threatened by women AND men who want to dismantle it, and that is how misogynists take advantage of God’s word to feed their own ego. – I realized that I could actually fight for this without feeling guilty about it with regards to my religious beliefs. How can Allah, who stands for justice, disregard the rights of women? When I realized that God stands with me I stopped worrying about what people would think, hence why I’m molded into the woman I am right now. Feminism became an open discussion in my household (although regressive ideas are still very evident. It’s hard to dismantle ingrained mindsets).I came to know of other things that take place in South Asian cultures: Honour killings, forced arranged marriages, child-marriages, rape, marital rape, the overall gender inequality, etc. Just the fact that people actually JUSTIFY rape by questioning a woman before a man. People justify marital rape? How does that not make your blood boil.
The last thing I’ll ever make a man feel, is that he is superior to me, and I’ve met too many men who feel that at first hand. Men think that superiority is their birth-given right. And unless people are willing to dismantle the already ingrained male superiority mindset, the mentality won’t stop. Our mothers feed into it when it comes to their sons all the time, our fathers applaud men for being “men” (as in being aggressive, harsh, cold, “macho” etc.) – Toxic masculinity is praised in our cultures, and if a man doesn’t fit in the box he’s simply not “man enough”? – Let me know what that means when you figure it out, thank you. Us women are doing a lot to change the mindset amongst misogynist women, which is great and a step forward, but it’s not enough. I feel like we scream and yell feminism in front of a crowd that has already adapted the mentality, or at least improved the mentality they had before. – We should also educate our brothers and fathers, especially our younger brothers (if you have them). We hold the power to influence their minds, and prevent regressive ideas to become a part of their identities. When there comes a day where we don’t have to literally yell feminism as if it isn’t a matter of course, that’s when we have succeeded.
Let me know how you realized that something wasn’t right in the way women are perceived? How did you find your way to intersectional feminism? I’d love to know!