Kinnaird College Only Teaches Girls How To Be ‘Wife Material’
My four years at Kinnaird College were bittersweet (mostly bitter, but hey there were some memorable moments too!). While my time at the all-girls college was spent well thanks to the many friends I made there, my experience with the teachers was nothing to write home about. Notwithstanding the compassion some teachers displayed towards their students, the preachy lectures of most of the teachers who taught me at Kinnaird is what haunts me to date. I will come to that later.
That Kinnaird is a ‘liberal’ institute is one of the biggest misconceptions about it. On the contrary, the rules the college enforces to moral police the students would perhaps put a religious institute to shame. Before taking admission in the college, I was told that the girls here enjoy all the ‘freedom’ in the world, which is one of the reasons people from outside are fascinated by the ‘Kinnaird life’. But after joining the college, I found out that this thought was an utter lie perhaps floated by someone who never knew what ‘freedom’ means.
At Kinnaird, I was fined multiple times for not wearing a dupatta. (Yes, penalised for not covering myself well enough at an all-girls college!) Apart from making dupatta mandatory, the college had also barred the students from wearing ‘short’ dresses. Given how Pakistani women are policed over their choice of clothes, one would think that an all-girls college which is considered ‘liberal’ will at least let these women enjoy the liberty to not be policed in this manner, but that was not the case. In these four years, I was heavily moral policed at the college.
I remember I once had a terrible headache and wanted to leave the college early. For this, I needed to get a letter signed by my head of the department since we could not leave the premises before 12 noon. This was yet another absurd rule. The gates of the college would remain closed for the students before 12PM, which means that once you enter the college, there is no going back before 12 PM; even if your classes have gotten cancelled. I went to my head of the department and anxiously explained to her that I am unwell and need to leave the college early.
When I was done explaining my problem, instead of saying something about what I had just told her, she said: “But where is your dupatta?” I went silent for a few seconds thinking she might have not heard me. I just told her that I am in pain and all she could think about is the fact that I am not wearing a dupatta?
But then reality struck hard, and I came to terms with the fact that moral policing the students is more important for these teachers than taking care of their well-being. I apologised to her and said that I had taken off the dupatta since it was hot and I could not find a room with air conditioner on.
She told me to ‘be careful’ next time and said that I can leave the college but only after putting the dupatta back on.
I faced several other incidents where I was policed over my choice of clothes and the length of my shirt and at times the teachers who pointed out my ‘inappropriate’ dress also said some highly demeaning things about how a girl should save her ‘honour’ by dressing ‘appropriately’. All of that cannot be written here in detail.
But one particularly disturbing thing was that during the lectures, the teachers would often reinforce the patriarchal notions about women that their success depends on the man they end up getting married to and that girls should always be ready to ‘sacrifice’ to save their relationships. Moreover, girls were insulted by the teachers for having boyfriends. I remember a teacher telling us during a lecture that girls who enter in a relationship before marriage put their ‘honour’ at stake and that they should be taught a lesson by their parents.
Another incident that I would mention was when my friend who used to drive herself to college everyday was told by a professor that she should not drive the car and instead ask her brother or father to drive her because she might end up getting into an accident. Here the teacher clearly meant that women are so dumb they don’t know how to drive a car properly. Many such notions were often pushed by the teachers. This one time a teacher told me not to be too focused on my debating competitions because ‘aakhir mein shaadi he honi hai aapki’ (You are going to get married in the end). This is one of the many examples of how the girls were taught not to dream big, to merely think about getting married. And sadly, most girls there are not able to see how the teachers are wrong when they tell them that they cannot dream big because of their gender.
In my final year at the college, I remember recording videos of the faculty members with their views about the college for an annual event. When asked to share what she thinks is the best thing about the girls of Kinnaird College, a teacher replied: “They make excellent wives and dream bahus.” I was disappointed at her comment, but it was hardly surprising.