How I Watched Women Suffer In Silence Through The Ages
You’re a student entering university. Growing up with sisters and friends, you know exactly what that entails: you’re expected to watch what you’re saying and maintain decorum at all cost. Whether you like it or not, your name is directly associated with your family’s honour and you’re required to see that it remains intact through thick and thin.
While your brothers are a source of pride for the family, you’re tasked with being the protector of its legacy by adhering to an endless list of thou shalt nots. You’re told the slightest deviation from tradition could spell disaster for your personal identity and future. Marriage proposals, you’re told, are only for the most behaved, well-mannered women.
There’s no margin for error.
Code is poetry to you. Variables don’t hold data, they hold the meaning of life. The algorithms you engineered have streamlined several businesses and enhanced productivity. You’re a tech wiz in every sense of the word, and yet you’re never excited to show up at work. Girls can’t code, is a running joke that you hear from the adjacent cubicle day in and day out. It saps your energy and you’re almost always tempted to rip that Employee of the Year plaque from the wall and hurl it across the hall. You put your headphones on, crank the volume up and hope that ignoring the problem will make it go away.
And yet like an annoying mosquito buzzing in the ear, you can always hear it.
You’ve finally become a doctor – a literal lifesaver if there ever was one. It’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice. You always dreamed about curing illnesses and improving healthcare. Now’s your chance! The “Dr.” prefix before your name is a testament of you surviving medical school and great pride for the family – the wrong kind, albeit. You’re also a coveted prize now. A suitor is handpicked for you to marry much to your chagrin. He’s financially sound and therefore you don’t need a career (or financial independence for that matter). It’s a simple matter of saying ‘I do’ and you can flush countless hours of medical instruction and practice down the toilet.
Doctor bahu, you’ll always be the perfect trophy wife for your in-laws. Congratulations.
It would appear that the ability to find solutions to problems comes naturally to you. Your words can inspire action and you can lead by example. You’re a business woman, an entrepreneur, a thought leader and your accomplishments stand testimony to your perseverance and overcoming odds stacked against you. And yet you routinely find yourself being explained your profession to you by male counterparts. “It’s an opportunity to view things from their perspective”, you try to reason with yourself. Deep down though you know the unsolicited insights are unwarranted and unwelcomed. You sigh to yourself.
This is one odd you’re never overcoming.
Another unwanted advance by your manager today. Perhaps it was your hair loosely hanging on your shoulders that enticed him. You would start wearing the abaya again if it means putting a stop, but it did little to prevent the creep on the bus from groping you. HR did mention they took this stuff seriously and therefore you decide to risk being put on the pedestal. You lodge a formal complaint with management in line with company policy. But your manager has made a lot of money for the company in the last 10 years and you’re just an intern fresh out of college.
Your career will crash land before it even takes off.
You’re a diligent homemaker. You believe your house is not just bricks and walls but a sanctuary where you intend to nurture your loved ones. You believe your spouse does his bit too; he is the sole breadwinner of the family after all. So what if he has sporadic temper issues that tend to come out the wrong way. What’s a broken nose there and a bruised lip here if it means preserving the bond you’ve worked tirelessly to build. Nothing a little makeup can’t fix. Fractures are a little tricky though. Compromise is the only way you can build a home, or at least that’s what you were told by your parents.
You’ll avoid going to that reunion tonight.
I’m a man. And I’ve watched you suffer in silence through the ages – with a certain satisfaction, I may add. I’ve smirked at your attempts to speak up and bullied you into silence verbally and physically if it meant maintaining the status quo.
Then something happened; something that I thought was impossible. Much like Alice, you came to the realization that you’ve been tumbling down a rabbit hole your entire life, and that rude awakening is all that you needed. Surely as spark turns to flame and flame turns to fire, I see your despair turn into anger and anger into action.
I see your sighs become screams; cries become rallying roars. I stifle your voice but it gets louder. I trample your courage but it’s unrelenting. I misconstrue your speech but you’re having none of it. I throw acid on you, slut-shame you, call you a whore, a vagrant, a tramp, and yet your resolve remains unchanged.
There is a renaissance happening in your midst. You’re raging against the dying of the light.
There’s panic behind my smugness. You’ve stopped flinching.
The author can be contacted via Twitter: @fahadamalik