“Frailty thy name is woman” was quoted to me when I was too young to understand what it really means or what actually it is like to be a woman.
Being born and raised in a typical Pakistani society, without much exposure to the outer world to have my own opinion, indoctrination based on the frailty of female, and the assertion that women should be submissive, wasn’t something unusually bothersome at the time. Men in the house and outside were the symbol of fear and they still are. In the house it’s the dad and brother whom sisters must be afraid of. They must not have a boyfriend or talk to boys out of their own family, be careful (fearful) to not dress attractively, talk or laugh aloud in public or go to the market alone or at night because zamana (boys) bohat kharab hai (times are bad). When matriarchal times are discussed they are discussed as times of ignorance or a myth whereas pretty much every husband today claims to be living a happy life if he keeps his wife happy.
Two years ago when Jyoti Panday Singh was raped and murdered in a moving bus, the horror of her death shook India pretty badly. A lot of women and men came out demanding justice. Soon after, the news of Gulabi gang in India made the headlines all over the world. It’s a group of women wrapped in pink saree taking matters into their own hands to end domestic abuse on women.
Last week a mob of “honorable” men in Afghanistan took their sweet time killing a twenty seven year old religious teacher, Farkhanda by stomping over her, breaking her body and throwing her off the roof. They ran her over with a car and when that wasn’t satisfactory, she was burnt and then thrown into a muddy river.
Reyhaney Jabbari was hanged by the Iranian Government for killing her would-be rapist, Mukhtaran Mai from Pakistan still makes the news despite being controversial and who doesn’t know Malala?
As much as the murder of Farkhanda boils my blood, I can’t help not being hopeful seeing the patriarchy and lunacy of religious rules going six feed under along with her lifeless body. For the first time in the history, at least in Afghanistan’s or Muslim history, when Farkhanda’s funeral was lead by women, guess who was the weakest at that time? Hint: not women.
Similarly, before Pakistan’s social and secular demise when General Rani was calling the shots guess who was sleeping drunk in the bunk? Well, not the Rani.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Oh great, another feminist on the loose, blaming men for the weakness and frailty of women. I may be a feminist but I am not making a point to degrade men just because I am a woman or a feminist. There are many great people out there highlighting these issues, including men. But how many are out there who realize, including women themselves, that women are no longer what the society, culture or religion have always wanted them to be. Whether matriarchal society existed or not, it’s quite evident that at every stage of human evolution, people or groups have used various ways to subdue women. Be it with money, physical strength, “morality” or religion.
It’s a fact that there are a lot of women out there who are taking this patriarchal society by its horns. Women are not afraid to go out; not scared of lifting the burnt and broken body of Farkhanda; not intimidated by ISIS or by the prospect of liberating their town of Kobane.
She is not afraid to sit for months in her innocent protest facing Taliban fearlessly and unarmed taking bullet to her head. She is not afraid laying in bed wanting to live and be happy two days before she dies of her rape injuries or to go to court after court fighting her rapists in a country where rape law protects the rapists.
Although there are brave women making history like Maryam Namazie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Malala Yousafzai, who need no introduction, but there are a lot more who never make the headlines and are assumed to be nonexistent. I am talking about the common women we live with, work with and are friends with. They don’t care about the half share of inheritance, or the status of half testimonies and they don’t care about the misconception religion created that they are dirty simply because they menstruate.
Anyone who looked at Farkhanda’s funeral photos, and compared it to the mob lynching her, could have easily spotted the smarter crowd that has been scripted as the one with half intelligence in the holy book. Anyone can spot the more moral, ethical and humane crowd between the protestors demanding justice for Jyoti Panday and her rapists. Anyone can easily pick out the braver one between Malala and Taliban and any one can identify the veracity of witnesses between Reyhaney Jabbari allotted just half the testimony by religion and the Iranian Judicial system.
So when people react defensively, from calling them whores or using the B-word to killing a pregnant woman in front of the court house by stoning; from burning a pregnant woman with her husband alive in the kiln or in the Ahmadi house to shooting her in the head for wanting to get education; from stomping on her in a mob until she dies to raping her with a steel rod till her intestines come out, they aren’t being honorable or brave. They are rather struggling to gain the power back that they fear they are losing to these women.
These women exist in every third household if not all. Some of these are the lovely women I am friends with; who chair a high rank in a historical university, taking care of her household and being a human rights’ activist while changing the diapers, cooking, cleaning and sipping red wine all at the same time. The woman who is a full time mother, taking care of her household and being a full time human rights activist between successfully finishing fiction novels, regular blogging on social issues and a successful satire writer. The woman who is a very smart (an understatement) feminist activist between her PHDs, full time job, her lip smacking authentic Punjabi cooking and still manages to bring apologists down to their knees through her intelligence, charisma and her choice of intelligibly sarcastic verbal spanking. I am proud to be their friend and so is humanity.
Farkhanda’s murder and her funeral proves what Eleanor Roosevelt said “a woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” So with due respect and apologies to Shakespeare I will take the liberty here to change his quote: strength, thy name is women.
Just remember: “what you allow is what will continue” [Unknown]