Call Me:

Grow up in a place like Pakistan, and you learn to live with misogynistic comments. Laugh it off, ignore it, or respond with withering sarcasm that will most likely go over the offender’s head. It becomes almost second nature. Still, every once in a while, a comment pops up out of nowhere and strikes a nerve. The worst part? When the comment comes from a woman.

I was recently told that the little box on the nikkah nama that gives women the right to divorce is un-Islamic. It has been added as a result of Pakistan’s family laws (side note: Pakistan’s legislature finally got something right!) but it is un-Islamic. As a general principle I give comments like this a very wide berth, but this time some errant curiosity prompted me to ask exactly why it was un-Islamic.

This was the answer I received: Because women are prone to hormonal imbalances and emotions, and are - naturally - incapable of taking such important decisions all on their own.

Can open. Worms everywhere. Hormones? I’m called intellectually inferior because of my hormones? I’m being told that I have to stay married come hell, high water, abuse, or something as mundane as unhappiness because of hormones? Oh but no, that’s not it. In dire circumstances, women are - very benevolently - allowed to ASK for a divorce. What happens if the divorce is contested? Why, the woman simply has to prove her case in court. But of course. It IS really just that simple.

This would be the point where those mildly religiously inclined would jump in with interpretations and explanations to the contrary.  Frankly I neither know nor care what religion actually says on the subject. (It might be worth it to think about why we have to work so hard to find non-misogynistic translations and interpretations of religious text but that’s not really my concern at the moment). My concern is the subtle and causal demeaning of me by one of my own kind. My concern is the nonchalance with which a basic freedom and a choice is stripped from women with the understanding that they are simply not capable. The women must ask, but the man can give. And all for what? Hormones? Emotions? What of the emotions that cause a man to raise a hand on one physically his inferior? Do those emotions not cause him to be stripped of this right? What of the emotions that cause a man to re-marry without the consent of his first wife? Do those not take away his capability to make this all-important decision? And what of the mundane question of happiness, the one that is ever so casually brushed aside in this society? If you are quite simply unhappy, is that just some foul trickery your hormones are playing on you? It must be, because you have not been given the right to walk away. But the man, well he must be genuinely unhappy. Of course. 

Here’s the problem with all of this.  Life, as a general rule, tends to hand you more than your fair share of trouble. Tears, trauma, disease, heartbreak, death. Life sends you all of that at one point or another. And at no point in the midst of all of this do you as a woman have the luxury of getting a free pass because of your emotions or your hormones. You are expected to man up, grow a pair (and other suitably misogynistic metaphors) and just power through. No convenient little get out of jail free card because your hormones are in flux. And that is okay. That is how it should be. You want to be a working mother? Work twice as hard so that your husband and home are not neglected. You’re an only child? Figure out how you take care of your own parents but never forget to prioritize your in-laws. But this one decision? Well this is far, far too pragmatic for your wayward hormones to handle.

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