Contradictions

Masculinity and feminism.
Individual and society.
Culture and religion.

Often, these terms are used in opposition; often, as contradictions.
Masculinity and feminism, in particular, are such clashing concepts that can’t seem to co-exist peacefully.

There are so many directions that we can take this conversation. I do want to steer it toward the designated gender roles as deemed by my South Asian culture, as this is my experience and what I have been most impacted by. But if this taboo conversation can become an open dialogue amongst us brown folk, I hope this conversation can be inclusive of other gender-related issues as well, such as gender identity and LGBTQ+ rights.

It is common practice in South Asian households that as soon as a woman is of “marital age”, she must begin to transform herself. She must mold herself into the ideal wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. She must exhaust herself mentally, emotionally, physically in order to please her new family. Meanwhile, a man is not expected to change at all; no efforts at maturity, percipience, tolerance, acceptance, humility. But all of this and much, much more is expected out of a woman. What entails is often an unbalanced relationship defined by miscommunication, control/domination, ego, and therefore, mistreatment and abuse. (Source). Of course, the harsh reality of misogyny/inequality is quite obvious in countries like Pakistan and India, but these disparities absolutely exist here in the West as well. With sexual objectification, rape culture, and inequality in the workforce, as a few examples.

This poem was in part inspired by the documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. I encourage you all to watch this powerful film as well. If anything, the film asks us to reevaluate and reflect upon our identities. It is of the utmost necessity to redefine what it means to be a Man and what it means to be a Woman.

This poem is written in a series of questions. I hope you  benefit and also find it to be an invitation for an open dialogue (please feel free to disagree, agree, or add onto the conversation).

(Note: The baby in the left image is me and the girl on the right is my sister. Still, these two images [hopefully] serve their purpose: to showcase that a woman’s identity is given to her at birth. She has no choice over her own self. Rather, a woman’s identity lies at the mercy of the society that she is born into.)

 

Contradictions

If we are from the same womb, the same home
Why then must I, the woman, leave mine
while you, the man, stay in yours?

You see, you and I, we are imprisoned. Behind the bars of society.
My punishment for being a woman is to suck up the hurt and bear the pain.
Your punishment for being a man is to express it through anger.

Why are daughters raised to be actresses,
performing in roles in which we cannot be broken or human?
Why must we pretend that these wounds do not exist?
For if we let you in and allow you to see past that Perfected Outer Shell,
Would you still stay?

Why are sons raised to be callous? Raised in a culture of
“Boys will be boys” and “At least he never hit you”.
Limited in their emotional expression
and denied the right to be vulnerable and kind.

Why has society taken away women and men and replaced them with
pink, dainty flowers and blue-wearing brutes?

Why is a woman feminine only if she is soft, beautiful, and fragile?
Why is a man masculine only if he is cold, controlling, and strong?

I am told that my greatest validation in life as a woman, is in becoming a wife and a daughter-in-law.
Why am I told that this is also my test?
To stay resilient and silent through the abuse.
As if I have nowhere else to go.
As if I am disposable,
replaceable.

You are told that your greatest validation in life as a man,
is in your career, your ego, your manhood.
“Don’t cry, you’re not a girl, are you??”
Words that you’ve heard since before you could even walk.
You were raised to be strong and stone: a mountain.

Why is it that a proud father will tell his daughter that she’s like a son to him,
Whereas it would be of utmost shame for a son to be likened to a daughter?

When did women stop becoming the daughters of Khadija, Aisha, Asiya
and instead became daughters of acid, sorrow, and shame?

When did men stop becoming the sons of the Mercy upon Mankind
and instead, became sons of privilege, abuse, and flame?

So you and I, we find ourselves here,
imprisoned by etiquette and customs.
In a society of superstition.
Upon a bed of acceptance.
And I ask, once again:
If we are of the same nafs*, the same Creator, the same womb, the same home
Why then, must I leave mine, while you stay in yours?

 

Nafs- Arabic term for the self/soul/person

-Amna ❤

5 comments

  1. Loving the symbolism and comparisons…helps me visualize myself as the woman in your position. Of course, I’d be lying if I were to say I understood your particular conflicts, but it’s nice to get a vivid glimpse. Imagining the effects of the discrepancy as a prison was the first comparison that came to my mind as well. But I’m glad you’re taking the initiative to study the prison rather than the bars. (The prison can be in the bars as well, but that’s another story). You’re ‘I am a Woman’ poem was also empowering. Keep it up, Amna!

    Like

    • Oh wow, Shakil. This was quite the insightful comment, thank you! As always, do let me know of what else I could be talking about that would be of relevance/interest for you. ❤

      Like

      • FOOD!!!
        ….
        But seriously, food.
        TV/Games/Books/Movies.
        Fashion would be interesting.
        And also, memorable life experiences/trials/issues.

        Kind of broad….Wish I had something in particular to suggest, but if I come across something I’ll let you know!

        Like

  2. A beautiful sketching of the sad reality of middle east. I can’t disagree myself with any of it, I rose in a village of Pakistan and spent almost 20 years there, I have seen worse than this. The woman treated bad and always thought ownership of a man, but if we blame only the culture will be inappropriate. The middle east has a beautiful culture which has a lot of beautiful things in it (I love Desi lifestyle), but the real problem is the extreme nature of men and low rate of literacy. The Middle East is still stuck in the 18th century. But the good news is people are getting out of that stalled state, unfortunately, the process is slow. Even some literate people hesitate to change because of the fear of society. Girls are not the only victim in there as a boy, when my father died, I was just 17 and I was expected to behave like a BIG man and lots of others which I can’t complain because I was taught that men don’t complain like girls (funny)!! And, some criticism from my mother, which a count as funny one, like my mother used to say, “I will not marry you if you do not change yourself, I will not allow you to destroy any girl’s life”, “Change yourself! How your wife will survive with you” and “Behave like a man you have to manage a family!”. I’m hearing this and a lot more since I’m a child, I always answered all this by saying this “I’m not going to marry” lol.
    An apology for my bad English, I have been taught in Pakistani government schools so please bear with me:-D

    I will request you as you are a very good writer, write something good about being a brown woman.

    Raza

    Liked by 1 person

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