Ramblings of a Closet Feminist

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By Mariam Riaz

All of us reach a certain point in our lives when directly, or indirectly, pressure is exerted on us to “settle down”. I have nothing against the institute of marriage, for indeed, it is a sacred Sunnah. However, I do have some scores to settle with our twisted society regarding what this institution has become. Some may think that I’m confused between being a closet feminist and a “fundo” (pet word for fundamentalists or extremists, if you please). However, when you start your post wondering what people would think, you know something is wrong, somewhere! This goes on to show exactly what our society has reduced women to being.

When your purpose in life is reduced to just one thing – marriage – that’s all your life starts revolving around. It doesn’t matter how many books you have read, or how much you have learned from life in general, at some point the main concern of our lives as Pakistani women seems to be acceptance. How many times have you come across statements like,

“If you become too career-oriented, no one will marry you”,

“Dress modestly; men don’t like women who are too bold in their dressing”,

“Don’t be so dowdy; educated men prefer smartly dressed women.”

As I write this, the marquee next door reverberates with Bollywood beats accompanied by sounds of cheers – obvious signs of a wedding. It makes one wonder whether it is really worthwhile to spend one’s life savings on a circus show without giving deeper thought to the actual union between the two people? Is the marriage just an outcome of society’s expectations from a conventionally brought up woman who is so heady with the excitement of the wedding that she prefers not to think about what follows? Or is it the union between two souls that share the same purpose in life, and see marriage as a source of support as opposed to the only source of happiness? Don’t take me wrong; I’ve seen some examples of the latter as well, but they are as rare as unconventionally brought up women.

While we’re on the subject of our purpose in life, how is an intelligent woman, who is capable of doing so much greater good not only for this world, but for her Hereafter as well, supposed to achieve just that if all she is spending her energies doing is fitting into a mould that she does not belong to? While she is so busy conforming to society’s expected version of an ideal candidate for marriage, how will she grow herself in knowledge and benefit others from it?

As I hear heart-breaking tales of women being rejected on issues as trivial as the length of their nose, it makes one realise how much thought and effort needs to be put into bringing back the essence of this beautiful institution!

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