Banos Around the World

I’m using the name “Bano” to represent women and does not refer to any person living or dead. During a talk by my friend from Michigan, USA about ‘Culture, Gender, and Education: Perspective of a Teaching Father’ brought back memories of a chapter in the Urdu textbook. The chapter titled “Bano ka Ghar” (Bano’s home), depicts a girl named Bano, who works with her mother at home, while her brother goes to school. Many educationists have tried hard to send Bano to school too (changing the story of the chapter), but I think Bano still stays at home. How social roles are depicted in the textbooks, is another long debate.

Around the world, we might see Banos  who stay at home, who go to school, and who work in different fields.

Banos who stay at home, some are dearly loved and enjoy rights and there are those as well who are abused by their family members, who treat them as servants and consider them as a burden on the family.

Banos who go to school, some might be dearly loved and cared for by their families, yet some might be treated differently by their families, where they go back home and do household chores to help their mothers. They might go through hell of a time just because they chose to go to school during the time when they were suppose to take care of household responsibilites.

Working Banos can be educated or uneducated. Educated Banos, like me, are considered professionally accomplished. There are educated Banos, who work as typists and secretaries. who along with their work might be harassed by their bosses or male colleagues. Besides dealing with all the crap in the offices, Banos’ working hours do not end with their male counterparts. When they reach home, they might have to prepare food, teach kids, entertain guests, iron clothes for the next day, etc. Uneducated Banos who might work as maids or even street beggars, they go back home, only to work more along with being abused. Banos who are professional escorts may or may not have the same home-life as Banos from other fields.

Whether Bano goes to school or stays home or works as a maid, enjoys high social post, or is an escort, the question is what rights she has and how protected she is within the boundary walls of their homes or offices or on streets? I can’t answer this question.

In our society, every day no matter where Bano is or what she is doing, she is stared at, abused mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually. Two days back, in the morning while driving to my university, at DHA main checkpoint a taxi driver slowed down, just to give me a look from his side mirror and of course Banos like me, do give them a piece of their mind. Many argue that it is the way of dressing and make up that women wear. Well, how can a driver know what a woman in the car behind is wearing unless he has Superman’s x-ray eyes? It is not so much about the dressing but rather it is the mindset that needs to be changed. Many say that women should be kept within the boundary wall, but for a change can you teach men to behave and can you guarantee safety of women within the boundary walls?

I have become verbally abusive and physically aggressive. I have actually beaten up three men at three different times and I plan to do it whenever I have to. But is this the solution that we train our females to hit hard when filthy looking men dare to abuse them and don’t tell our men to control themselves? I can’t walk alone in my neighborhood just because the laborers might say nasty things when you walk by.  Why didn’t I feel so unprotected and vulnerable in the five years I spent in the US? I walked in the street at 2 am, but never was scared. I am not implying that angels live in the US and that there are no crimes against women there. Of course, there are. But I still felt safe when I went out for my 3-5 mile walk daily, when I greeted an unknown face on my way, stopped to take pictures, sat alone in a bus/ cab in the middle of the night, or called an unknown number to get some information. Why can’t we give this type of peace of mind to our females?



Limit Your Altruistic Habits – A Lesson Learned!

It’s been the story of my life. I have seen my parents do it, my siblings (not all of them) do it, of course I myself have done that too. What? Helping others financially!!! Well, one may think that what we did or still do is an excellent example of altruism, but I do now believe in setting up a limit, especially when your close family members (siblings) are involved.

I have learned that the more you put others (especially your siblings) before yourself, the more you will be emotionally abused by them. They will become more dependent on you and most of the time, you will have to sacrifice your needs to fulfill theirs. I’m not at all suggesting that helping others is some sort of a crime or a bad habit. What I’m suggesting relates to the famous air plane announcement, “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” 

The rule is simple to apply in your life. If your own life in under debt or you are going through rough times, put your own family’s (your own, wife, and kids) needs first. There is nothing wrong in being a little selfish, because your family is your responsibility. No one else will ever take that on their shoulders. After that, if you have left with enough funds to help, sure but not on the cost of your own desires and needs. Think about limiting your altruistic habits to a reasonable level. It has helped me, it might help you too.

Food for Thought

The article “A Wishful Thinking” written by Dr. Afshan Huma is really interesting and very close to my heart. The article brings two worlds that she and I have experienced as female graduate students in the US, and highlights several forms of harassment a female might have to face. I could relate to the things said with my experiences as a female in Pakistan as well as in the US.

Dressing Harassment:   As a Christian female, I’ve heard it so many times “Your religion allows you to wear whatever you want to.” Well, I doubt any Ibrahamic religion to be that liberal. People tend to relate culture with religion. And their judgment is not limited to other religions, they judge all females by their dressing. If someone is wearing a hijab/burqa, she must be very religious, poise, and having a good character (GOOD as interpreted by the society). Women like me who do not wish to wear burqa are shameless women (SHAMELESS as interpreted by the society). Adding to the misery –  if along with being shameless, I talk to men, then most probably, I’m a characterless and cheap woman too (as interpreted by the society). The desire to wear what I want to, relates to my basic right as a female to be independent, rather than what my religion and culture tell me to wear. As an adult, I can set my dressing limits based on my religion, but not what the culture wants me to.  Burqa or no burqa has to be my choice, not because men will stare at me.

Sexual Harassment: Going out for a walk alone or going to work by public transport should not imply that I’M AVAILABLE. This is the peace of mind I too wish for females. I have never experienced a car stop by and the driver opening the front door and asking me to go with him, even though I sometimes walk late at night in the US. In Pakistan, in broad daylight, this happens. In the US, I have never heard a single remark from either male or female about my physique or as you said, about what I was wearing, let alone the sexist remarks men pass in Pakistan if you’re walking/traveling alone. More importantly, no men have ever tried to touch me, the fear every female has who travels alone to jobs and to do other chores. Sorry to use the word, but I’ve not seen the filthiness in the eyes of men I pass by when I go out for a walk or sit outside to enjoy weather. In last 5 years, I haven’t beaten a man or was involved in a verbal fight because he had passed a remark or had touched me.

It is not because that you and I lived in a university city and I’m not saying that USA is free of sexual harassment. There is but most of the time I feel safe. Of course, there are neighborhoods that are not considered safe, but mainly for everyone, and not related to gender. I have traveled to almost 15 states and so far I haven’t faced a single threat to my safety as a female, even though I smile and greet all males (and females) I meet anywhere. What a lovely experience to be greeted by a bus driver with a smile while getting on to a bus,  or a cashier in a grocer shop, or a teller in a bank, or a cab driver, and I smile back. I even ask how s/he is doing. They won’t think that I’m hitting on them or vice versa. This is what I too call “liberty.”

People who argue that sexual harassment law was implemented in countries where it was needed, I think Pakistan is THE country that needs to realize and recognize that sexual harassment is prevailing in the society and laws should be strictly implemented and followed.

Harassment related to being Judged: I loved the idea of “assassinat[ing] one’s character.” People here are actually least bothered if they see me in a theatre or in a grocery shop alone at night or with men. They don’t bother if everyday a male gives me ride to and from different places. Yes, I agree, people might judge because they are humans, but they won’t call me characterless.  More importantly, I agree with you that being a SINGLE FEMALE is not a THREAT to me most of the times.

Nonetheless, this kind of “liberty” is a mindset, and as a society unknown to many of us.

Women, Kitchen, & Professions

Today’s blog is in response to a statement by a Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi Khan during an interview for a local channel. Why does it matter what Shahid Afridi says? Well, he is considered a national hero, followed and cherished by people of all ages and all walks of life- both men and women. His opinion can be idealized by many, and anything said by a national hero, people have a tendency to appreciate and follow it without giving it a second thought, regardless of how pathetic that opinion is. Here is one example, where a female author tried to explain why she won’t be cheering anymore for Afridi and was shunned by males and females equally. Here is the story!

The interviewer asked Afridi’s thoughts about the women selection in his city Peshawar for Pakistani Women Cricket team.

Afridi replied, “Our women have great taste in their hands. They cook very well.

The interviewer said that he was asking about the selection, and

Afridi said, “You got the answer.”

What Afridi was implying that women should not be playing cricket, rather they should stay home and cook. What’s wrong with his comment, when this is what most females do? It matters because women can do much more than cooking and his comment undermines the potential females have. It undermines the women’s right to do what they want to and also it shows lack of respect for women who are working in various professions.

I’m a very optimistic person, but after reading comments … What a pitiful state of mind and I don’t think education can change anything, at least not in the near future! Men with Afridi’s mindset want female doctors, nurses, teachers, etc., for their wives and daughters. They don’t think for a second before opening their mouths that if women are confined to kitchens, they won’t be able to have female doctors, teachers, nurses, etc., for taking care of their females. I think that female doctors should refuse checking wives and daughters of men like Shahid Afridi so that they may acknowledge professional women. I felt sad when I read comments of females- so demeaning. They also don’t think about what he said.

A student of mine recently said that we should motivate our men to share household responsibilities too. It is of course possible, but it will take a long time to change. Our mothers do and teach the same to their daughters. We don’t teach our men to share household responsibilities… they are the LAAT SAHIBS (bosses) of our society. A mindset transferred from generation to generation. Working women after office hours, take care of household chores too. Basically they work more hours than men. And I’m not blaming females. I have done that to for so many years. But I realized what was happening.

The first step, I believe is the realization that something wrong is happening and acknowledging that there is a problem. Unfortunately, looking at the comments, we are far behind from realizing and acknowledging that there is something wrong in what Afridi said.

Thanksgiving: Events/ Days don’t have bad intentions…


Courtesy: Google Images

This is the Thanksgiving week here in the US. For last four years, I have seen people complaining about consumerism during this holiday season. Some even talk about how people have a lot to eat and waste, while thousands of people starve on the Thanksgiving day. Days or events do not have bad intentions, but what we do on that day, makes it good or bad.

I’m not a Black Friday shopper, but appreciate good gatherings and food with “family of friends”  here at MSU. Thanksgiving day is more than shopping or eating or spending time with your loved ones. Thanksgiving is also about showing empathy, love and care for those who provide us general services. I’m morally and socially indebted by the services provided to me by postal staff, university staff, cashiers at malls and grocery stores, and many more. Just left a ‘Thank You’ note for the postmaster. Who are you thankful to beside your family and friends? Think and tell those people that you’re thankful for their presence and services.


Human ATM Machine

Have you ever seen a human ATM machine?

I have.

Human ATM machine is a machine that accepts emotional debit card to withdraw money. Credit would have been better because then the person who takes out money, would then have to return the money. But that is not the case. People (most of the time your own family) use emotional debit card over and over again without realizing that its a machine, it can run out of money or can be out of order. But if that is the case, they won’t stop by to fix you. They will not come again till somebody else fixes you and to use the card again.

You know how it feels, being an ATM machine?

I know!

It hurts!!!

Is there another way?

I may not the biggest women rights person as perceived by many, but yes, I consider myself as a very strong equal rights supporter. I strongly believe that all humans have a right to choose religion, food, clothing, partners, friends, sexual orientation for themselves, and people should not be bothered about what others have chosen for themselves. But there are times when I question the limits to this freedom of choice, especially in public places or media. For instance, a zookeeper gets naked for tiger charity naked to raise funds or feminists pulling their tops off to confront a politician.

I’m sure there must be more to the stories, yet getting naked for raising funds or taking off tops to confront a politician, hm, are these the only ways or solutions?  Shouldn’t the right to choose or do what one wants to do, be confined to personal spaces and not to public spaces?