“When the nurse first put her in my hands, I started to cry. And I hate to say but they weren’t tears of happiness, but of complete and absolute dread. I had done the worse thing I could possibly do to my husband: I had given birth to a baby girl.”
Sometimes sitting in our privileged little bubble, where everything is good and fair, we take the liberty of assuming that the rest of the world is too. We tend to frown upon the word feminism because we are so used to seeing the world through a patriarchal lens that we can’t see that every single norm in our society is absolutely unfair and should be anything but normal.
I have always been a feminist and more often than not I have been told not to be proud of it because it makes me look defiant; insolent to elders and unattractive to boys. It’s precisely this mentality that I hate the most. Feminism has never been about being superior to men; it has just been about wanting to be treated like humans. I know some of you will roll your eyes and think I am exaggerating because come on, women aren’t treated that poorly anymore.
Well then imagine being a young woman who gets married to a man that promises to love you and care for you. Imagine getting pregnant, imagine it being the most special and beautiful thing to have ever happened to you. Imagine telling it to your husband whose first words to the news are that he wants it to be a son. Imagine the pressure that builds on you when every member in the family repeatedly reminds you that it won’t be good if you gave birth to a girl. Imagine crying at night, terrified of what will happen if it is not what they want. Imagine you’re in the hospital, holding your daughter in your hands, she is beautiful but you’re not thinking of that right now because there’s a text on your phone and it’s from your husband. He is divorcing you. You start crying while you hold the most precious thing in your hands, the tears falling not out of happiness but because your worst fears have come true.
You can now stop imagining and continue to pretend that women are treated equally while Naaz, my neighbour, lives through this nightmare of a life. A life where she is constantly fighting for the rights of her child simply because she was born a girl. A life where now she has two mouths to feed and no source of income simply because a man couldn’t accept the gender of his own child.
It’s so hard to believe that there are still educated people out there, living in a metropolitan city, surrounded by a modern progressing culture that still think that a son is better than a daughter, to a point where he is willing to divorce his wife for it. I am putting up his picture here and not Naazs’ because it is time we held men responsible for their actions and not just portray women as victims, because honestly, what happens now, he is going to marry someone else and hope she is going to give him a son? What happens if she doesn’t? Will he divorce her too? How long is he going to do this? It’s almost mental if you ask me.
What’s more mental is the torture that Naaz was subjected to while she was pregnant. When she began to tell me her story, I saw the pain so clearly in her face as she recalled the horrible memories of those days again. The constant comments and threats made by her mother and sister in-law. “Pray as much as you want now, but you have to give birth to a son. Do you understand?” They’d tell her repeatedly. It’s crazy to put a pregnant women through something like that. Something that’s way out of her control. It’s crazier to think that it was done by women themselves. Seriously, where is your common sense?
In reality, Naaz is but one face in a sea of women crumbling under the weight of patriarchy. And it won’t stop until women learn to stand up for other women. Until they stop seeing the word feminism as something negative and extreme. But mainly until a mother stops telling her daughter that her boundaries are different than that of a man, that she is just a girl.
Today I am constantly aware that nothing is going to change in Ayat and Naaz’s life, but I still join in the celebrations for Women’s Day in hopes that someday every person in this world will learn to celebrate the birth of one too.