That One Commercial

If you’re living in the subcontinent and are even on one social media website, you’ve probably seen it – the commercial about the father apologizing to his daughter because he never did household chores, and thus ingrained the idea in his daughter that chores are a woman’s work.

Which, okay, is a nice message and all, and it’s palatable enough that even anti-feminists but pro-liberals agree with it; but honestly, I am so tired of it and of the discourse around it. It’s, frankly, childish and reductionist.

Like, thanks, Generic-Desi-Dad, for finally understanding how shitty of a person you were and are – but only when it was your own daughter who had to face the problems you happily dumped on your wife. As if your wife wasn’t someone’s daughter. As if your wife wasn’t a person who deserved to have her feelings heard and her needs met and maybe, just maybe, a weekend the way you got one.

But what’s the point now, man? You’re one foot in the grave and so is your wife, and your daughter and her husband are just going to repeat the cycle. It’s not going to give your wife, or the countless other women you helped put down directly and indirectly throughout the years. You can cry all you want, but there is no redemption for you.

It’s not just the commercial that’s terrible, it’s what people say when they share. “Help your mothers/sisters/wives with household chores” – as if it isn’t also YOUR house, you selfish, arrogant, misogynistic man; as if those chores aren’t YOUR chores to do as well. No, when you do them you’re “helping”, wow, so good of you, so kind, so liberal, so revolutionary. When you don’t “help” then no problem. When we do them, it’s our job apparently. It’s our lot in life and aren’t you a dear for making our lives easier?

You don’t get to make the work excuse – do you think you would be able to perform as well as you do at your job unless you had us around to make sure your home is neat and tidy and clean? To quiet the children and soothe the in-laws and make the food you eat and clean the place you live in so you’re not rolling in filth? You think household chores only involves physical labour? Hah.

Fuck you. Fuck your politics and fuck your world view. Fuck your very existence, because in the end all it does is make more work for us – to pick up after you when you don’t do chores, and to praise you when you do do them.

I am old, I am disabled, and I am tired.

I don’t understand…

…folks here* who hear that I’m “good at English” and so want me to join them in mocking everyone else’s English abilities.

Like, okay, let’s pretend that I believe the colonial, Western notion that English proficiency determines one’s intelligence, and that I also believe that people should only be treated well if they are intelligent or innovative or whatever and not, you know, because they’re humans and thus deserving of basic human dignity.**

Let’s pretend that I actually adhere to the same values as you, fine. But what makes you think that once I start mocking others, you’ll be safe?

I have native level proficiency in English. When I hear a sentence, I can identify exactly how it’s wrong and give you 10 ways to correct it. I don’t know grammar rules, I breathe them; they are a part of me. I write in English, I think in English (and translate into Urdu, not the other way around as you do), I dream in English, I sleeptalk in English. I went from bearing the stigma of being an ESL student to reading college-level books within the same year, at 9, leaving my haters behind. English belongs to me, though I, obviously Muslim and Pakistani as I am, never can belong to it.

How arrogant do you have to be to believe that you, who learned English as a subject or a hobby, can achieve the same level of proficiency as me, who learned English as a survival tactic? For you, English is a status symbol; for me, it was always the double-edged sword I wielded.

So yes, let’s pretend that even though English forced itself down my throat at gunpoint and I chose to swallow, I still believe those who speak English “well” to be worthy. In that case, neither your SAT score nor your online articles nor internships at English newspapers and magazines nor your grades will matter.

Your English, my friend, and thus you, would not be worthy.

 

*by “here”, I mean at my university, in my city, in my country, etc. Choose your scale as you wish; it’s all the same in the end.

**DISCLAIMER: I don’t believe that.

Capitalism and Silence

The very nature of a capitalist society, is to create and function on a dichotomy – in which one state is desirable and the other undesirable: rich and poor, man and woman.

Our rituals, our language, our culture, our upbringing; it all hinges on upholding the dominant paradigm: as those who benefit from it wish to keep it that way, and those who suffer are made to believe that they and “their kind” either deserve that suffering or can opt out by inducing that suffering on others (rather like how the playground bully has an entourage of children similar to the ones being bullied – those children choose to become bullies in order to avoid being bullied).

As such, any dissent is considered as blasphemous, and victims are silenced through fear, derision, humiliation and – oddly – reverence. When people are reduced to caricatures, they are stripped of their humanity, and go from being complex beings to “begger”, “gold-digger”, “modest”, “slut”; either “an inspiration” or “an abomination”.

Those who pretend they are not aware of these power structures – especially while benefiting from them – will uphold them; through their actions and their behaviours. Be very wary.

Just because he’s good to you…

…doesn’t make him a good person.

Of course, this phenomenon isn’t limited to men – or well, not just to men as partners. Any time you have people in positions of power over others, you see that power being abused; that’s how we get cruel bosses and police and government officials and directors and judges and teachers. That’s why laws against abuse and discrimination exist.

Research, however, has shown a recurring trend: most abusers are men, and most of the abused are women. In the event when abusers are women, they are more likely to abuse other women than men. Most victims were described as “compassionate and kind,” “cooperative,” and “agreeable” – traits considered as feminine. And that’s not even going into the racial aspects.

So why are most abusers “masculine” and most of the abused “feminine”? The short answer: patriarchy, in which men and masculine traits are upheld as superior to women and feminine traits.

And what happens when the things you like, the way you talk, the ideas you present, the life you live is considered as “inferior”? When someone likes you as a person, they do not believe that it is because of the qualities that define “your kind”, but despite them. And so they will jump through mental hoops trying to ascribe “superior” qualities to you, as they go all their life being told that they and their way of thinking is the only correct one.

What does that mean for you though? In their eyes, you are basically separate from others of “your kind”; to them, you are not a woman, but a “better woman” or “one of the guys”. And so you have been elevated to the status of being treated as “worthy”.

For all intents and purposes, it appears as if they see you as their equal. But the ground you stand on is shaky, as your worth only comes from removing you from the experiences you gained as part of your identity – the experiences you gained as a woman.

They don’t want to hear about how much fun you had shopping, or what happened in that romcom, or how much your period sucks, or the time you got assaulted. Because those are distinctly “feminine” events, which clashes with their image of you – remember, you’re not a woman, but a pseudo-woman, as they have stripped you of your womanhood in order to “make you a better person” in their eyes.

Your worth is not measured by your own actions and behaviour, but on the importance they hold to him. There will come a time when you stop being worthy, and suddenly all of your qualities that he liked before will become the very reasons for his hate.

You don’t “take care of yourself”, you’re “vain” and “self-absorbed”; you’re not “opinionated”, you’re “loud” and “harping”; you aren’t “friendly”, you’re “a flirt”; all your abilities will now be presented back to you in as negative and, if you’ll notice, as gendered a way as possible.

Congratulations! You’re once again a woman, and thus, once again, worthy of his sexist beliefs.

A good person wouldn’t be kind only when it benefits them.

 

Art Waart

The level of disconnect that the middle and upper class, especially in Karachi, have with regards to art is astounding. They want the best food, the best clothes, the best jewellery, the best music, the best novels and poetry and movies and theatre – but they’re not happy paying for it, and they’re especially not happy when their own children wish to make it their career.

The elite class is, perhaps, a bit more tolerant, as they can afford to keep their children fed and clothed while they “make art.”

But the middle class? The very thought of their child having to live in poverty, and thus becoming “one of the (maila) awaam,” is incomprehensible, and so they push their children into careers they do not want, or have no talent for, simply because it will provide them ” a better (read as: more monetary / stable / respectable) future.”

Art as a hobby? It’s cute and fun and interesting, as long as it’s a hobby. Art as a career? Are you crazy?

In a society where status is inherently linked to money, and success is measured by how much you earn, any deviation from the path to money is considered a grave sin. That’s capitalism for you.

A major portion of this mentality is brought about by our lack of education of the arts. Despite the UN Declaration of Human Rights stating – in 1948! – that the right to enjoy the arts and participate in the culture of their community is inherent to every human being, art is taught as a throw-away subject.

Parents have no interest in the arts, and so neither do their children, and thus the community at large, leading to an overall devaluation of art and artists, resulting in less people being able to make a career of it. It’s a vicious cycle.

Whoo, it’s been a while.

What can I say – I’ve been pretty busy lately. My third year has started, which means only 3 more semesters after this one (providing I don’t fail) until I am free from this hell.

Where to start? Things have been pretty rocky: fallouts with friends, increased workload, and decreasing mood – but hopefully I’ll make it out of this semester without having failed in anything. I’m really worried about one subject in particular, but my friend is pretty good at it, and we’re lab partners, so I’ll scrape through that as well.

The only really new thing is that this year is the start of internships. Which would be great! Except I have a terrible merit number and no extra skills to speak of. I’m currently interning at my university, but I don’t think that really counts (unless it does, which would be great).

Honestly, all I want to do is graduate, get a job that allows me to move into my own place, and maybe get a significant other who isn’t too terrible.

So, I’ve vented, and this is me probably leaving for another 3 months.

I hope not though.

On Changing

One of the things I see happen to adults is that, with age, they become more stagnant – so completely and utterly set in their ways that anything different or new isn’t just disliked, it is considered an encroachment on their respectability or something.

Which, I guess, is understandable in a way. Considering that with age comes experience, and that the percentage of successes increases over time, and that we have a tendency to both remember other people’s failures and assume their losses were far greater, I’m sure they feel wiser than us young ‘uns running around making mistakes all over the place.

What I don’t understand is people under 35 being so stubborn about their personalities. Yeah, I know that we should love ourselves and not allow society to change us, but that doesn’t apply to every aspect of you. In the same way that everything we are taught is the norm actually isn’t (commonly held religious views, gender binary and roles, etc), not everything that goes against the norm is revolutionary (some less common religious views, liberalism, kinks, etc).

All I’m saying is, people should be more open to change, you know? Use their heads to assess instead of having a “What people say” kind of mentality. Mainly when their views support the dominant paradigms, but also sometimes when their views have changed.

Be always like the sea that shifts, not the shore that opposes it.