Maybe I was a weird kid. I don’t know.
I grew up watching Star plus TV serials like “KUMKUM” and “Woh Rehne Wali Mehlon Ki”, absorbing the cultural ideas that were all too real in my own culture. I would idealize the lead female characters who’d get married off to a random guy and then bravely tackle the problems she’d face by her in-laws.
As a kid, I had decided on two goals:
- Have a wedding so I can have all the delicious food and dance to my favorite music.
- Wear a bright red bridal dress with lots of gold jewelry and makeup, like my dolls .
It was all of course a dumb fantasy where I got to be the center of everyone’s attention. My idea of weddings was more or less like playing dress up for a while and then returning everything back to normal.
I ignored the parts where the protagonist of the show had to suffer an extreme amount of sexism and emotional abuse from her husband and her “evil” mother in-law. Somehow, the problems would be portrayed as something that any married woman was meant to face.
While re-watching some of these shows, I realized that the problems were too normalized to be noticed, especially by a kid- who’d just be dazzled by the elegant staircase in the house, the make up of the bride and the food.
Or maybe I was just too dumb as a kid to notice.
The latter reason probably explains the death stares I got from my mother when I told her of my “life goals”. To this day I remember her outrage to my words.
Me: When I grow up I’m going to get married.
Mom: *with gritting teeth* What did you say?
Me: I said, I’m going to get married when I grow—
Mom: Chup! (Shutup) Don’t you ever say that again. Do you even know what you’re saying. Oh my God! Who told you about this?
It would probably have seemed cruel of a mother to reprimand her kid on something really simple like marriage. If only I had known as a kid that it was everything but simple.
And to this day, the mention of this word gives me goosebumps and I always cringe.
But I was a rebellious kid that time. I always did the opposite of what my parents told me to do. Hence, I kept nagging my mom about getting married. I always cringe at the childhood version of me and salute my mom for having to bear my idiocy.
Thanks to my mom who was even more rebellious and discouraged me from associating the word “marriage” with myself. In very subtle ways, she’d always distract me from anything related to weddings and direct all my attention towards concentrating on my studies.
Majority of the people in Pakistan worry more about the money they’d need to spend on a girl’s marriage rather than her education. According to them, it is parents’ responsibility to get their daughters married as soon as possible before they could bring any “shame” on the family. Every time a girl is born, they feel burdened with this responsibility.
If my parents (especially my mom) didn’t have a different vision for me and my sisters’ futures, I would probably be engaged to some man 8-10 years older than me with an already established career. Why is it that he got to establish his career and then got engaged while I would just be waiting for my bachelor’s degree before I got shipped off to his goddamn house.
My mother believed that the life of a woman is much more than just waiting for her “big day”. If it wasn’t for her, I would have been brainwashed by the Star plus serials and the Hum TV serials where the “victory” of a woman depended on getting the man.
In elementary school, when many of my friends were being told that their real home was their husband’s home, my mother completely discouraged us from even mentioning the word. She linked independent life and a successful career to the idea of a bright future for us.
As is the case with desi families where “The sex talk” is a huge taboo, our list of taboos also included the word “marriage”.
As time passed by, my mom’s influence spread in my veins and I began to see the horrifying reality of putting a girl’s marriage as a higher priority than her career.
Putting your own financial responsibility on your husband not only makes you dependent on him for the rest of your life but also gives him an upper hand over controlling you.
- What if he turns out to be this emotionally abusive monster?
- What if he has sexist views and imposes them on you?
- What if he rapes you? (Marital rape)
- What if you don’t want kids but he and his family pressurize you into having them?
- What if he beats you for going out of the house without his so-called fucking “permission” ( I’m ANGRY NOW!)
- Imagine having to ask for money from him for buying your personal stuff. This one makes me cringe.
Why on earth would I think of someone else’s money as mine? Am I mentally and physically incapable of earning and providing for myself? This is probably the most degraded that I’d feel.
And these are just a few of the things that no woman should ever have to deal with or compromise with.
Can you, having no university degree and no career, ever escape an abusive marriage? Not having established a solid career and getting married puts you in an extremely risky position. You are handing over the keys of your life to someone else and handing him a certain power over yourself.
You don’t even have the choice to take those keys back. Unless you take it in a tug of war where everyone would be on his side because “All hail patriarchy”.
If that’s not modern slavery, then what is?
Matters are worse if you live in a country that fully supports the male. A place where the divorce of the woman puts her family to shame instead of liberation from tyranny. A place where a woman is considered “used goods” after her divorce and no one would marry her again.
Imagine having no where to escape! You begin to slowly kill all those dreams you had for yourself. All you do now is wait for death. It’s equivalent to serving a life sentence in prison.
You have to put up with having to bear his kids and then raising those brats on whom you have no control over. Maybe you won’t even have a say in raising the kids. You’d just end up literally cleaning their diapers.
The only way to avoid this is to acknowledge the fact that you NEED to have an equally successful career.
We need to to teach little girls that they can have an independent life where they can choose their own way of living. They have capable minds to contribute to the world in ways more noble than “raising a future generation”.
Some people focus on girls’ education for the purpose of raising good citizens. When those educated girls can themselves contribute to the world, then why produce more humans into this overly populated world, wait for them to grow up and then be that productive future generation raised by those girls?
Damn! Can it get more complicated than this?
Why even link their education to raising better future generations? Aren’t these girls a part of the future? It is more important for a girl to spend hours honing her talent than to worry about the wrinkles on her face.
Several parents tell their daughters that they can travel the world or hang out with friends after they get married. Such ideas create a future zone in their minds where they get lost in dreaming of a beautiful life after marriage. When it is time for their minds to develop and for these girls to discover themselves, they are instead lost in this future zone.
It breaks my heart to see that such possibly bright minds are being put to a waste in believing that their happiness lies in a life after marriage.
As Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.
And the first step to changing such mentalities is to acknowledge that life begins at birth.