An absent present father..

Oh, don’t worry. He’s very much there, as in, his physical being is. But he has never been a father to me. He’s been the first to place restrictions, and the last time I remember having love and attention from him is when I was too small to question his view on life.

Father’s usually come with daughters when it’s time to go to college, they help them with the fairly intimidating task of form-filling and documentation and ensuring a college is good enough to go to. My father actively tries to stop me from going to college. He thought too much education would give me ideas. I got the education anyway and I got those ideas he was afraid too, but not without the fear of him withdrawing financial support, every year for seven years of my post-school education. A 16 year old should be worrying about her study schedule, not marriage schedule.

Anyway, as I studied humanities, I got to understand that this was part of his cultural upbringing. Fathers were to be aloof, he was told. They were the rule setters and they got children to conform to what was right. Which is why he tried to ensure I do not get too smart or too independent, because I would not have a husband.

It would be okay if this was all. I have seen many dads in the extended family, who want to make their daughters conform to this. But, there is still an emotional wavelength despite it. None of them have an absolutely selfish, emotionally devoid father like mine.

He grew up in a family that only paid attention to instrumental things – the earning, how much the daughter’s in law could do around the house, and how many children they could bear. My father divorced his first wife because she could not get pregnant. His family claimed this was because they were not told from before about her health issues. It is not that they feel empathy and emotions and they suppress them. No, they only understand power and self satisfaction. That’s just how they’re wired after years of conditioning. That’s why, my dad’s brother who spent his formative years in Karachi, away from this family environment, is a tad better.

So this Father’s Day, I think the only gift I can thank dad is for the many emotions that lived in me, that guided me on my path of healing and social justice. I thank him for the opportunity to study oppression so closely, and to show first hand how, relationships with the oppressor can grow so complicated.

All the absence of love and family, made me know what love and family should look like.

How to: Feminism of convenience.

Many people I talk to, especially men of my age – from academic or social surroundings, have a very negative view of Feminism. They throw around the word ‘Feminazi’ without knowing it’s implications. I know that every woman who swears by this ideology would be fuming, and so would male feminists (yes – they exist). But I do not know if these men can be blamed entirely for their lack of knowledge.

I could fume about them being misinformed, but all of the responsibility does not lie with them. Their bad view of Feminism comes from men and women who have used the ideology to their advantage but have not stood true to the tenants of it. Instead of shaking my head sadly, I could inform them of what the ideology actually is, just like I have to talk to people about what Islam actually is. That is the one thing that has helped to do away with Islamophobia.

And when you talk to them, they tell you their negative brush with feminism or at least, feminism used as an excuse.The examples will vary from women hitting them and getting away with it because of their being women, to asking being let off from work with periods as an excuse. When it comes to splitting the bill on a date, standing for men’s right to emotional expression, or doing their bit towards a social issue or a workplace, the feminism disappears.

What allows for this misuse of the ideology to happen?

At the root of this is the one word we all hate fervently: Patriarchy.

Patriarchy will see men as strong and never in the victim role. This effectively makes sure that men who are victims of domestic violence or rape are never taken seriously. This makes sure that some women and their families misuse the Dowry Prohibition Act (498a) to meet their goal of getting out of a marriage.

In the short run, these people will get what they want or they will silence the victimized men, but it is sad that the women in these situations do not see the ultimate harm they do to other women by misusing feminism and pro-women laws. They do not see that the thousands of suppressed women will lose a chance of being taken seriously, for the few men and women who do not understand the ideology.

The question that follows after I explain that feminism strives for equal rights of men and women, as well as other genders, is – Why call it Feminism then? Why make it sound pro-woman?

Because of the history. When this movement started, women were the oppressed group, and even today, many women remain oppressed.

Which is why it scares me when young men and women either banish the term or misuse it.

So, to clarify, if you say you are a feminist, you CANNOT:

1) Ask a male partner to ‘man up’ when he is emotional, because feminism propogates the right of men to their emotional sides. If you cannot deal with them being emotional, say it’s something you struggle with, but do not call yourself a feminist and banish it.
2) You cannot look down upon grassroot workers, men and women who are trying to better the status of women, because they do not study in lofty universities like you do.
3) You cannot use it to cheat on your partner or keep sexual history hidden, unless you’re okay with receiving the same treatment.
4) You cannot hit ANYONE, unless it is self-defense. In our skewed society, men are struggling to be recognized at victims and get the required help. Do not add to the burden.
5) You cannot make fun of ANYONE. Men, other women, other genders, or people of different sexual orientation. Feminism says that people are equal regardless of gender, age, color, orientation.
6) You cannot criticize people for what they are wearing, it is their choice if they want to wear a burqa, a bikini, or nothing. You have no right to TELL someone they are oppressed. You can inquire.
7) You cannot enjoy the perks of patriarchy when they benefit you, and use feminism as a defense when that benefits you. Make up your mind and stay on one side. At least do not add to the dilution of the ideology.

Patriarchy, with all it’s flaws, may have some temporary benefits. A man might ‘pamper’ his female partner because that is what traditional gender roles would call for. But before anyone takes part in this indulgence, think – You may be getting an expensive wrist-watch in this transaction, but by accepting this state of affairs, what are you doing for the number of men and women, who have and are still suffering due to the restrains of patriarchy.

Yes, patriarchy affects men too. Their right of emotional expression, of being loving and involved parents is taken away. They are taught from childhood to view women as inferior, and they struggle forever to undo this learning, they get crippled in relationships because of always being taught aloofness. They face problems at work because anger has always been encouraged in them. They have to confirm to typically male roles and activities.

Patriarchy is limiting in the long run. Feminism is a way out of it, but if it is used to escape work when you are on your period, rather than demand health expense to find out why you get this pain and what you can do to manage it – it starts to dilute and succumb to misuse.

Regardless of whether you call yourself a feminist or not, regardless of whether you are a woman or not – before you indulge in the perks of patriarchy or use feminism to your convenience and dilute it, think what it will do to the number of people who are still not living in a world as advantageous or liberated as yours and could actually use a progressive ideology to help themselves.

Make up your mind.