2015 essay contest honorable mention
by Rabia Khan
11th grader, Beaconhouse School, Pakistan
Imagine your mother holding you in her arms with a fear, a fear unspoken but so piercing within. She’ll now have to suffer through sorrow and agony once again, only this time it will be more painful, this time she’ll see her child as the victim and herself as the spectator. That’s what happens the day it is born in this world. Now let’s fast forward the story to where that toddler becomes a young child, seemingly like any other kid but roaming around with an invisible sign that cries ‘weaker, inferior’. And the child carries this sign for the rest of its life. No matter how life changes, what circumstances bring, that child is discouraged at every step of the way. That child is constantly reminded of its short comings, of its innate defects, of the weakness of its gender. I am not describing a child born with any bodily disability but a girl child, who faces obstacles with a defect greater than any physical obstruction – gender expectations.
Why does the mother refuse her seven year old daughter from telling on the abusive uncle? Gender expectations. Living with an abused daughter is a filthy stain that must be hidden from the daunting eyes of the society. Why is a divorced woman, who bravely left her violent husband, looked down upon in society while her inhumane husband miraculously escapes from the wrath he rightfully earns and even has the audacity to join in the crowd of accusers? Gender expectations. A woman seeking freedom from pain and suffering is an immoral creature who has failed to save her marriage and must rightfully be judged and attacked by the slicing weapon of words by friends and foes.
Some also argue that gender expectations is not a bad thing at all. Every individual in this society is expected to behave in a certain manner that is acceptable to all its citizens and why should women be an exception? But when they come in the way of cruelty roaming with liberty, of women failing to realize their true potential due to people’s anticipations, these so called ‘expectations’ become the cage confining the bird in a space of misery from a world of endless opportunities. After all why should an animal born to fly be stopped? And pray why should a living, breathing human being be degraded to such an extent that they are compared to animals?
There is no mathematical formula or a tested plan that can guarantee an immediate and complete solution to this problem. Cultural shifts cannot come overnights and they require sincere contribution from every member of the society. But this does not, in any way, justify the prolonged ignorance towards this grave matter. So how does one overcome society’s crippling expectations and break out free? Simple, it starts with you and me right here declaring it to be our utmost duty to do everything in our power to educate people as much about the dire consequences of gender expectations as possible and making it their aim as well. Societies cannot transform instantly but individuals can. And that is all I hope the reader takes with itself. When the power of education sustains, and the crooked walls of ignorance in the cover of tradition crumble, perspectives change, lives change and more importantly our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters finally become (and more importantly) feel like an individual. And that’s not bad at all.