Behenchara

Dear Desi Woke boy.

Art by Isma (Instagram: @ismagulhasan)

Dear Desi Woke Boy

 

Dear Desi woke boy,

Are you a theatre kid? 

Because you’re so amazing at performance 

I almost want to be mansplained

 

Dear Desi woke boy

I love it when you take up our non-men-only spaces

When you colonise my words, reclaim slurs you’ve never had to hear

 

When you scream louder than me at every woman’s march

I’m accustomed to men’s screams silencing mine everyday anyway

 

When you use your Manic Panic box dyed platinum hair

and your Becca-cosmetics highlight

(Ugh, king of breaking masculinity)

As a cloak to escape your cishet, 

your male, your upper-class privilege

 

Dear Desi woke boy

I love it when you spread communism

Spending three hundred rupees on each copy 

Of the not-even-hundred page book

For every girl you’re leading on

 

Of course it’s okay if you don’t know who Fredrich Engles is, meri jaan

You’re the king of wokeness nonetheless

 

I loved your parody of Ali Zafar’s apology video 

But 

Your apology video was a

Yes-you-can-copy-my-homework-but-switch-it-up-a-bit

Cut-and-paste mish mash of his video when you were alleged

 

My sister tells me that dajjal would pretend to be

Pure,  holier than thou

I ask her,

So, dajjal would be a performative woke boy?

 

I’m not that religious but my paranoia makes you look like the antichrist

Glimmering through the forest of my trust issues

 

I sometimes wonder how it feels to milk wokeness 

When prejudice doesn’t even affect you

I guess I’ll never be a desi woke boy

I’ll never be man enough to find out

These women

 

“These women who you call your heroes”,

They yell out the obscenity—

“Will take you nowhere apart from the streets,

Stripping you off your izzat“,

As I flip another page of Ismat

That reflects the rage of misogyny

and the combat of the average woman against it,

 

“These women who you idolize,

are the embodiment of vulgar”,

As this “Warning” leads me to wonder

How vulgar could it possibly be for a woman to realise

that the only thing she is being stripped off are her rights

 

“These women—”

And every single time they speak they hit a new low of ignorance

As I am close to bawling my eyes out in tears

“Why don’t they help other women instead of setting fire to streets 

with their half bare bodies, they’re only prone to more abuse.

And by the way, girls can’t drive.”

 

Well here’s my response

“These women” are not your daddy’s jageer,

I, for one, am not your daddy’s jageer

My body isn’t that shameful tasweer

that you privately sin every night to

You can’t tell me what to do with my body

because nobody gave you the right to

feminism is no joke and we don’t wish to fight you

But it is your raging misogyny that 

Every single woman who once loved you

now cries to

You don’t have to be reminded that she’s a mother, a sister, or a wife

Us being humans is enough for you to respect us

 

Damn it, just realise already that we’re not unwrapped lollipops

Or open boxes of cereal

Before you’re about to rape or assault or throw acid on our faces

and these women and i—

we just want to breathe

 

I’m not like other girls

 

I’m not like other girls

 

From every single day in middle school, rummaging through hallways,

Trying to find ONE child that would treat me like a normal kid forever and always

 

To being shamed in highschool for things that I was formerly unaware of 

That one could be shamed for

 

On Thursdays, I foot-tapped on surfaces of rikshas intricately laden with Urdu shayeri from your worst nightmares

In my earphones, blasted Mac Demarco’s ‘My Kind Of Woman’

Aligned perfectly with Karachi’s chaotic traffic of W-11

Entered Physics class and it reeked of elitism and whatever perfume rich kids wear

I wouldn’t know

 

And I can’t even wait till the end of this poem to openly declare

PSA: I’m exactly like other girls

Saying otherwise is soaked and dripping with internalised misogyny

To the point where I am slightly nauseous 

 

I am like other girls, 

or boys,

or non-binary people,

or just—humans in general

 

We live in a society where we exclude anyone and everyone who we believe is different

We leech off their misery

We jab at them

It makes us feel so good about ourselves

 

I live in a world where acceptance is so rare

It’s probably hidden beneath layers of sand in Area 51

So rare that the first time I experienced it,

I realised how easy it was for people to be inclusive and

All the selfish reasons why they don’t do it

 

From racism to sexism and trans-exclusionary feminism

To our very own, local, homegrown gora-complex

Hybridity scares us

And it’s time for you to square up

I am now seeking redemption

And leeching off anyone’s misery who gets offended when I say

I am like other girls.

 

An ode to Fehmida Riaz


I lost Fehmida Riaz like I lose my patience—
Not realising how irrational I sound during political arguments until the heat of the moment fizzles out:
Like the after-taste of neem water you drink only to detoxify
The lingering soreness in my shoulder blades or the pain in my throat when I’m unable to cry

I lost Fehmida Riaz only to find out a month later
Wondering who will carry such a dauntless legacy forward
Self aware of how my frail mind and body wouldn’t allow me to

I lost Fehmida Riaz all while my fingers brushed up against the painting of Qandeel Baloch on a wall in Khayaban-e-Iqbal
I lost Qandeel too after taking her for granted like the rest of us

I lost Fehmida Riaz and it feels like I borrowed a loan that I can not return

And all I did after losing her was scribble about it in angst
One day my frail body, mind, pencil and paper—
Will finally tear away this chaar diwaari and chaadar
And that’s when we’ll realise
I never lost Fehmida Riaz

 

Women and Pakistan

 

Women and Pakistan are two like poles of a magnet, so alike yet so distant, 

women want to be as far away from Pakistan as Pakistan wants to be from women. 

 

Given the legislature and cultural esotericism, 

being a patriot sometimes makes me feel like I’m stabbing myself in the back. 

 

Women and Pakistan are my legs during Aurat March, launching forward with resilience but being pushed back with the straining wind of the patriarchy. 

 

Women and Pakistan are the laughs and the nagging aimed at me when I called myself a feminist at 14.

 

Women and Pakistan is every muffled sob at Meesha Shafi being ostracised for being a “false accuser”. 

 

Women in Pakistan is a briefcase full of pre emptive strikes like inactive matrimonial laws, no one wants to touch it, it is a pot with boiling rumours brewed to the brim, 

 

it is collateral damage in the form of acid attacks and honour killings, it is every bullet shot at a trans woman in Khyber Pakhtunkhua

 

Women in Pakistan is every share button aggressively pressed by every man when a white woman posts about how safe Pakistan is for women. 

 

It is every “We should show the good side of Pakistan like Hunza valley”, lying in the comment section of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s shortfilms. 

 

Women and Pakistan is the blood and tears birthed from every coat hanger abortion performed on a 13 year old rape victim in some musty, shady house.

 

It is the pennies my working lady counts because poverty is feminised.

 

 I live in a world where crime is wrapped in culture and legality equals morality like its some scientific formula. 

 

I live in a world where I apologise for being proud of who I am because my credentials should have belonged to a boy. 

 

Instead, I treat culture like a buffet, I pick things out that I like and leave behind the ones that I don’t, I am told it does not work that way. I am kicked out. I am blacklisted. I am the voice of women and Pakistan. 

 

Sara Sarah Shamim is a student, activist, writer, poet, and performer. Sarah loves Stranger Things, pasta, vegan food, and all things purple.

 

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