Artwork by Nisha Ghani
Being a feminist involves a constant curve of learning and understanding, much like anything else in life. Calling myself a feminist has been part of my identity since I was 17. I dipped my toes into feminism with a very overarching and umbrella-like approach in my mind of wanting equality for womxn. Over the years, I then continued to understand the nuances of the movement, what areas I wanted to extensively lend my energy to, I attended protests and rallies, and continuously argued for womxn. In 2021, however, I feel my feminist perspective is ready for a very micro, very personal take. Social and political stances are never separate from personal ones; you are what you believe in. I am obviously affected by the unfairness associated with being born female, but I don’t think I have allowed myself to take the time and understand how I, in my 24 years of being a somewhat-functional human, can mix in my beliefs with just about everything – self acceptance, specially. I want to learn to just be me, and I want the space to be able to do that.
As Pakistani girls, growing up, all of us have a set of universal experiences and a set of individual ones. My feminism has focused quite a lot on our shared experiences, naturally, but now I need some time to reflect on my unique ones. This by no means implies that I have no interest in our continuous feminist struggle; it just implies that I am ready to ask myself uncomfortable questions and undergo growth that aligns with being a feminist. While we argue for policies, and unfair rules, we argue for wage gaps and we argue for safety, we also argue for the unfairness for never being truly allowed to be and flourish as ourselves.
Over the past year, we have all had some time on our hands to reflect. The sum of my reflections has been that I have always been in a fight to be taken seriously, and to be taken seriously, I have felt the need to hide certain parts of my personality. Wherever you walk in as womxn, odds are, you are going to be outnumbered by men, not in terms of actual number, but by the consuming nature of the space they take and can take. In school, it was in classes, it was in declamation competitions, it was in playgrounds and it was outside canteens. I am a very competitive and ambitious person by nature, so very early on I felt that to keep being taken seriously, I had to hide the goofy parts of my personality, hide my little quirks, and just be the perfect, star, straight A child. Later, in university, it was worse, if I wanted to be heard in a group project, and actually listened to, I felt that I couldn’t walk in doing even the simplest things like wearing a really jazzy pair of earrings. I had to be taken seriously after all. While these things sound like complete non-issues, they got so deeply embedded in my mind that I do feel for a significant amount of time, a handful people only knew who I was as a person, and everyone else only saw the front I designed to feel like I have a chance in the world.
This little reflection brings me back to my resolution. I am and cannot and will not hide myself to be considered worthy of anything. For God’s sake, I cannot pretend I do not like pink anymore, because I love pink! My feminist beliefs tell me that I want to help build a society on the fundamentals of fairness, but I have been so unfair to myself. There is no perfect box that I came out of, and there is no box that I will be put in. I am a dangerously ambitious and driven person, and I won’t be guilted into playing down those ambitions to make someone else comfortable around me. If someone is intimidated by who I am, that’s their thought process to figure out, not mine. I am 24 years old, and all I want is to live out the next 24 with kindness, to myself first and others, next. I am not ashamed to admit that I am actually ridiculously smart, and I will not dumb my personality down to fit the idea of what a ‘smart’ woman is. My career plans all center around cancer research. I will study cancer and I will do so with a yellow scrunchie holding back my hair!
In 2021, I will read books I want to, take pictures of my coffees, take selfies, paint my nails hot pink, and still be taken seriously when I walk into a room, and still be able to assert my presence and be acknowledged. In 2021, I will continue to be comfortable in my skin and not shrink my presence to allow a man’s ego to fit in the room. In 2021, I will not shy from expressing where I want boundaries to be drawn in my relationships, I will not make excuses for any man who didn’t listen to me saying or implying “no”. In 2021, I will remember that the past year has taught me life is dangerously short and far too rapidly passing by, so I will live my life as the woman I am and remind myself, there is nothing wrong with her.
I’m Hooran, a mostly-functional person, health researcher, and super amateur writer! If you want to find me, you can do so on Instagram