By Sanniah Hassan
This fear of not being able to please people, the society at large, keeps millions of people up at night. Why is it that an individual’s decisions for his/her life have to be run through approval of what others might say or think first?
Living in this world as a woman is a hefty battle in its own but, living in a country such as Pakistan which is known for its patriarchal set-up, being a woman is an everyday fight for survival. Irrespective of which class you may belong to, if you are a woman, you will have heard “log kia kahain gey” [What will people say?] multiple times a day, every day. The day since you are born till you die, your lives are first ‘handled’ and ‘managed’ by your parents and then by your spouse and in-laws, to ensure that their daughter [or daughter-in-law]is aware she needs to people-please.
Though there are a few exceptions and thankfully the percentage is going up, most parents do not want to or let their daughters stand up for even their basic rights. It is all well and good to say that so and so cannot happen or it may not be true because you have not been through it. It is an intrinsic part of human nature to deny what you yourself have never experienced, which is why it is absolutely understandable that there is denial. However, this treatment is not justified.
Human beings are a social animal, which is a basic biological concept taught to students in school. Being, social animals, means that we thrive on being connected to other people while also deserving of some personal time to recharge our systems. The world we live in today is increasingly becoming troublesome as more and more people are behaving in an inconsiderate manner towards others. There seems to be little to no compassion left. People generally seem to be easily frustrated and irritated towards others. At such a point in time, is it not best to let people be?
I have grown up listening to the elders around me say, ‘live and let live’, don’t ‘speak unless you are spoken to first’ and so on. As a child I thought it was perhaps to make sure I turn into an obedient little fellow but, as I grew older I realized it was for a reason far more significant today than it had been earlier. This whole ‘log kia kahain gey?’ stuck with me in whatever I wanted to do as well but the idea of keeping to myself and not unnecessarily butting into other people’s business has kept my life relatively stress free. None the less, the ideology of what people will think of me has stayed with me all my life like with countless other women around the world. Always being directly or discreetly told to consider how society will view my decisions has shaped the person I have grown to be.Unlike how I imagined I would turn out, I am more reserved, less adventurous and enthusiastic in my cause. Although I would have liked to be a doctor, the question of how you will care for your family’s needs stopped me, when I decided I should pursue journalism, I was told it is not a profession for respectable women. These are just basic examples of experiences women go through. Then there was a time when like many of my rebellious peers I declared to my mother that marriage is not in the cards for me, I was reminded of what people will say. As if it is people who pay for my daily bread, as if it is people who are responsible for my deeds [good or bad]whatever they may be.
So many women give up on their dreams every day, so many give in to marrying people they are not compatible with. Countless more women give up on pursuing the degrees of their choices or job opportunities they wish to pursue because what will people say if God forbid; you work in an office environment with men? As if houses are made solely by women.
I feel it is time that we let our sisters, daughter, nieces, wives and mothers free from the stigma of what people say because people talk whether you choose to stay at home or you choose to go out and work, people still talk if you have kids or you don’t. People always talk. Since there is no end to people talking, I think it is time that parents liberate their kids regardless of gender specifics so we as a community as well as a species can prosper.