I remember that when I turned 13, I was constantly preached to wear a shalwar kameez, because the men in our society do not consider any other attire to be respectful or modest but, you see I never wanted to wear this apparel, I wanted to wear the latest pink t-shirt and the blue denim jeans, clothes that made me happy and I did not care whether they conformed to the standards of society as long as I knew I was properly covered up. I did not need a 3 yard long piece of fabric to cover up myself on top of my clothes.
I remember being 10 and watching a Pakistani drama where I heard the hero say that he will not ask for the heroine's hand in marriage until she starts wearing proper clothes, then he added that girls from respectable family backgrounds do not wear short shirts and tight jeans, they wear a dupata and shalwar kameez.
Growing up in a Pakistani society, I got a first-hand experience of the narrow mindedness of the men of this society. I heard so many incidences around me, of girls being harassed on the streets by the resident loafer guys who had nothing better to do than to criticize a girl walking down the street in a shalwar kameez for not wearing a dupata on her head.
I always used to ask my mom why we do not see a lot of women drive cars in Pakistan, why ladies sit in a specific way at the back of a motorbike and the conclusion I would draw from her answer would always round up to girls being judged by men.
I mean I could not make any sense of the fact that someone’s clothes could be the reason for them not getting married, I could not understand how wearing a piece of fabric would define your ‘respectable‘ family background.
Then when I was 14 years old, I heard an incident about a girl being harassed by a group of men because she enticed their imagination by wearing an abaya and the worst part was that the girl was held responsible for the incident and was called a ‘slut’ by the narrator of the story, rather than the men who should have been accused. Seriously, if wearing a baggy, black colored, full-body gown is not even modest enough, then only God knows what is. You see for our society, it is very easy to label a girl a ‘slut’, rather than labelling the guy a ‘harasser.’
I think it is high time we change this typical male chauvinistic Pakistani thinking and take steps towards women empowerment in Pakistan.
Though the world has moved ahead and has evolved its thoughts on women empowerment, the age-old thinking of the Pakistani men has still not changed and to this day, functions on the corrupted, rotten ideas of women having a lower status than them.
Finally, I remember being 15 and listening to a relative saying that: “respect should be in the man’s eye, not in the clothes I wear,” and I do not think that I could have have possibly found any other phrase to agree more with.