When A Desi Girl Goes to University

Rabia Khan writes on the everyday difficulties of university life for women in the sub-continent. 

 

‘My mom asked me to send her a picture of what I was wearing.’ 

All of us flinch. 

OMG, same.’

More flinching.

‘What did you do?’

‘I stopped replying.’

All of us laugh.

I can’t say if this is something all girls living away from home at university experience but it’s definitely something common. 

About two years ago when my sister was preparing to leave for university,  she was sent out a list of clothing she was allowed to wear on campus/ dorms etc. She had to get almost an entirely new wardrobe. According to university requirements; necessary wearing of dupatta (long scarf), no jeans, no short shirts, no heels, no capris etc. I remember my mom rushing my sister from gulf to dolmen mall, buying her dupattas, longer kurtis etc.

Thankfully, the university I am currently attending doesn’t have a strict dress code like this but conversations like the one at the beginning of this piece still take place. The only difference is, now, far from home, there is only so much your mum can do to check up on what you are wearing.

We live in a society where girls have to dress a certain way, be back home at a certain time, have a certain sort of  company to not be termed ‘loose’ women. Therefore going away to university is a whole new world, especially for women. There is so much more space and freedom to navigate around; it’s liberating, yet, at the same time it’s overwhelming.

Conversations between friends tend to go something like this: 

‘Man, I went back to my dorm room at like 4 a.m last night.’ 

‘What were you doing until then?’ 

‘Nothing just hanging out with ‘x,y and z.’ It was so boring and exhausting, yet, I didn’t want to go in.’

‘Why not?’ 

‘Because, like, at home, my parents have never let me stay out this late ever. And now, to be able to do that, it’s just like you don’t want to miss the chance to stay out.’ 

I remember my first week at university was spent staying out of the dorm till at least 2 a.m, doing absolutely nothing but sitting with a group of people and laughing over the stupidest stuff. It felt great. The conversation eventually grew stale and boring, but knowing that hey I can do this. I can exist outside of ‘home’ this late at night, without being told that girls aren’t supposed to be out at this time of night, was worth it.

When you start living in a hostel with a bunch of other girls you start having conversations and start noticing how many of the things we do are simply because of the restrictions placed on us by the society we have lived and have grown up in. 

If you are out with a group at the mall, someone is going to say, ‘hey, I wanna get a picture with just us girls so my mom knows that I have female friends.’ Or that she knows I was out with girls only. 

You ask your roommate to take a picture of you in a proper shalwar kameez and dupatta, to send on your family group, because that’s what good girls wear, and because you know that’s what your family expects you to wear. 

Before your roommate’s mom comes to visit, you both have ‘the talk’ where you decide what things you are supposed to mention and not mention. And, as her mother asks what time her daughter goes to bed at, you tell her with your face in the closet, ‘Aunty, she is back by 10 everyday.’ 

The first few times you go out in jeans and that T-shirt your borrowed from a friend, you are extremely apprehensive. You keep asking if you look fine, if your butt isn’t too obvious, or maybe if you should just change into a kurti. 

When you go out late for coffee or dinner off campus, you are scared and you keep asking your friend ,’ what if my mom calls?’ You make sure that you call your parents early and tell them you are tired and going to sleep so they don’t call you when you are out. You stay off social media, in case they see you online. 

You hear the line, ‘ there is a difference between lying and omitting the truth’ about a gazillion times, because you have told your roommate, about a gazillion times, how much you hate lying to your parents. This conversation takes place right after you have both just told your mothers that ‘yes, we have been praying.’ 

Sometimes the worst thing is sitting in a group of people listening to your friend talk to her mom, trying to convince her that she isn’t lying, and then being made fun of by the boys at the table because they just don’t understand. 

And the thing is, it is so hard to come to terms with the fact that what you are doing isn’t wrong, but that you have been socially conditioned into believing that it is. It isn’t easy to rid oneself of almost two decades worth of conditioning. It is relentless and unreal how difficult existence is made for women in society. 

Rabia is a blogger and university student in Pakistan, you can visit her blog ‘Travesty’ here: 

https://rabianajmkhan.wordpress.com/

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Drug Possession: The Criminalization Of Youth

The words we use matter. Be it ‘junkie’ instead of ‘addict’ or ‘she had a few drinks’ versus ‘she took drugs’ the words chosen shape the emotional response.

The callous attitude which wants us to maintain criminal penalty for petty drug possession is not one premised in practicality or reasonableness. It is an ideological belief  that sees drug users as impure and addicts as a subhuman scourge who block the way into Brown Thomas.

 

For these people, a young person having their stomach pumped from excessive alcohol intake is ‘a naïve teen that went too far’ a 24-year-old sitting at a field listening to their favourite band caught smoking cannabis is a ‘criminal’ to be put in handcuffs, humiliatingly escorted out of the venue by police and given a criminal record scarring her life prospects forever.

 

This is the reality of criminalizing possession that many overlook. A bizarre, wholly ineffective and disproportionate response to curbing harmful levels of drug use. I’ve worked at the last two major music festivals in Dublin this summer and I can tell you that the prohibition on underage drinking bares no influence on a 16 year old’s decision to drink damaging quantities of alcohol. Should they all be treated as criminals too? Should we as a society see them as crooks to be punished or as young people vulnerable to peer pressure and making mistakes?

 

A criminal record is for life. Believing in decriminalization is not about being pro-drugs, it’s about looking past ideological constraints and rationally examining what is the best means to manage drug use.

 

Portugal has shown that decriminalisation results in a decrease in drug-induced deaths and an overall decrease in drug use among 15- to 24-year-olds.

What the writer in last week’s Irish Times seemed to be legitimately concerned about was a culture of excess which young people are particularly exposed to. I’m sorry to inform him that the overindulgence in hashtags is not indicative of the overindulgence of hash.

 

And perhaps instead of blaming the culture of excess on a youthful catchphrase ‘#livingmybestlife’ (who actually says that?) the constant assault of advertising from our phones to the plethora of posters plastered across our streets prompting us to ‘treat ourselves’ to  ‘buy 12 for the price of 6’ or to ‘live life to the fullest’ manipulating and exploiting our insecurities and desires plays a greater role in that culture of excess than the government’s official position on weed?

 

We’ve seen this kind of regressive emotional response a thousand times before. The patronizing call to ‘THINK OF THE CHILDREN’ and smear young people as out of control maniacs is typical of a moral panic. In 1972 Stanley Cohen published a seminal work titled ‘folk devils and moral panics’ in which he demonstrated how media in the 1960’s were dramatically amplifying the deviance of the youth subcultures ‘mods and rockers’ to present an enemy to their readers outside the core values of society and as posing a threat to social order itself.

 

Stoking the flames of moral panic and decrying how decriminalization will be seen as a free pass to engage in dangerous drug use may sell newspapers but by attempting to obstruct much-needed reform it will also destroy lives.

 

 

What is The Difference Between Justice & Revenge?

Dr. Cornell West provides some excellent insight into the role of hope, imagination and empathy in carving a better more just world in the face of catastrophe and misery.

Quoting some of the worlds best known dreamers and doers, West offers a compelling vision of justice and how it differs from the bitter and counter intuitive idea of revenge or retribution.

A must watch!

Frankie Boyle on Grenfell Tower, Being Offensive & The “Outrage” Media

 

 

In this riveting exchange Guardian journalist Owen Jones interviews Scottish genius and highly offensive comedian Frankie Boyle. 

Boyle who has a huge social media following is back on the BBC after it was rumoured he was permanently banned for “offensive” material on the queen and autism. Yet he recently returned with a new hit satire show “New World Order” on BBC 2.

He is a well known social commentator with an acute and always fascinating take on the public sentiment. In this interview he discusses the media, morality and political correctness:

“People can see a link between Theresa May’s desire to scrap the Human Rights Act and the inhumane disgraceful treatment of the Grenfell Tower victims; even if they don’t have a media which is willing to convey that”

He further spoke of faux public morality and how “as we live in a country which profits from selling arms to viscous regimes and launders money for financial institutions” we have to create a fake morality based on taste.

“Oh that joke was too much” or “that play should be banned” to create the illusion that we are morally pure.

Whatever you make of Boyle he offers some exciting ideas on morality, political correctness and the media here.

 

Frankie has been a long term proponent of having more female comedians on the public airwaves and his show features two of the best in Britain right now, Katherine Ryan & Sarah Pascoe – you can watch the latest episode here:

Why Religious Schooling Should Be Abolished

Afua Hirsch describes how segregating children based on their parents faith harms integration and divides communities. As school is an integral part of preparing a child for life surely they should be in an environment where they are exposed to people from all backgrounds, make friends and learn to respect and tolerate everyone’s views.

Rather than being in an artificial, concentrated bubble of like minded people and creating an “us” versus them” and being educated from a narrow perspective. What do you think? Do Faith based schools divide people along religious and class lines? And should a proper inclusive state run schooling system be a requirement of any inclusive secular government?

What Makes A Video Go Viral?

What makes a video go viral? Is it a formula or is it just something elusive and unpredictable? trying to make content that will go viral can be a dangerous game for content creators, limiting their creativity or trying to tailor their talents to what they think people like, rather than just trusting their gut with what is actually good content.

Unfortunately we have an online system that prioritizes vitality over quality. Videos such as “Charlie bit my finger” or the salt bae meme show that these things are almost impossible to predict and that trends change often, if you become good at what you like, it is likely the trend will follow you rather than the other way around.

What Would Elon Musk Be Working On If He Was 22?

Inventor, Entrepreneur and Englineer discusses what he views as the most important work to be doing if he was a young person in 2017.

Musk has been at the centre of the conversation around artificial intelligence and sustainable energy consumption over the past 15 years. He is ranked the 21st most influential people in the world and his current company SpaceX are working on a project to eventually allow humans to colonise Mars.