While reading the article, An Ode to the Fathers of Strong Daughters written by the wonderfully talented Toby Israel, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own father.
My father didn’t raise me as a princess by any definition of the word. He always encouraged me to be on my own, to be confident in my own skin, to travel alone and to figure out life alone.
But when I look at all the factors that made me strong and independent, my father’s upbringing is probably not even near the top. When I look at the reasons I’m able to say “no” to inequality, I’ll probably have a dozen of them before I list my upbringing.
Reading Toby’s article and comments, I couldn’t help but think of all the women I know with wonderful fathers, who taught them the same values that my father did, but who will be the ones who never question inequality.
Living in a conservative society, I have lots of friends who have similar upbringing to mine. Whose fathers encouraged them to be independent and strong too. But those are the same girls who don’t know how to say “no” at the appropriate times, who stay quiet when they see an act of inequality and, in fact, even condole some of the said acts.
Those are the same girls who simply agree with the clichéd statement “It’s for your own good,” when they have limitations set on them.
It is the same girls who quietly obey, first their boyfriends and then their husbands, because society made them believe that they must be submissive. The same society that made them believe that gender equality has boundaries, that it’s better to stay silent in some situations, that rape is the girls fault, that domestic violence isn’t the concern of third parties.
It is the same society that told them that marital rape doesn’t exist, that femininity is somehow linked with being delicate, obedient and pretty and masculinity is somehow linked with being violent and emotionless.
They are the girls who think beauty matters over intelligence, who feel incomplete without a man, who stay in unhappy or even abusive relationships just because society raised them that way.
And it is precisely those girls and that society that has made me, first angry, resilient, rebellious and then thoughtful, strong and open minded. It is because of the people who think that being female means being somewhat inferior to men, that I know that I am equal to men.
It is because of the girls who silently endure inequality because of which I learned to say “no” to inequality.
It is because of the women who believe they cannot leave the house alone that I know I can travel the world alone and still be alright.
It is because of the women who allow society to choose an identity for themselves that I know I can figure out life alone. It is because of women who feel protected and cared for by chivalry that I can refuse help from chivalrous men.
I was able to reject all the misconceptions about women because I’m well read. Because I think. And I don’t mean I think casually the way people think of loving chocolates or cute cats. I think deeply until I drive myself crazy with all the questions and thoughts. It’s because I’m self aware and question society by nature.
I’m not trying to put down the women who weren’t able to rise above the conservative society and be their own person. We all have our own stories and circumstances. I’m just listing down all the reasons that made me strong.
Author: Aqsa Sajjad
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Tommy Pixel/Flickr