Why I Won’t Put Myself On Display

By Yamna Pasha

I was in good spirits. It seemed a really fine day. The weather appeared promising, and, for no reason at all, as I started getting ready for university, I decided to dress a bit more nicely today, and wear a little more jewelry,  and just a little more makeup than I usually do.

As I stepped outside and stood, waiting for my university van to pick me, I noticed creatures belonging to the opposite gender checking me out as if I was either a fresh new Playboy issue or a shiny new toy featured on Ebay. I felt my blood boil, and I wanted to make them suffer; I just wanted them to stop throwing  those disgusting glances toward me, all this while abusing them in a really fancy language in my mind which, after all, was all I could do, being a girl raised in a society that raises girls like they are nothing more than commodities, and taught to act just like a non living thing; have no real rights, no feelings, no voice for herself, and no opinions.

Sadly, the glances continued and followed me through the whole day which had already been ruined. It’s not that I had never been checked out and stared at before, but something was just more disgusting about the stares that came my way that day, and that is the day when I thought, for the first time, that why is it so. Why is it justified for men to stare at us however they want, why is it not a big deal when the ‘rishta’ aunties fish through our photos looking for the most suitable face to fit the ego of the “larkay walas” and why is it ok for the boy’s family to visit our houses, enjoy heart meals, take a complete outward examination of us and leave, only to send a refusal within a few days along with a lame excuse, thus tarnishing our self esteem.

On another not so fortunate occasion, an ‘aunt’ who lives in Australia came to visit me claiming that she had seen my photos and heard about me from her friend and was very sure that she wanted only me for her son. Anyway, I didn’t feel so wrong about putting efforts into looking nice that day so I did. She came, she saw, she ate, then she left. It was six months ago and we have never heard from her ever since. The only consequence that followed was me feeling low about myself and over-thinking for a good many days, doubting my ever so strong belief that I am a good looking girl. The only good that came out of it was me deciding that this will not happen again and I flatly told my parents that I won’t let them put me on the shelf ever again.

Now that I think of it, it was stupid of me, and it is stupid of all the girls who let her parents manipulate them into displaying themselves in front of these people and let them benchmark their daughters as items of sale. It is stupid of us to buy into the age old belief that marriage is the only life there is for us girls and it is crucial for us to get married at a certain age.

The only way to stop being viewed as commodities all over the planet is to stop considering ourselves as one. We have to change our thinking first before we can change others’ perceptions. We have to stop being the victims of society, we have to start being brave and raising our voices for our own selves at least, and we have to stop taking harassment of any sort, be it mere stares thrown our way. We have to stop selling our bodies as either actresses or porn stars or prostitutes, we just have to have a God damn self respect and refuse! The only way to stop the world viewing us as commodities is to stop viewing ourselves as one, and emerging, not as empowered women, but as human beings in absolute control of their free will.

The contributor is a student at IoBM, Karachi. 

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