A Bad Woman’s Story- Kishwar Naheed

“Let me ask you, Mother. Have you ever seen your daughters suffocating? When their own children are turned into snakes in the grass and set against them, and the father, having completed his quota of torture, heaves a sigh of relief. When manhood is only felt to be vindicated by hanging women on the gallows of blame… While the woman is left with the consolation: an elephant may roam from place to place but will always come back to its home.”

Bad women leave the house and interact with men, bad women don’t do household chores all day, bad women write poetry, bad women aren’t happy to be a wife and a mother, bad women talk back.  Bad women are those who refuse to be controlled by society.

This is the story of a Pakistani feminist poet, Kishwar Naheed, and her struggles to live her life fully in an extremely patriarchal society that uses religion as a major way to control women. Naheed struggles to be educated and to be able to write. She is always aware of the misogynist and hypocritical society she lives in and addresses this through her own autobiographical anecdotes, female figures from history, and stories she has heard from people around her.

The misogyny in this book was very hard to take at times. Women were made to feel less than human and although they were policed very severely (for example, after a certain age, they weren’t allowed to be alone with male cousins) they were blamed for everything (“Eve burst out: ‘Who punished you? Were you alone in this act, absolutely alone?'”). I’ve been following the rape news in India and have been disgusted by the fact that a woman can be blamed for her own rape and murder.

This book illuminates the Pakistani woman’s experience but we have our own feminist issues here in Canada and elsewhere, so I appreciated the fact that Naheed tells Westerners that Pakistani women are active in perpetuating change within their own society:

“To convey the struggle of Pakistani women in writing and in their daily life to foreigners is a task that tries your patience because they are convinced that we are ignorant women who sit at home.”

I admire Naheed greatly for her determination and for refusing to stick to the status quo. Living in a society that expected women to find completeness and fulfillment  in matrimony and motherhood, Naheed knew this would never be the case for her. Her love of literature, poetry and writing kept her sane. In fact she goes into a lot of discussion on books and poetry, and on misunderstood female writers:

“My writing offered a shield in front of all these hatreds. My pen made a dam to hold back the flood. A house came up inside the house. My own house, the house of dialogue between me and my self, in which pen and paper became my friends to console me and make me smile. I began to rely so much on their friendship that the day I didn’t read I felt empty. And all alone.”

To finish this review, a great quote in light of Women’s Day and celebrating women writers: “The fire of their writing inspires me to follow in their footsteps because through the voices of honest women these writers have always challenged tyrants.”

We Sinful Women- Kishwar Naheed

It is we sinful women
who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our lives
who don’t bow our heads
who don’t fold our hands together.

It is we sinful women
while those who sell the harvests of our bodies
become exalted
become distinguished
become the just princes of the material world.

It is we sinful women
who come out raising the banner of truth
up against barricades of lies on the highways
who find stories of persecution piled on each threshold
who find that tongues which could speak have been severed.

It is we sinful women.
Now, even if the night gives chase
these eyes shall not be put out.
For the wall which has been razed
don’t insist now on raising it again.

It is we sinful women
who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our bodies
who don’t bow our heads
who don’t fold our hands together.

(retrieved from http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/kishwar-naheed/we-sinful-women/)

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