The ‘identity attachment’ issue may be centuries old, but that does not mean it has to persist. Farzeen Tariq discusses the cultural history of the ‘submissive woman’ and how education and solidarity can help break the cycle of systemic oppression. This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps. Learn more about “Muslim American Journeys” here.
“I am Farzeen Tariq. I guess when I was in high school or even before that, I was very socially and culturally aware of things. I think gender disparity is really cross-cultural. I’ve seen women lawyers here in America, who were born and raised here, and they’re facing a similar stigma. I think the reason is, more so in our culture, that women are still perceived in a relatively submissive role. If you’re more on the submissive side, or you’re agreeing with people a lot, you’re considered not as smart, or you’re considered as one of those girls who will do anything. No matter what you do, you are judged on the basis of it. I think that doesn’t happen to men as often. I think being outspoken or even being here and talking about this was a very difficult decision. There is a saying in our culture: ‘She has wings now, she can fly’. It’s as if it’s a bad thing.
I’m hoping though, that when the daughters hear me, they think this is exactly why we want to fight for our rights. One thing, no matter how much I criticize my culture, I am a proud Pakistani woman too. There is an American in me, and there is a Pakistani in me, and that’s reconciled. I think the more I live here, the more I realize there are so many open-minded men that I’ve meet in my life. I think they are out there, and if they’re not, I would be completely open to being with someone from a different culture. I don’t believe in cultural or religious barriers at all. At the end of the day we’re all humans, and that’s another struggle with fighting with labels. There is a label attached to everyone in some way, and that’s how we understand human beings. I just want positive labels, if there are any.”