Nisa Qais L-SAW 2009
meaning of the Arabic term "nisa" is woman. An entire chapter of the Quran is
dedicated solely to stating and establishing the role and rights of women in
Islam. In my baby book, my father wrote a journal about why my parents chose
this name for me. Every time I read his words. I feel a surge of pride—the
pride that comes from being a woman.
perception of females is thankfully vastly removed from that of the Bengali or
Arabic culture. Growing up in a family of four strong and independent women has
enabled me to find the fundamental flaws in my society's perception of women.
Indeed, I grew up in a country characterized by male domination. In general,
the man makes all the important family decisions, manages the finances, and
dictates over the household. The woman however, is the one who raises the
off-spring, tends to household chores, and often manages the agricultural
responsibilities. Despite her contributions to society, she is viewed and
treated as the inferior gender. In fact, a woman's place is essentially within
the walls of her house; and if she succeeds in adhering to these social
standards, she embodies "femininity".
The concept of
femininity in Bangladesh encompasses certain characteristics. A woman has to fit
a mold; she is a possession to be proud of, if she is obedient, docile,
delicate, and a good homemaker. A woman is the responsibility of her father,
her brother, her husband, and ultimately her son. She does not have the liberty
to make her own decisions.
It is this myopic
definition of femininity that my parents expect me to overcome. To this end, my
parents decided to rebel against society's preconceived notions of the perfect
woman, equipping me and my sisters with all the resources necessary for us to
reach our potentials. They bravely sent me and my sister to American
universities, all the way to the other end of the world, alone, to pursue
higher education. This was undoubtedly hard for them to do, virtually
impossible for any traditional Bengali family to imagine. Nonetheless, my
parents have consistently made efforts to ingrain in me and my sisters the
notion that women are special, strong, and independent. In fact, my father
taught us karate as a form of self-defense since I was four, so that we would
be physically on par with any man.
parents and I strongly support equality of rights and opportunities for both
genders, we choose a stance which may astound many hard-core feminists. We
believe that women are meant to be protected and cherished by men and society.
Women deserve credit for creating life, for sustaining that life, for tending
to their families, and for raising the generations of tomorrow. Women should
have the freedom to make their own life decisions: to be educated, to have
careers, aspirations, and dreams. Concurrently, women are meant to be respected
and appreciated, cherished and pampered. I am certain no woman, given the
rights and respect due her, would mind preferential treatment. It seems to that
there is a general consensus among the women of the world that chivalry is a
desirable quality in any gentleman. I, for one, am undeniably delighted when a
man holds the door open for me or gives up his seat for me on a bus, especially
when my hands are laden with shopping bags.
Another aspect of
femininity which often arises relates to the role of women in Islam and
middle-eastern countries. Many people in the western world associate the term
"oppression" with women who cover their bodies, hair, and sometimes even faces.
Although stories about subservience and repression, narrated by courageous
writers like Mallika Oufkir, are true accounts of the heart-wrenching tales of
their lives, this is not representative of the teaching of Islam or the overall
culture. In reality, some facets of every culture promote independence whereas
others seem to enforce suppression, making some women subjugated, and many
others liberated. Therefore, it is ignorant and narrow-minded of people to
assume that middle-eastern women are always oppressed or dominated.
My view of
femininity, then, is multifaceted. Although I strongly promote and stand for
the empowerment of womankind, I also believe that women have the "right" to be
cherished and loved. Through my life experiences I have tried to break free
from the shackles of male domination and narrow-mindedness. I have strived to
achieve all that my parents expected of me, and more. In my opinion, the
embodiment of femininity is represented by a woman who is educated and aware of
her rights. She is emotionally and financially independent and strong, all the
while being respected, nurtured, and appreciated.