I am not that woman
selling you socks and shoes!
Remember me, I am the one you hid
in your walls of stone, while you roamed
free as a breeze, not knowing
that my voice cannot be smothered by stones.
I am the one you crushed
with the weight of custom and tradition
that light cannot be hidden in darkness.
I am the one in whose lap
you picked flowers
and planted thorns and embers
chains cannot smother my fragrance
I am the woman
whom you bought and sold
in the name of my own chastity
that I can walk on water
when I am drowning.
I am the one you married off
to get rid of the burden
that a nation of captive minds
cannot be free.
I am the commodity you traded in,
my chastity, my motherhood, my loyalty.
Now it is time for me to flower free.
The woman on that poster.
half naked, selling socks and shoes –
No, no, I am not that woman!
(Kishwar Naheed, Translated by Farrukhi, A., Ed. (2004). The Distance of a Shout. Karachi, Oxford University Press.)
Women do not constitute a homogeneous category. They are located in different places, belong to different social spheres, are members of different ethnic groups, and adherents of different religious groups. Their lives are mediated by their differing locations, and the ways they engage from these with dominating structures. At the same time, there is much that women share: their incorporation as women into the state and nation; their incorporation into dominant discourses that mediate social relationships, citizenship, religion and law; and definitions of gender by the institutionalised structures of state and society.
While the debates about women who call for change rage, their privilege of class or education, political influence or dominant ethnicity, women are bound together by these structural definitions. The issues of marginalization, violence, commodification, identity, and value affect all women. The voices for change use the space of their ‘privilege’ to advocate for change for all women.
The barrier to change is not that someone with privilege in one area engages in the struggle for change for all women, the barrier is that others tell us that this is wrong. While women experience the boundaries differently, structural definitions are just that, structural boundaries that all women experience.
As women we must continue explore together the tensions at the intersection of diverse constructions that mediate our lives. Together we will understand the mediating influences and how they shape our identity as we traverse the contours of these discourses that inform and shape our daily experiences. Together we will shout to those who want to give boundaries to our being, ‘ we are not that woman!’