Women of Chitral as Restrained Part of the Society

Nazhat shakir
Posted October 11, 2017 from Pakistan

“Like a compass needle which points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always”(K. Hussaini) .This sentence might not be that much appealing to men but as a woman I feel a shoot in my body each time I glance over the line. The history of patriarchal society with its man as a dominating entity is clearly revealed in this one sentence. Men who get a charge for the utmost power of the society in most cases are indulgent towards their desires and impulses. However women are mostly expected to strongly control over their urges. The society I belong to is a patriarchal too. In that patriarchal society when a woman breaks the general performance she is accused with countless faults. This makes the women of Chitral a restrained part of the society.

A typical Chitrali woman in modern sense is the educated one who fulfills her dreams with her cultural values embodied. She has a respectable position within the family and society. She is not oppressed in terms of domestic and social relations. She is considered an essential part of the family where her say is considered, while decision making process. However the final decision remains with the man of the family. Having a clear picture of how a Chitrali woman is supposed to be, we can clearly tell what happens when the woman of Chitral breaks the dominant beliefs of the society. The breaking of the dominant beliefs of Chitrali culture by woman signifies her as queer woman. Being called as a queer woman in a society like Chitral is somehow difficult for her to cope up with. It brings a lot of hardships to the particular woman and thus she restrains herself from activities which may question her values.

The gender behavior both men and women perform is not what we are born with, but a product of social construction. It moulds us the way we behave. The social construction within chitral is on average rigid towards the women sector compared to the men. This is the reason I personally believe that the social construction within Chitral makes the women more dependent on men. This dependence leaves the women with very limited approach and challenges their individualism which has a very low rate in our culture. With a very limited approach women lack behind and then the society terms them as weak gender, unaware of the fact that the society itself is the reason behind. We have a culture where we are cheered up to define ourselves in terms of family and society. We are encouraged to connect ourselves to the culture we belong. There is nothing bad in that but it creates struggle for an individual to know one’s own self. For instance, Jane Eyre and Virginia Woolf the female writers were the restrained by the patriarchal society. Through Virginia Woolf's essay "Professions for Women", she shows how women struggled in Victorian society. “As a result of these struggles, women are restrained from expressing their individuality and true character. Woolf, herself, refuses these struggles because she strongly feels that in order for a person to be whole, she or he must explore who they are as an individual”(Female Restraint Displayed In Jane Eyre English Literature Essay)

Breaking the generally accepted behavior in Chitrali culture leaves the women with number of accusations. Women are accepted when they perform the dominant behavior embracing the cultural values. Being specific here I would talk about the career limitations girls confront in Chitral. Girls are mostly encouraged towards soft careers like teaching, medical and fields which provide comfort zones for them. We hardly try out of our comfort zones. We don’t see our girls in fields like Sports, Media, and Music which demands to come to public. We have very few female politicians and female writers. Hard professions where muscles are used like, Army sector and Hiking are not so encouraged. Police sector is considered very bad for females. We have this concept that girls from a noble families don’t go for police sector! I never could figure out this word nobility and its connection with professions and careers. Nursing which is quite appreciated nowadays was not encouraged few years back because of possibly frequent interactions with males! But now girls in Chitral are more aware and brave enough to choose for themselves. However our male sector doesn’t accept this. They don’t accept when girls go for professions where cultural norms and dress are not cared like sports because Chitrali culture believes women to wear modest clothes where wearing something out of culture even for a sport is unacceptable. The girls when take part in sports will be condemned of spoiling the culture and its values. Similarly when a girl wants to be a singer she has to catch the same fate of allegation. Sometimes I feel women of our culture are expected to maintain the cultural values, in fact we are here to preserve the traditional behavior of our culture. Men of our culture can do anything and no one asks them a single question of molding the cultural norms.

Women of Chitral are confused beings having clash between the cultural values, family connection and their own desires which are sometimes completely opposite to what society demands. The society expectations make them very limited in their approach towards life. All they think is to please their family members, the society in general sacrificing their own skills and dreams. To live as a part of society they forget their individuality as well. To avoid man’s accusing finger they prefer to live as restrained part of the society.

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Jill Langhus
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 14, 2017

HI Nazhat. Thanks for sharing your story. But it sounds like the trend it moving in the right direction, correct? More girls/women are choosing careers that they want or do you feel the majority are still submissive?