It is a bad time to be a woman
In psychiatry class, I was told that before there was patriarchy
There was a matriarchal society
And women probably didn’t have panic disorders.
We live in the new world order.
It was a good time to be a woman back then.
Women didn’t dream about rape or murder.
Women like me, wouldn’t look at men,
And understand why some women have panic disorders.
I am grateful for being a woman.
But I must be honest.
This is not the best time to be a woman.
It wasn’t a good time to be a woman in high school.
Boys called girls they didn’t like whores
And why wouldn’t they?
They grew up knowing the truth in history and folklore- that they could simply buy women
I yelled at a boy who called my friend a whore
Because I knew what that word meant for so many men
A whore is a woman who is not a woman; she can be bought and even better, she is cheap
Years later he would call me a whore
And I would call a girl, whom he had known, a whore.
I won’t deny that I’ve had an ugly relationship with that word but
I said whore because to be honest
I didn’t know the right word for a woman
Who was so very dedicated to being dishonest.
In my first language, English and my mother tongue, বাংলা
The worst epithets relate to women
(হারামি, son of a bitch);
Developing etiquette may have been slightly more important than developing
Misogynistic epithets for my languages.
In my languages, being a pimp is better than being a prostitute.
High school wasn’t the first time, I realized
Men and women said the same things differently.
They read the same scriptures as I did,
And they interpreted it differently.
In medical college:
I’m in the library
Trying to disseminate knowledge while
Two male classmates talk to me.
They tell me the fault of rape lies with women,
I bite my tongue, thinking
They haven’t looked into the eyes of battered, broken, bloodied, semen spattered women
(Fistulas, sinuses, incontinence, lacerations, ruptures, strictures, stenosis –
They don’t know this.
I hate that they may never know of this.)
A human being is a human being.
Clothes don’t make a rapist. Bodies don’t make a rapist. 2 X chromosomes don’t make a rapist.
A rapist makes a rapist.
They say so many ugly things but this one hits close to home.
“You’re a hijabi.”
IT’S NOT AN ANTIRAPE MEASURE, YOU SON OF A ……
And as I continue arguing, I understand it.
In their eyes, I’m not opening up myself to Allah,
I’m closing myself off to rape.
And everyone else is giving men … them an invitation.
I learn a few more things in college.
One of them is this – we make rapists.
I used to think men, in general, at in least my strata of society, were ‘good’ or at least ‘decent’
But what happens is this-
Boys, and not just any boys- the ‘good’ boys, imply that they would rape a girl if she slapped him
They get pats on the back for this.
A classmates has her sex tape leaked online
Because her boyfriend, his idea of revenge
Her life is worth less than his ‘heartbreak’
And I don’t know what to make of his
Beliefs and boys like him. Men like him.
Men weren’t supposed to be like this.
Prevention is better than cure, we’re told this
In public health class;
This is a class that gets laughed at
Maybe that’s why we are in a position like this
Because we did nothing to prevent this epidemic.
I don’t think all men are rapists;
But I know most men use epithets,
I won’t lie
I sometimes fear that the only thing that separates them from evil
Is the flimsiness of things like etiquette.
I hope, pray, want
To make a change
See that change so that my children can
Live in a time, when it’s truly good to be a woman,
To live in a time, when even women no longer blame women.
That- would truly be a good time to live in; it wouldn’t matter if you were a man or a woman.
But I live in a time when rape is a crime often less serious than stealing
Vaginas, breasts, mouths and anuses are cheaper than thick wallets.
Money, bodies, dignities- they’re simply commodities.
They can be stolen.
You know that boy who blamed that girl for being raped?
In a cultural program he performs a poem mentioning the women who were raped
During the liberation war.
Their torn muddied, bloodied saris are the national flags he said.
They are our mothers and sisters, he said.
The reason why those dead women escape his judgment is this –
Those women were lucky enough to share his nationality and heritage.
And they died in either 1972 or 1971.
But Bangladeshi women who were raped in dark alleys wore tight clothes that provoked men.
Those maidservants and garments workers didn’t go out to work with a big brother
Those English medium girls went out with too many ‘bhaiyyas’ and ‘brothers’
Loose girls like that- what did you expect?
But our mothers and sisters, now THEY weren’t bad women.
They were good women.
Here’s another thing.
He thought it was a bad time for a mute garments worker to be a woman
When she got gangraped in a slum in Gazipur.
She wore the wrong clothes. She didn’t cover up he said.
Unlike our mothers who, must have always, covered their midriffs when they wore saris in 1971.
Doesn’t he know that it was a bad time to be a woman during the liberation war?
But not for the Pakistani soldiers, though
Oh, come on, that would have been funny if you were a Pakistani soldier, though
I know what those soldiers thought when they were raping women;
We’re raping these Bangladeshi women, Bangladeshi men’s mothers and sisters.
Because women are just that-
On Facebook, I get flack.
Men laugh at feminists like me
Because I said I didn’t like it when men called women who died in the liberation war
Mothers and sisters
Oh I knew that those words were said with noble intentions
But my contention was that those words yielded
Ignoble conventions, observed by my male classmates
They were righteous and furious
I was a crazy, spurious BITCH
Because I wouldn’t let them properly respect those women.
I’m a woman.
There’s laughably little that I can’t let them do
They wanted to.
I have no brother and I am no one’s sister.
I was told that I should be grateful- I have a father
I know what happens to country girls in slums who don’t have fathers.
If someone broke me … raped, bloodied, ruptured, fistulaed, and choked me
If someone sinused, stenosed, strictured or roped me
Stripped away my cloak from me …
Would you …
Would you have cared for me or
Would you have glanced at the headlines and just seen a dead body?
Would you have been like those righteous men who used Facebook to post photos of violated women,
Because their masculine indignation was more important than a woman’s dignity?
I would …. I would have been like them- public property.
You wouldn’t have cared about me.
After all, I had two X chromosomes. Things like this happen all the time to those like me.
I wouldn’t have died in a liberation war, so why would you have cared about me?
Or would you have shaken your head?
Because I was in the wrong body, in the wrong country,
And it was the wrong time to be a woman.