Maybe they looked at the flowers in my hair and the white dresses I wore and automatically assumed I was theirs. That I belonged to the system of patriarchy, where men get the glory, education, money…and I am simply an accessory to all of those above me on the social ladder. They look at me and think I could never hold intelligence because I’m a “pretty girl.” I thought for years at the dinner table that my brother was the one with the brains, the one to graduate with a masters, and I was a good looking face, already determined within American society. Already predestined to fail or not obligated to be educated because I was a woman. What they did not know was that I was also a hurricane, a mind that could float or sink ships. Yes, I learned from a very young age that I was undervalued because of my gender but that meant I learned how to fight ten times harder to discover my worth. Because I could, and have been, the smartest, loudest, most opinionated person in the room and I don’t need anyone else’s approval, especially a man’s, to do so.
They will continue to question me when I tell them I am going to be a neurologist. Why is that so? You never see a man getting a second look if he’s educated or brilliant. However, the second a girl sets off to be an engineer, doctor, mathematician, soldier, physicist…we must be especially “daring”, we must be “prodigies.” I am an equal, however I have been treated like a leftover, a last pick if no one else will show up for the job. In my career I was earn approximately $52,000 less than my male counterpart a year, simply because of my gender. The last time I checked my genitals do not correspond with my ability to care for patients, if anything it would enhance it.
I do recognize I am especially lucky to live in the country I do in the era that I am in. Pakistan is currently at a 98% abuse rate for women and little to none receive education outside of their house. Where is noise when we need it? Why has the whole world fallen so bitterly silent to the suffering of our fellow sisters? Is it because of cultural differences, religion, distance? Is it because we feel as if we are powerless ourselves? I’ve felt that most of my life. This burning need and desire to do good, to help in some way, but also a pressure to remain voiceless because I have been programmed to do so.
The world has taught you that you are property, simply marked up by how many passing visitors touch your skin at night. How many cat calls you can receive walking out of your local grocery market. How desirable your body parts are to the opposite sex and if your face matches. It’s all a game we never signed up to play…one where the only person winning is the men.
Because I am still a fucking hurricane. I am a storm whether he violated me or not, I know my value, it has not been tarnished by his filthy hands. I am one whether I am rich or poor, whether I graduated with doctorates or spend my days traveling the world with my art. I am one whether I love a man or a woman, and I will tell them that my body is mine, never theirs, until they have seen my soul.
I will never let someone label me as just a “pretty girl”, I grew up being that girl and I will never go back to being such a hollow shell again. Because I am also a musician, a writer, an advocate, a hard worker, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I am so much more than a petite word. I am powerful, and capable of moving mountains.