Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 14, 2020

Here's what I've experienced because I'm a woman

By ZUBIA HASAN | May 2, 2019

A Pakistani male artist Ali Zafar was recently accused of harassing another Pakistani female artist Meesha Shafi. Shafi claimed that the harassment had occurred on several occasions, and she had chosen to stay quiet about it because she had blocked it out. 

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed I read comments by many Pakistani males about how women had all the power in this new Me Too era — where a single word on social media could send a good, reputable man to his ill-famed death.

This prompted me to think about the many times I have felt powerless in this male dominated world. I call this series “Because I am a woman.”

Because I am a woman my interest in soccer in high school was effectively shut down. Because I am a woman I was told by high school boys to go polish my nails instead of watching Thomas Müller play. Because I am a woman my impassioned speeches defending my favourite team gave me a reputation of being aggressive and overly emotional. Because I am a woman.

Because I am a woman my high school mathematics teacher found it his birthright to comment on the state of my curly hair. He told me that the reason I was good at math was because I didn’t take care of my hair or wear makeup like the ‘rest of the girls.’ Because I am a woman I could only be good at math if I disowned traditionally feminine characteristics. 

Because I am a woman I stood in line at McDonald’s and felt another man push up against me on purpose. I stayed silent because I thought it was a mistake, and so I moved further ahead. Because I am a woman he felt he could move in again and continue to push up against me. Because I was just a girl, barely a woman, I stayed silent.

Because I am a woman I encountered two men on Charles Street in broad daylight who asked me to smile. Unknowingly, unwittingly, the corners of my mouth turned upwards. I didn’t want to smile, but somehow I did. Why was the male voice so powerful? Why did these men feel so secure in trying to control my emotions and my body in broad daylight on a liberal school campus? Because I am a woman.

Because I am a woman I walk into my physics classroom and immediately feel upset. I see no one who shares the same experiences as me. I walk into my section, and I think, “not again,” as I am paired with two boys who will talk to each other when solving problems as my input hangs in the air. Because I am a woman my solution must be wrong. Because I am a woman I have to carve out my own space in physics. It was never always built for me like it was for men.

Because I am a woman I was removed from a Pakistani group chat for speaking out against a misogynistic member. No one came to my defense. The very act of speaking out was silenced. Shut down. It was immediate and effective. I was cut out smoothly from the group, and everyone went on like nothing had happened. 

Because I am a woman speaking out was not an option awarded to me. It is a privilege that rested with men. Because I am a woman I was made an outcast because I spoke about the abuse I had witnessed. Because I am a woman they expected me to be silenced. They expected me to submit.

Recently a friend of mine told me how she had once fainted while doing work because of her period pain. I too experience horrific cramping that leaves me debilitated and in bed for several days until the bleeding stops. This happens to me almost every single month and it happens to almost every woman every single month. Yet not only is half of the world’s population unaware of the hardships of period pain, but also there is no attempt to make this time easier for us. All of that shows me one thing. 

Women experience the world in a completely different way than men do. I have never realized how many incidents have occurred to me in my life which can be explained away with “because you are a woman.”

But now I am taking control. Because I am a woman I will be strong. Because I am a woman I will speak out. Because I am a woman I will be courageous. Because I am a woman I will not let another woman suffer. Because I am a woman. And because I am proud of being a woman.

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