Breaking Rules And Protecting Identities

What makes me, me? What makes you, you?

What makes John, John? And Jack, Jack? If John and Jack were dressed identically, would you be able to figure out their personality traits? Both are reserved and quiet. Both walk with their heads down. Would you look at them closely enough to see that the twinkle in Jack’s eyes, is lacking in John’s? Would you want to spend enough time with them to know that John smiles wider than Jack? Would you even give them a second glance if both wore grey coveralls? If both carried subdued expressions? If neither had a single article present on them, that displayed their uniqueness and their individuality?

For me, the hair, the face, the body, the dresses and the shoes, the accessories, mean more than just physical, material things. If I had not dyed my hair red, I would not feel like myself. The red in my hair symbolizes my fiery temper, and my confidence that yes, I can, and do, walk like a queen even when the tips of my hair are a brilliant red (a thing unheard of in Pakistan). Sometimes, I temporarily dye a chunk of my hair green, or magenta, or blue because I  feel like it and to show that I do not shy away from being different.

I have several logical reasons for not wearing a Dupatta, and I compensate covering myself with wearing extremely loose clothes. My family understands that.

I like to wear jewelry. I have drawers full of pieces from all over the world; UK, America, Turkey, Dubai, Malaysia… Jewelry is a form of self-expression for me.

I wear a cross body bag and am the only girl in my college to do so.

The people who are imposing a dress code in my university, have not only taken away my forms of self-expression, but they have also snatched my identity.

My father has never imposed religion on any of his children. We have to make that choice ourselves. The only thing emphasised upon in my family is the pursuit of knowledge and truth, and it is understood that at the end of our journey, we will find Islam. Hence why one of my sisters is a Hijabi, but others are not. Hence why my mother prays five times a day, my father does not. We may have been born namely as Muslims, but we will not be true Muslims unless we, ourselves, find Islam great and follow its teachings to the tee.

Then who is the university management to make that choice for me? I am not ashamed to call myself a liberal, neither is my father. Who are they, then, to turn me into a hardcore Muslim? It is my job to worry about my Hereafter, not theirs.

My hair, my clothes, my jewelry is what makes me, me.

Women of my university, from September 22nd, are not allowed to do the following:

  • Wear jeans. The most bullshit of all rules. No jeans? Where do we live? in Victorian London?
  • Wear tights. Tights are worn under long shirts and frocks in Pakistan. Now, the only thing we can wear are trousers or Shalwars.
  • Wear jewelry.
  • Wear high-heeled shoes.
  • Wear bright colors. Only “sober” colors are allowed.
  • Wear short shirts i.e blouses or t-shirts.
  • No entry without a dupatta around the neck. The proverbial leash that all women in the subcontinent have to wear, so that the men are placated. Frikking perverts.
  • Sit with male members inside the classroom. Females sit in the front, males at the back. Separate, so that not even an accidental touch can occur.

Today, I wore my black dress pants under a knee length Kameez. There was no way I could wear the cotton pajamas girls usually wear. I need my pockets and I’ll keep them, thank you very much!

I wore black, to fit with my mood.

I wrapped a thick black Dupatta around my neck, which kept tangling with my ID badge and bag’s strap, and kept my neck so hot I developed a rash.

I wore sandals with a 3-inch platform, since a “no-platform” rule has not been imposed yet.

I drew the line at jewelry. I wore an onyx pendant bought from an obscure handicraft shop in my city, earrings bought from the leading elite gift shop in the country, bracelets my sister bought for me from Istanbul, Turkey, and a ring bought from a street vendor at the local market. Each piece had a story, and sentiment, behind it. I was ready to say a big Fuck You to anyone who even dared to ask me to take off my jewelry.

Despite the hot weather, I let down my thick hair so that the red tips were glaringly visible.

Today, I changed myself for people who mean shit to me, because at the end of the day, I am a person who follows the rules. With maybe just a toe out of line. It is in my nature to rebel.

Today, I was taught a lesson on How to be a Hypocrite. Because, I threw off the leash around my neck the second I was in my bus. Because, we were told by the new Discipline Head, a person I admire (or admired) a lot, that she didn’t care how we dressed outside the gates, but inside we follow the rules. Is that not teaching us hypocrisy?

Today, I realized that survival in this Godforsaken country I call home is fast becoming impossible for people like me. People who are not hypocrites, people who have an identity of their own. People who are, God forbid it, liberal.

Today, I also saw several girls who were not following the dress code and were still allowed to enter the college premises.

Tomorrow, I will also be of them. I will wear jeans, and I will not wear a dupatta. The discomfort and the identity crisis I went through today, I will not face ever again.

I am me.

No matter how shallow I may sound, these are things that make me, me.

And I no longer follow rules that have little logic behind them. Rules made by sick old men who can’t bear to see young girls out in the world, learning their rights and talking to males (oh, the horror)!

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