The “honour” killing of Qandeel Baloch is weighing so extremely heavy on my heart.
Qandeel was a Pakistani social media star, first gaining fame on Pakistan Idol and then going on to becoming a feminist and activist, as well as posting racy and unorthodox pictures and messages on her Facebook and Instagram accounts.
In an extremely conservative culture, Qandeel made it her prerogative to live out loud, unapologetically.
Being born a woman in my culture is a punishment, we’re told to laugh quietly. To walk quietly. We’re told to refrain from dancing too much because we’re not supposed to appear happy.
In my culture, it is easy to become a female revolutionary. Simply making an independent decision or showing your shoulders makes you a radical feminist.
This varies from family to family, and I’ve been blessed to come from a liberal Afghan background. But Qandeel’s death reminds me that in my culture, a woman cannot even breathe too loud without someone sending her a death threat.
We come into this world as naked infants and right away we’re boxed in by labels. From such a young age we’re indoctrinated to see our bodies and our minds as haram, as things that need to be softer, almost invisible.
Qandeel was murdered by her own brother because she refused to be invisible.
Imagine how mind-f*cked her brother must have been to be able to place his hands over her nose and mouth and watch her asphyxiate. That he grew up alongside her, shared a womb with her. That he had memories with her as a child and that they loved the same mother and father….and still, this notion of misogyny and patriarchy is so strong in my culture that all those things meant nothing to him – and he killed her. Blood is supposed to be the strongest bond, but the mistreatment of women in Middle Eastern countries is proof that hyper-masculinity is what runs the world.
In the business world, we’re constantly told to push boundaries, take risks. When the means to an end is money and power, it’s ok to step out of the line and put yourself out there.
But not when you’re a woman and not when you’re business is your mind.
I am Qandeel. My powerful, outspoken female Muslim friends are Qandeel. We wake up everyday and decide that our minds are worth sharing. Our thoughts are worthy of being spread. That our bodies are ours to run and that we can take ownership for how we conduct our lives.
This is weighing so heavy on me because I myself so many times have been told to stop being myself. That as an Afghan woman and a Muslim woman, I must earn those titles by behaving a certain way. That it is impossible for me to taken ownership of my body and simultaneously call myself a Muslim or an Afghan. That even this blog is blasphemy, so much so that there have been times I wanted to rid of it altogether.
But society says no. Men says no. They take it upon themselves to tell us what to do and how to move.
Masculinity is so fragile that a woman’s sexual agency is the most-feared thing on the planet.
Right now, I feel like being born a woman in my culture is a punishment. I won’t defend these hyper-masculine Middle Eastern men. I can’t explain away my culture and try and sugar-coat the abuse of women in Muslim and Middle Eastern households. I can’t be complicit in this internalized notion of misogyny.
Qandeel is dead, but empowerment is not. The only way to bring about any “honor” is to avenge her death by living radically, and that is easy to do when you are a Muslim woman with half a brain.
“She was the most self-exposed person, and what was different about her is that she was from a poor background. She did all this on her own. She is much more than Kim Kardashian, she went against the norms of society – and went on do what she wanted, on her own terms.”