Refined it a bit, tear me apart.
“An unmarried girl is like a mirror, a single crack and she's worthless.” It sounds much more eloquent in Urdu, but what my mother was attempting to convey to me was this: you engage in any sexual behavior and you will have no worth as a woman. Something as simple as a kiss could ruin you. The assumption being that somehow someone would find out what you were doing. I had been told this my entire life. My worth as human being seemed all too dependent on my purity in sexual terms. The ideal Pakistani Muslim girl being raised in America would do well in school and remain completely chaste until she was married. Up until the end of my sophomore year of college I had followed this more religiously than the actual religion behind it. I had justified it to my American born and raised self. Admittedly, sometimes I felt like a cut above the rest. It was the only area in which I qualified to be considered part of the Pakistani female ideal which included domestic skills, light skin, sexual purity and passivity. I'm only good at making turkey sandwiches, I'm really brown, and am outrageously outspoken for a woman of my background; being excluded from the remaining characteristics I felt a sense of belonging when I, too, could sit in a social gathering and hold my head up high as a chaste Pakistani-American woman. Though as I entered college I grew more and more conflicted; I was surrounded by people who really challenged what I believed in and how I behaved. I slowly came to terms with the fact that I was not obliged to remain in my parents' social networks or hold onto the belief system they raised me with, but I wasn't ready to behave consistently with what I believed. A few instances where a kiss would've been appropriate, I stopped it from happening, fearing that someone would find out or that I would fail in upholding my own values.
I usually keep an eye out for articles pertaining to the condition of women in South Asia; for me it serves as a reminder of where I could be had my father not immigrated 30 years ago and as part of a narrative that I want to take a part in changing for the better. Early June 2011 I came across an article narrating the dismal state of women in Pakistan. The article gave statistic after statistic and by the end of it I was disgusted not only with the culture that my parents selectively exposed me to, but also with myself for perpetuating a culture that only saw my worth in terms of purity. I had witnessed this in June 2010 when I went to Karachi for a visit and was outraged, as a child I had occasionally noticed the subtle injustices occurring but was not cognizant of the overarching effects it could lead to. Since my visit, my vision for what I want to do with my life suddenly became more centered around women and the social structures in which they live. I realized I could no longer be an enemy of my own gender, and that holding myself to these ideals was detrimental to myself, my future daughters, and Pakistani women as a whole. I have value as a human being, and how I choose to go about living out my private life should not increase or decrease my worth.
As a lawyer, whose job description necessitates the elimination of injustices, I would use my education to further the rights of women in the developing world, namely Pakistan. It's widely known how a family will kill, disown or disfigure their daughters in the name of honor. A broken legal system helps perpetuate that, but reform can be accomplished. After all, I was reformed when I had vehemently believed that I was right; what had helped me was exposure to different ideas and a well reasoned, but emotional, approach to my own identity. I'm ready to approach law school in the same manner, with an open mind and willingness for reform. I'm ready to take the criticisms of my peers and professors and acquire the perpetually inquisitive mind of a lawyer.
It was relatively easy to overcome the intellectual aspect of this, but practicing this was significantly more difficult. I can easily outline the arguments for the elimination of an idealized and pure woman, but I was twenty years old and had never even been kissed out of fear of losing my worth as a woman. One day later that June, a date was ending and we were chatting by my car. In one suave move he swooped in for a kiss and I panicked. I stood there for the lengthiest five minutes I've experienced to date and attempted to explain myself. Flustered, flushed and frozen we tried again after discussing my experiences (rather lack thereof). I didn't feel immense guilt, nor did I feel like a mirror shattering upon impact and losing all functionality and value, rather I felt something wonderful.