I sat in class that day, staring down at the skirt of my baju kurung cum school uniform, hovering above my black shoes.
“What am I doing here anymore?” I’m seventeen in the first year of Pre-University at a Madrasah in the A-levels stream. Ever since I was 7 I have always dreamed of being a Pre-U student, furthering my Islamic education in Malaysia or Brunei, before coming back to be an ustazah: typical, I know. But it was the simplest route to simple money and coming from a financial background that wasn’t too bright, it was the best paying job I was exposed to. I really thought I could and I would, until I was denied the opportunity.
Earlier that week I was telling – more like reminding – my family about the beauty of Brunei and how I could get sponsored to study there: it was basically a free ticket to all my dreams and in two years I was going be there. Then my Father stopped me.
“Who told you you could go study overseas? Islam doesn’t allow women to travel without a Mahram”
Oh my God.
I have teleported to Pakistan.
“Women are not capable of looking after themselves!”
Throughout his preaching I had to bite my tongue because when the stubborn man thinks that his idea of Islam is right he ain’t about to change it even if Jesus came back down and slapped him in the face.
Skip to Eid, I remember my aunt who was recounting to the time when she was in my exact position 50 years ago. She had told my father’s father, her father, that she wanted to further her studies. My Grandad told her:
“No matter how far you study, at the end of the day, a woman goes back to the kitchen.”
And my aunt told me this in a matter-of-fact tone as if indirectly telling me that I’m not a good lady for wanting to further my studies in Islam simply because I was a woman.
I’m literally in Pakistan right now.
I decided to confide in my brother to see if he can work his magic that came along with his male gender to convince my dad to let me go, since apparently guys are more trustworthy than any woman. My brother said:
“Well they aren’t wrong, you know. You are a girl and your job is to be dutiful to your husband. You need to get married so your guy can take care of you.”
I cannot believe the IGNORANCE.
But well, I can’t expect a man who dropped out of school at 15 to be a delivery boy to appreciate education.
Maybe this casual misogyny is a trait all men in my family will inevitably inherit. I wonder if they know that their narrow-mindedness will be the ground on which a toxic world will continue to tread on. That if they successfully applied it to all women in the world, over 50% of the world would just be some ‘dumb hoes’.
Or maybe that’s the plan: for women to remain inferior so that men can feel a sense of authority and superiority over us. I mean, they need SOMETHING to protect their ever so fragile masculinity. Or maybe I’m just an angsty, uneducated feminist who jumps to conclusions.
See, it’s a vicious cycle: women are oppressed and they don’t get education. They remain uneducated, are looked down upon, and are further oppressed. Rinse, lather, repeat.
But thanks to these not-so-micro aggressions, I realised that I have the ability to do much more than just be another Ustazah (not that it’s bad, it just shouldn’t be a choice as a result of force).
I want to be a social worker (and maybe a part-time sex educator). So I aimed higher: I wish to get into NUS and major in Social Work so I can help underprivileged people, mainly women, by being a link to financial and emotional avenues that can support them so they can achieve the great things they were destined for.
So are microaggressions bad? Definitely. But they say stars can’t shine without darkness. And they don’t call me Shams (The Sun) for nothing. I will be the biggest star God has destined for me to be. And then, microaggressions can kiss my bisexual Muslim Lady butt goodbye.
ASMY is an 18 year old student, currently trying to squeeze her way through A-Levels and Misogyny so that she can get education, and hopefully one day, help the world.
Illustration by Wan Xiang Lee