Photograph by Will Milne at

Women aren’t free. Neither are men, though. But women, especially, aren’t free. And, sadly, the strictest jailors are their own mental barriers. I’m not free when I smuggle the sanitary pad to the washroom at work, hiding it in my sweater or pocket or when I just carry the whole hand bag for just a little pad. I wasn’t free when I stood up and sat back down when I, and this other girl who was sitting with me, realized that none of the people approaching the dinner queue are women, when recently attending a Pakistani event and dinner was just announced. We were starving. I’m not free when I just give up the front passenger seat to a man just because he happens to take a ride with me and my husband. I’m not free when I pull my chino pants down, hiding from view a little bit of hair that has grown on my lower legs. I’m not free when, every time I go bra-less at home, my mom nags me to cover up and act proper. I’m not free when my mom and my grand mom don’t let my dad or my husband do the dishes or make roti, because it’s a “woman’s job”. I’m not free every time my husband excuses himself conveniently from doing things at home by stating the apparently universal fact that he does “outside chores”. In his favour, though, this does not happen often. I’m not free every time I’m expected to like kids and coddle them when all I honestly want is to have nothing to do with them. I’m not free at every Punjabi party I attend where I’m not mentally a 100% carefree when consuming alcohol (?!). I’m not free with every suggestion that is made to me to “remind my husband to take xyz for his better health”, or “help my husband to finish his abc chores”, or “give my husband xyz foods that are good for him”, or “force my husband to go to the gym”. I’m not free every time I find myself floating in or around the kitchen, doing an assortment of trivial, unnecessary actions just because all the other women are standing in there. Why can’t I go sit and chill ? I mean, the men are doing just that… like why can’t I be free ? There are no chains. No words or words strong enough to stop me if I do want to break free. So why won’t I simply break the barriers?

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