Current Affairs

Faryal Makhdoom: The Stigmatisation of Daughters-in-law in Asian Societies

The current Khan saga will have most in hysterics over the mundane situation which has been awfully propelled into the media limelight. A bitter dispute between a wife and her in-laws has made headlines across eager tabloids, and most people think very little of the conflict. However, for Asian and Muslim women, this saga stands for much more than just a family dispute: it stands for the treatment of women across society by their in-laws, and the particular stigma associated with a daughter-in-law standing up against her husband’s parents.

Faryal Makhdoom, wife to boxer Amir Khan, has come forward on social media revealing the psychological and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her in-laws. The details are, of course, readily available on The Sun, The Mirror and naturally, The Daily (hate) Mail, so I won’t go on about that aspect of this whole situation. However, I do want to address the fundamental issue that has arisen out of this dispute; the treatment of daughters-in-law in Asian families.

Firstly, Amir Khan’s parents took to Geo News¹ to publicly condemn Faryal’s dress code, claiming that was the subject of conflict in their family. His mother claims she wanted Faryal to adopt a scarf, typically worn in Islam by some women to cover up, as she was unhappy with her daughter-in-law’s Western dress code. This in itself is problematic for many reasons. There is nowhere in the Qur’an that says women have to dress in accordance to their in-laws. Secondly, as much as I appreciate that some can interpret Faryal’s dress code as not entirely in accordance with Islamic wishes, no one has a right to dictate what a woman can and cannot wear. A woman is perfectly entitled to wear a dress if she wants to. Attempting to exercise this kind of control over a daughter-in-law cannot and should not be accepted.

Many people, especially those in the Islamic community, claim Faryal’s refusal to adhere to her in-laws’ conditions are rebellious and disrespectful. This attitude of utter disregard for a woman’s plea for awareness is the exact reason why our culture and religion is given a bad name, because, by condemning Faryal Makhdoom as a Western, disrespectful daughter-in-law, we ultimately ignoring her in favour of very old cultural customs which cannot be applied to present day society. Furthermore, I’m baffled at the men who comment on this like they have any idea what is expected of a woman once she leaves her own parents for her husband’s. If anything, the comments made by some men on social media regarding this have come across as incessantly misogynist in nature and sexist. If a man was condemned to a strict adherence to cultural, and ultimately backward, norms, they’d refute them in a heartbeat. In our culture, men tend to prefer exercising control over women, and Faryal’s outburst on social media has exposed us to this harsh reality. The extent of this control extends to physical violence in many cultures, including beating and forcing wives to take part in household chores.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t condone Faryal’s decision to take this to social media. In fact, I wholeheartedly support this. How else are we to understand the plight of women as they enter their husband’s households and are subjected to emotional and physical abuse? Of course a daughter-in-law should show nothing but kindness and respect to her in-laws, but the same kindness should be reciprocated: it’s not a one way street. Fundamentally, people cannot dictate and control their daughter-in-laws. That era is long over. Women should not be silenced into obedience and they certainly should not be forced into living under strict rules of in-laws. Women have no legal or religious duty to look after their in-laws, although it is culturally appreciated and desired.

For as long as I remember, I’ve known women to have an inferior title enforced upon them, simply because of their gender. Everything Faryal says is second-guessed and then compared to the plight of her in-laws who are elderly, and thus, assumed correct. A woman cannot be ridiculed for standing up against abuse. It’s interesting that people attack her for appearing fake, commenting on her undergoing plastic surgery and insulting her appearance before making a judgement on how right she was to come out in public and shame those who abused her.

Women are not bound by law into subservience to their husband’s family. And we most certainly will not be silenced by or into patriarchal dominance.

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Current Affairs, Life Updates

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2016

This week marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This month marks 10 months since I beat my eating disorder.

I guess the first stage of overcoming it was actually coming to terms with having an eating disorder; admitting to myself that I was struggling to cope with the operations I’d had the year before and just missing out on my grades to get into uni. In many ways, starving myself was a coping mechanism as well as a method of maintaining control over my life through my body weight. So admitting to my parents and my psychotherapist that I had a problem was the first step on the road to recovery.

The second step was finding the courage to seek professional help; that in itself took the longest. My mum’s friend is a therapist and recommended a few private professionals as the prospect of being put on a waiting list when my condition was getting so serious was impossible to accept. After flat out refusing to see/talk to anyone about my problems for well over a month, I realised I’d either have to pluck up the courage to talk through my anxiety and pain or spend the rest of my life miserable, isolated and starving myself until I was close to death/actually died.

My first session with the psychotherapist was incredibly daunting; naturally, every instinct in my body was telling me not to trust her because she was an outsider. My brain was screaming she won’t understand. I think she, too, saw my apprehension and helped me work through it by sorting through my personal life piece by piece. She began compiling a timeline of every significant event in my life, from starting high school up until present day. Of all things, I didn’t expect a chronology to be as helpful as it eventually proved to be, because once she’d organised key moments of my childhood and adolescence into categories on her timeline, it eventually unravelled what the cause of my anxiety was.

My anxiety had physically manifested itself into an eating disorder and the only way I could tackle the eating problems was to tackle the anxiety first. This was, and to some extent still is, incredibly difficult. Seeing a therapist every week was incomprehensibly effective as she helped me trawl through the trauma I’d experienced essentially since high school, and soon this slow but steady psychological improvement was reflected in my eating habits. The root of my eating problems was ultimately a lack of self esteem, originating from mistreatment and psychological trauma at my high school. Teachers and a few students made me feel worthless and I guess I spent 6 odd years growing up with the belief that I was nothing but a failure. Once my therapist helped me through this harrowing acceptance of my high school experience, I began to accept other aspects of my life, too. For example, my physical health deteriorated rapidly in 2013 and the trauma of relentless, disabling pain also took its toll. Over the course of a year, I managed to work through the psychological aspects of my life which were contributing to a lack of self esteem and my anxiety attacks. 

The other fundamental factor of overcoming my eating disorder was accepting that my body was a thing to be loved, not loathed. I was so desperately trying to achieve an ideal body weight that I lost all sense of rationale. This ideal body weight soon became dangerously life-threatening which is when my parents confronted me about why I was so thin, and why my hipbones were sticking out through my jeans. I was incredibly careful to hide everything from them; from putting food wrappers in the bin despite eating none of the contents, to wearing baggy clothes. (thereby hiding my weight loss) I used to starve myself from morning until 5pm, binge on whatever junk food I could find, only for it all to come back up because my stomach was shrinking and couldn’t tolerate a massive influx of food in one go. Due to my inability to keep food contents inside my body, I was rapidly losing weight but no one really noticed, so I kept pushing to lose more. Over the course of the year that I received help for the eating disorder, I learnt to love myself a lot more. Surrounding myself with good, positive influences and detaching myself from toxic, negative people is ultimately what saved me. 

It’s incredible how many people compliment me on my body now, three sizes up from what I was two years ago. It’s also incredible how far I’ve come, emotionally and physically, since high school. Beating the eating disorder not only saved my life but it also helped me get over the trauma of my high school experience. It made me realise that I’m a survivor.

I cannot emphasise how important it is for people to show solidarity amongst understanding and compassion for those suffering from eating disorders. Sticking around for someone can make a world of difference. Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold when times get tough, just being there is what helped me through my darkest hours. Cowards walk away from people in desperate times of need. Don’t be that person.

Here’s a list two websites which helped me in times of need, too:

https://www.b-eat.co.uk 

http://nedawareness.org

A x

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Current Affairs, Original Writing

WORLD CANCER DAY 2016

Yesterday marked World Cancer Day; this year I’m raising awareness and donating money to Cancer Research UK for pancreatic cancer in particular.

During December 2014 I suffered from an attack of acute pancreatitis (AP) and was hospitalised for a week. It took a while to recover from it, too, and whilst I was recovering I learnt more about the pancreas and it’s importance. I learnt that many sufferers of recurrent AP soon develop chronic pancreatitis (CP) which has devastating consequences on both the pancreas and the patient as you can see from the diagram below. Sufferers of CP are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer despite both illnesses being as destructive and lethal to the human body as each other.

Last year, I joined an online forum of pancreatitis sufferers to see how others coped with pancreatitis and it made me realise how underrated issues with the pancreas are; not only are sufferers at a distinct disadvantage with lack of funding involving treatment and specialist consultations but the symptoms of CP and eventually pancreatic cancer are often disguised as other health issues until it’s too late to treat. On this forum, patients were posting their symptoms which predominately consisted of pain and asked for support and advice. Tragically, in the short space of two months that I was a part of this group, two active members died as a result of chronic pancreatitis with many others sharing their stories of finding out they now suffered from pancreatic cancer.

Cancer of the pancreas is the 10th most common cancer worldwide, with approximately 8.8k sufferers a year.¹ Its cause it still yet to be determined but it’s believed that pancreatitis (and on-going inflammation of the pancreas) along with hereditary factors, diet, alcohol consumption and being overweight are all contributing factors.²

Symptoms also vary; 70% of patients experienced pain in the stomach and back prior to their diagnosis, with others being jaundiced or noticing sudden weight loss. Not everyone experiences symptoms, however, which contributes to a late diagnosis and devastating statistics. For example, a distressing 20% of patients survive a year after their initial diagnosis.³ Only 20%. Of course, early diagnosis gives a patient a stronger chance of survival but these diagnoses are only possible with sufficient funding, allowing furthermore research into this illness. With enough money, clinical trials can take place to test treatments, vaccines and chemotherapy amongst other forms of treatment thereby contributing to a stronger chance of survival.

Fundamentally, donating even £3 will allow researchers to find the causes of pancreatic cancer, which could eliminate thousands of potential patients. With better knowledge of the disease, the options of treatment are broader, all contributing to a higher survival rate. Please donate to Cancer Research UK, Macmillan or any other organisation helping support both patients and research facilities.

Everyday is #ADaytoUnite

#WeCanICan

 

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Original Writing

Ornamental vs Instrumental

Once upon a time, in a period of inequality and conventional expectations, women were considered to be ornamental, whereas men were seen to be instrumental.
And now, to find that there is an increase in the number of successful women in society, we can see that women are JUST as instrumental as men.
And that is empowering.

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