Member Spotlight: Uzma
We often say DSA is a “big tent”. It’s true that we all come from different backgrounds, but every one of our unique experiences has brought us to the same conclusion: A better world is possible, and it is ours to build. The following is the seventh in a series of stories told by our members about the events and experiences that led them to the Left.
آپ لڑکی ہو
Aap larki ho. You’re a girl. That phrase has defined my life in more ways than expected (language is an extremely powerful tool in this story). It was the reason I was never really allowed to be a child, never free or trusted like my younger brothers, and never really allowed to make mistakes. Wanting your parents’ approval is normal but when amazing grades, every decision made through the lens of rationality, good behavior, obedience, and even missing out on every experience a teenager has isn’t enough – what do you do? You succumb to years of emotional abuse and brainwashing, forget your own self-worth, and end up marrying the abusive pile of garbage they choose for you to earn their approval.
Growing up I clashed with my mother just like any other kid does – though I have no comparison to make for the severity or frequency of it compared to what a “normal” mother-daughter relationship would look like. I was always too opinionated, too blunt, too vocal, and therefore too rude for her liking – ironically enough all things I had in common with her. The moments that would lead to these clashes: when I would call out the racism, sexism, casteism, homophobia, classism, and religious bigotry in her and the rest of the family. The only time my mother would ever get along with me was when I agreed with her on how horrible her in laws were.
In time I realized that the only way to make her happy and earn her approval was to always agree. I couldn’t stop speaking up about what I thought was right and I wanted to pursue a career of my own choice. My mom already convinced me that I had limited options (due to casteism) and that I was expected to get married to a man of their choice. So when it came time for grad school, I made an internal compromise. I would let them make this decision if I got to make the other choices – even though this wasn’t their choice to make and any other choices I’d made in the past I had to fight tooth and nail for.
The arranged marriage was a nightmare to say the least. To this day, I feel lucky that I never actually had to live with him, but even the digital connection I had to maintain with him was rife with emotional abuse. I didn’t understand what I’d done to deserve being with an objectively bad person like him. Weirdly enough, it led me to Google, and from there I stumbled upon language that empowered me to take action. I learned about emotional abuse, gaslighting, and narcissism – qualities that not only described my marriage, but also my family. The final nail in the coffin was when he decided to say to me, “It’s not rape if you’re married.” That was when I realized that I needed to leave not just him, but the very system and family who perpetuated an ideology that treated women like nothing more than chattel.
I decided that my life was not worth giving over to people who would never be satisfied with me, who would never understand or value me as a person, as a woman. I was done living a life of self-denial while espousing feminist ideology and living a life of contradicting values and practices. I was done living a lie. I could not aim to fight against oppressive systems while being surrounded by people who were not only willfully ignorant to the injustices of the world, but also willing to support those same oppressive systems for their own gain. And so, I left. I carefully planned out my leaving process, which involved a lot of planning, writing my master’s thesis, coordinating filing for divorce, sneaking out clothes to take with me, securing finances, halting immigration proceedings for my so-called husband, covering my tracks, preparing to go no-contact with my family, and lots of support from friends who turned out to be the closest thing to family I have.
I have ceased performing a lie. I am a woman (perhaps in some deep parts of myself still a لڑکی), a socialist, a feminist, and I am finally happy. Now I make my own choices, and I choose to fight for myself and for what’s right.