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June Jordan paper

aayzahmirza's picture

“We are not women anymore; we are parties to a transaction designed to set us against each other”

 Until my O Levels, I had been enrolled in a school following a blend of the notorious, some what 'extremist' approach to Islam and the centuries old regressive notion of gender inequality. Being a Muslim myself, my interpretation of my religion was vastly different, so when the school's female administration blatantly discriminated against students of their own gender, I could not comprehend how these women could bring themselves to debase their own identity like this. 

Even now, I can vividly imagine my euphoria at being the youngest student to get a Best Delegate award at the first ever Model United Nations Conference in my school. I carried with me fresh ambition to succeed; to go beyond an intra school event and make a place for myself in the city's prestigious 'MUNning' circuit. For weeks, I spent my time engrossed in newspapers and news bulletins, preparing for any opportunity that could come my way. Finally, I saw a notice for MUN trials and I felt like it was my chance. Eagerly attending the tryouts and managing to get shortlisted, I was confident, that I would be a member of my school's delegation for the National MUN, which was being held in another city. However,  I was naive to think so and my bubble was burst when I got news of the delegation being all male. Appalled and infuriated, I gathered other female students who had been shortlisted and went to the principal's office. We explained how badly we wanted the position, how hard we had worked for it, and how confident we were that we would win. However, our efforts were in vain and all the principal did was refer us to a female administrator. Expecting a sympathetic ear from someone who could relate to us, who would know how agonizing it is to be stripped of opportunities on the basis of one's gender, we gathered our hopes and conveyed these facts and feelings to the concerned woman. And it was this very moment that has now enabled me to completely comprehend June Jordan's intent when she writes, 'we are not women anymore; we are parties to a transaction designed to set us against each other’. The administrator channelled her inner diplomat and tried establish that the school was not letting girls go to the event because it cared more about the female students, poor weaklings who would not be able to hold their own in a different city and who would instead be satiated by a ‘fun fair’, something more appropriate for their lack of intellect. I argued, and so did my peers, but it was apparent that the administrator was on the different end of the battlefield. The worse part is that, we should not have been having to fight a war in the first place. 

From that day on, I was refused various other chances, with never going down without a fight and the head of the school always sending in a woman to do his dirty job. It repulsed me, enraged me, confused me and more importantly made me pity these powerful women, who had chosen to become pawns in this larger scheme of oppression.

Jordan says, we should not be united by a common enemy, but shouldn’t we at least be united by the similarity of our experiences? Instead of making the path easier for us, that woman and then many like her, chose to inflict on us the same pain that they might have experienced. Maybe they were enacting their version of social justice by imposing on us the barriers that were imposed on them.

Women should not on opposite sides, in fact, there should be no opposing armies in the first place. I believe that by removing the shackles that confine us, we can come together. Not only women but every human on this planet might be able to benefit the other in some way and it is only by realizing that we are common in more ways than we are different, that we will allow ourselves to help others and be helped by them.