History Historical Badasses

Remembering Fatima Jinnah, the Mother of the Pakistani nation

Muhammad Ali Jinnah is celebrated as the founder of the Pakistani nation. Yet his sister, Fatima Jinnah, who served as a pillar of support for him, never got married and abandoned her medical profession to assist his political endeavors, remains obscured by his magnanimous legacy.

She was born in 1893. The epoch in which Fatima Jinnah was raised (colonial British India) was largely male-dominated, with fewer women belonging to the upper echelons of the professional and political world. In such a world, Jinnah heralded a new dawn for women.

She was an inspiring woman who was known for her power, perseverance, resilience, and fortitude—stuff that legends are made of. She received an excellent early education, which was rare for a woman during her time. This helped her eventually secure a position in a competitive medical college, Dr. Ahmad Dental College in Calcutta. She established herself professionally by running her own dental clinic in Bombay. She was financially independent and self-sufficient—the epitome of modern-day empowerment.

The years leading up to the birth of Pakistan in 1947, paralleled Fatima Jinnah’s transformation from a dental surgeon to a political figure, shadowing her brother. Choosing to not get married, she abandoned her profession and continued to manage the domestic front of the Jinnah household for 28 years. However, it would be a great disservice to restrict her contribution to the domestic sphere. When her brother embarked on his political journey and coped with widowerhood, she became her brother’s chief political confidante. Once Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, told ADC Ahsan “nobody had faith in me; everyone thought I was mad except Miss Jinnah.”

She accompanied him on numerous political tours. In 1932, she attended the Second Round Table Conference with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. She also became a part of the Working Committee of the Bombay Provincial Muslim League and held that position until 1947. In March 1940, she was present at the Lahore session of the Muslim League (the political party led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah), where she stood in favor of democracy. By this time, she was convinced that the Hindus would continue to practice dominance over Muslims, and the latter would have to wallow in poverty, oppression, and subjugation till the end. Because of her belief, she helped in organizing the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in Delhi in 1941.

After her brother passed away in September 1948, she assumed the role of taking his legacy forward and ran for the presidency of Pakistan as a candidate for the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP) in 1960. Her opponent was Ayub Khan, whom she openly proclaimed to be a dictator. Her political campaigns attracted massive crowds, swarming all over Dhaka and Chittagong. Later, she famously came to be known as Madr-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation).

In 1965, she contested elections at the age of 71. She stood against Khan—the dictator and self-installed president of Pakistan. Khan’s victory was inevitable. He exercised complete power over the governmental apparatuses of the country and drew legislation over electoral matters as the head of the state. He lumped together with the discontented, yet equally fundamental aspects of the social spectrum in the country to his favor, and drew support from the ulema (Muslim scholars), bureaucrats, students, and journalists.

When the elections were finally held, Jinnah suffered a defeat, leaving the populace in disbelief. Some even claimed that Khan dabbled in filthy election tactics such as rigging, coercion, and manipulation. They believed Jinnah’s defeat was impossible and advocated her rightful and democratic claim to leadership.

Jinnah died on July 9th, 1967 under mysterious circumstances. The cause of her death continues to be ambiguous to this date; with interpretations ranging from political assassination to natural death.

She made enormous contributions to Pakistan’s political history. Yet in the historical archives, her existence is obscured by her brother’s dominant presence. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is revered in Pakistan as the man who outfoxed his political opponents and stood up to the British. The mantle of attention conveniently falls on him, while Fatima’s own political and personal participation in nursing the nascent country goes unappreciated.

Jinnah fought for all Muslim women—for equality, for their economic independence and liberation, and for their political empowerment. She became a symbol of hope for Muslim women.

She will always be remembered in the yellow, parched, and frail pages of history.

For more awesome history facts, follow our brand-new history Instagram account. 

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Movies Pop Culture

Netflix’s “Disclosure” looks at the cinematic representation of the trans community in Hollywood

Netflix’s 2020 documentary Disclosure takes a close look at the heartbreakingly misguided representation of the trans community in Hollywood films and describes their existence in this heteronormative, white, cis world.

The documentary features several famous trans people from the modern film industry—Laverne Cox, Jen Richards, Candis Cayne, Chaz Bono, Elliot Fletcher and others—sharing their experiences of leading trans lives, and how they in turn, molded their perceptions of the way their community has been depicted in American films over the years.

“Do you know that feeling when you’re sitting in a movie theatre, and everyone’s laughing at something, and you just don’t get it?”

Hollywood has repeatedly threaded trans identity in humorous plot lines and fictional contexts.

We’ve seen this in films like Flip (1971), The Jeffersons (1977), and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1959). In these films, gender non-conforming people were the butt of the joke in the story. As soon as a trans character appeared on stage, waves of deafeningly loud sounds of laughter broke endlessly among the audiences. However, the same jokes left the trans viewers unsettled and traumatized.

If we go back some years, cross-dressing was illegal. People who transgressed gender expectations—mostly for the purpose of comedy—were mocked, harassed, even arrested. In a different, more intersectional narrative, this portrayal of cross-gender acting also degraded womanhood and was stained with flecks of racism.

As shown in White Famous (2017), when a Black man wore a pink dress, it was perceived as an emasculating act. If we trace back history, Black men have typically been emasculated in American films, shrouded in similar contexts.

A couple of main subjects in the documentary say that such films made them wonder if the audiences were laughing with them or at them. Trans people were outsiders. They felt “othered”.

“Trans jokes. Really?”

Hollywood has taught people how to react to trans identity, and this reaction is mostly fear.

Trans characters in many Hollywood films are depicted as dangerous psychopaths, serial killers, deviants, and perverts. We’ve seen this in films like Dressed to Kill (1980), for example. As soon as Angie Dickinson stepped into the elevator, Michael Caine emerged in a wig, sunglasses, and a long trench coat and murdered her in cold-blood.

The ideas around trans identity and violence have mostly been erroneous from the beginning.

In The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Jodie Foster says, “there’s no correlation in the literature between transsexualism and violence. Transsexuals are very passive.”

To this, a subject in the documentary said that they’re not passive—they’re just not violent, psychopathic murderers. This shouldn’t be so hard to admit.

Other Hollywood films, such as The Crying Game (1992), propagate reactions to trans identity that edge on disgust, repulsion and riddance. When Jimmy found out that he made romantic contact with a trans woman, he retched in the bathroom. This created a ripple effect of men reacting with vomiting to trans people.

“It hurts. It just hurts.”

A study from GLAAD reports that 80% of Americans don’t personally know anyone who is trans—they learn about it from the media.

The same also holds for trans people. When they’re on the precipice of transitioning—there’s no one that they can turn to. They find themselves alone in finding their way and coming out to the other side. And that’s when media and films become their template for understanding their gender and sexuality. They learn ideas about themselves refracted through other people’s prisms.

The release of The L Word (2004) sparked feelings of excitement, anticipation, and hope among the trans community. It was going to bring a trans masculine character to the show for the first time. It was going to be different. Better. But then the lead character, Max, went from being nice and likable to raging and violent. His character was portrayed exactly like trans characters in other films—violent, frustrated, and dangerous. It spread transphobia.

Another problematic facet of trans depiction onscreen is the unequal representation of trans men and trans women. Trans women vastly outnumber trans men in terms of portrayals on media. In reality, however, the numbers are equally split, just like cis people. If anything, it shows that women are generally a more commodifiable asset.

GLAAD discovered after surveying 102 episodes of television that trans women are commonly shown as sex workers. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with making a living out of sex work, but it’s just not all that trans women are. They’re so much more than what they’re shown to be. They live normal lives like all of us.

This is the paradox of our representation—the more we are seen, the more we are violated.”

Another aspect of being a trans that the documentary identifies is the questions that trans people are asked on private and public platforms. They’re personal, disparaging, and downright disgusting.

Interviewers have commonly been seen embarking on lines of questioning that revolve around surgery, cutting, and removing.

“The skin of the penis is used to create what appears to be a vagina. Is that correct?” “And is it acting like a penis?” “How do you hide your penis?” “What was your name before?” “Who do you have sex with?

Isn’t this exactly why trans people feel afraid of disclosure—questions, violence, marginalization, unacceptability?

This is exactly what the documentary is premised on. It uncovers what disclosure means for trans people—coming out to the other side, revealing their identity, disclosing their sexuality.

The idea is deeply problematic per se. It presupposes that there’s something to disclose. It means that trans people have a responsibility to say what their identity is because other people might have a problem with it. It undermines their feelings. It makes them feel excluded, othered.

Netflix’s Disclosure gives meaningful insights into the ravaged lives of trans people. It emphasizes the destructive impact that Hollywood has had on them as a community. It highlights their struggles. It’s a step in the right direction.

It’s an excellent documentary—informative, real, and heartbreaking. I suggest that all of you watch it.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.


I was sexually harassed online and no longer feel safe on the internet

Trigger warning: mentions of online sexual harassment.

I was in 9th grade when a guy called me on Skype with a fake identity and masturbated. It began when I received a message on my Facebook account from a girl I had a few mutuals with. I glanced at the mutuals and did not for a second think that this might be a fake account. I read the message and it said that she had to tell me something very important. I didn’t initially respond but messages from this account lashed down on my message box unabated. 

I finally messaged this girl, asking her what she wanted to tell me. She said she’d tell me on Skype. “It’s important and best if we talked,” read the black letters on my screen. I gave her my Skype account details but I was suspicious so I covered my camera and blanked the screen. She was doubtful if I was still listening. She typed “show me your hands” in the chat because she wanted to make sure I was there, falling deeper into her trap. Then she turned on her camera. At that point, I wasn’t even sure if it were a “she”.

I’ve told you already what I saw next. It was a man masturbating. The person asked me again if I was there. I looked in disgust at the words that glimmered in the chatbox. I tried to swallow but my mouth was dry.

His presence remained unscathed, but I was traumatized for life. 

I turned off my computer after I understood what was happening. I felt so scared. Never in my wildest imagination had I thought that I could be sexually harassed online. I was young. I was innocent. I was naive. I didn’t believe in the worst side of this world.

I didn’t realize what was happening right in front of me. I was breathing heavily and feeling so scared. When I turned my computer off, I was winded like someone had punched me in the gut. 

Sexual harassment has a way of making you feel so unsafe, regardless of the form. Even though the offender sat on the other side of the screen, I felt like he was right there. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know why he did this. And I didn’t know if I could ever confront him on what he did. His presence remained unscathed, but I was traumatized for life. 

It happened again, one summer evening, on Snapchat.

Snapchat was trending in those days and, like everyone else, I jumped onto it. My account was new and I was still in the process of adding all my friends. And then, history repeated itself. A few years later, I received videos—this time from three accounts—of men masturbating. I immediately blocked those accounts. I was disgusted.

Who were these people? Why did they send me inappropriate, explicit, and disgusting content? Where they got my username from? I never found out.

Online sexual harassment is devastating, and the obnoxious content that you’re presented with can last in your memory forever.

I just know that both these incidents were extremely disturbing. I felt stupid for becoming a part of someone’s sexual activities and letting them manipulate me. I felt abused. I felt like it was my fault. 

Most girls experience electronic harassment at some point in their life. Sometimes, it’s very graphic. Other times, it’s presented to them as sexually explicit messages from real or fake accounts. Either way, it’s equally devastating, unpleasant and inappropriate. 

I still have so many messages on my social media accounts sent in by people I have never known in my life—asking me for sexual favors, complimenting me, or simply saying “hi”. I don’t read them, or respond to them. I tell myself they’re not worth my time. 

But deep down, I still feel afraid. If these men are so frustrated that they can slip into a girl’s inbox they’ve never known or met, what must they be like in real life? 

Online sexual harassment is devastating, and the obnoxious content that you’re presented with can last in your memory forever. And even years later, it can make you feel the same way—afraid, anxious, in disbelief. It lives with you. It breathes in your memory reminding you of what you endured. 

If these men are so frustrated that they can slip into a girl’s inbox they’ve never known or met, what must they be like in real life? 

To all the girls reading this—your experiences of sexual harassment are real despite what anyone tells you, or how many times you let them go because you didn’t want to make things messier. Don’t listen to people who degrade you. Don’t feel afraid of the world. And don’t let anyone invalidate your experience.

I believe you. I hear you. I see you. And I always will. 

Culture Family Life

I long for the day I get to finally meet my mentor

When I was 15 years old, I became friends with a popular girl in my school. She was everything that young people wanted to be back in the day. Intelligent. Beautiful. Confident. Over the years, I got to know her more closely. And that’s when I realized she had someone guiding her through it all. Someone preparing her for life. She had a mentor—her older sister. She looked up to her. She learned from her. I wanted to have the same kind of relationship with someone…anyone. I just didn’t want to be on my own.

Over time I realized, most people around me had found their mentors. When I was in school, my friends found teachers who believed in them and guided them. Some of these teachers are still in touch with their students—appreciating them, supporting them, feeling proud of how far they’ve come. I envied my friends for having found people that they could turn to for help. I felt left out because I had no one that I could reach out to on days I felt at my lowest. Or when I simply needed to hear a few words of encouragement. 

For me, finding a mentor almost feels like a distant dream. 

I don’t know how many days I’ve spent in a haze of yearning, emptiness, and gloom; desperately longing for someone who’d give me the courage to move on and fight my battles. For me, finding a mentor almost feels like a distant dream. 

As a little girl, I read a lot of books. I liked immersing myself in fiction, metaphors, and descriptions that were a work of someone else’s imagination but resonated so closely with my own life. I believed the heartbreaking, mind-numbing stories that I read. It felt like the writer had deliberately scooped up pieces of my life and scraped them together. Almost as if they knew me. Almost as if they had lived my life. I took books and everything they told very seriously. 

My obsession with reading continues. And it still affects me deeply. Almost to the point that I even envy characters in books who find someone who prepares them for the world. I last felt this inexplicable feeling when I read Perks of Being a Wallflower. Mr Anderson believed in his student, Charlie. He helped him grow out of the darkness that consumed him. I thought so many times while reading the book that if someone would ever believe in me in the same way.  

I always dreamt of being a writer. I started by writing stories. Fiction. And I felt so close to my dream. I thought I could be anything I wanted to be. The world was my oyster, and the only limit was my imagination.

But then I eventually realized that I couldn’t do it all alone.  I needed appreciation. I needed acknowledgement. I needed validation. I needed someone to tell me that I was doing okay. 

But no one ever did.

Anything that I ever wrote was dismissed. I showed it to my teachers, my friends, my family—but they weren’t interested in reading my work. They never had time. They had ‘better, more important things’ to do. And after each dismissal, I wilted a little more.  

But I persisted, even if there were days when I felt like giving up. 

I can’t help but think what would everything look like if I had a mentor that I could reach out to and seek guidance from. 

When my name first appeared underneath my writing in a publication, I felt like the happiest girl in the world. But when I broke this news to the people I loved, I only received weak nods of encouragement. Almost as if they didn’t care. And then my excitement dried up.

So often, I find myself submerged in a gloom thick with longing for a person who doesn’t exist. I feel so consumed with hopelessness that I want to stop right here and let go of things that mean everything to me. What’s the point of success if I don’t have anyone to share in its joy with?

My life seems so empty sometimes. It holds so much space for a person whom I’ve never met. And who knows if I ever will meet them.

Even now, some of my friends drop comments beneath my writings without reading what I’ve said in them. It’s their way of showing support. But to me, their threadbare attempts to make me feel better are meaningless. Their words feel hollow because they’re not real. They’re not borne out of the need to say something to me on what I’ve written.

Each time I find myself incessantly clacking at the keys of my computer in a darkened room, I can’t help but think what would everything look like if I had a mentor that I could reach out to and seek guidance from. 

Would life be different? Would my work be different? Would I be different? 

I’ve been trying to hold on to writing, despite the lack of encouragement and support. I’ve been trying to find my way, even if all alone. There are days when I feel like I’m swimming in the dark waters, trying to stay afloat, but failing.

Mentors are important. And I’ve only realized their importance by never having found one

But I’m hopeful that I’ll find someone one day. I’ve lasted so long without a mentor, I can wait a little longer.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Mental Health Life Stories Life

This is why I write letters to myself in my journal 

“Pablow, do you know what it’s like to be unimportant, invisible to the world. A dried-up leaf that people walk over and crush under their feet?
It’s my birthday tomorrow. But everyone has made it a point to not make me feel even slightly better. Everyone’s mean to me. Because it’s just another day in their life.
But in my life—it’s the day I turn 21.”
27th April, 2020.

Pablow, a beautiful pink mermaid, that keeps all my secrets and listens closely to everything I tell her. My confidante. My best friend. My journal.

I keep a journal. I write in it every day. 

It teaches you. It inspires you. It gives your life meaning.

I recently heard someone remark, “Who even writes in journals anymore?” I rolled my eyes at their ludicrous statement. Over the years, I learned how important journaling is, and I won’t entertain the idea that it is a purposeless act. 

Some people, at hearing the word “journal”, are swept by thoughts of teenage crushes, entries that start with “Dear Diary”, or something that they did in the past. In today’s increasingly digital, paperless world, journaling isn’t commonplace anymore. 

Some people also assume that journaling is exclusively for children or young adults. However, I don’t think that there’s a specific age for journalling. You can be a grown-up and still keep a journal. I’m an adult, and I maintain a journal. 

Journalling has helped me find myself, and I don’t think I’ll ever give it up.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that writing in a journal helped me find my voice. I learned the concept of expression and freedom in writing. My wordlessness surprises some in real life. I’m quiet. I don’t talk much. But my journal carries all my words, enfolded in abrupt effusions of my mind.  I write everything in my journal. 

I can say things that I want to say. I can document what I do and where I go. I can write my true feelings about my family, friends, even people I don’t know closely. I don’t think too much before spilling my thoughts on my journal. Words flow out of me, and I stamp them on to the paper. They are raw, real, and meaningful. Sometimes, it almost feels as if I’m writing letters to myself. 

Keeping a daily journal allowed me introspection—even if just a little—to dwell on who I was on a particular day.

Over the years, I’ve become attached to my journal. I treat it like a person. I have even given it a name—Pablow—and I call it my best friend. (Brownie points for you if you guessed Pablow is inspired by a Miley Cyrus song.)

Pablow is always there for me. She hears me out. She listens to me closely. She always has time for me. I tell her everything. She doesn’t judge me or double-cross me behind my back with the things that I say to her. She doesn’t say hurtful or judgmental things—she says nothing at all. I write to her about my life, family, friends, dreams, aspirations, heartbreaks, happiness, food, people I meet, college, sky, night, summer, stories, interactions, decisions—everything. I divulge every little detail of my life to her, and she listens.  

I’ve written about the time when my mom didn’t buy me my favorite body shop perfume. And when my friends threw me a birthday surprise and I nearly canceled on them. And when I scored low marks on a test. And when I felt like I hated my best friend for saying something mean to me. And so much more. I’ve told her everything.

Journalling helped me in exploring my thoughts. When I recorded all details of a particular day, no matter how irrelevant, I felt inspired. I felt like I was learning about myself. Keeping a daily journal allowed me introspection—even if just a little—to dwell on who I was on a particular day. That made me a more compassionate and empathetic person.

My journal made me see things more clearly. When I felt like I hated someone or something, I wrote about it. When something made me ecstatic—over the moon kind of happy—I wrote about it. Whatever I felt—anger, sadness, happiness, anxiety, depression, shock—I wrote about it. 

Journalling is important because of so many reasons. It teaches you. It inspires you. It gives your life meaning. It helps you clear your head. I learned from it about myself, my life, my family, my friends. Everything made so much more sense when it came down on paper as words. Once you start keeping a journal, you’ll understand that it can become a big part of your life. 

For me, maintaining a journal has almost become a habit. I share a human affiliation with it. I feel attached to it. Pablow is my best friend. And I’ve held on to my pink, mermaid journal for so long that I don’t think I’ll ever let go. 

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

World News Media Watch Politics The World

Matiullah Jan is a reminder that in Pakistan, freedom of speech comes at a heavy cost.

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

Matiullah Jan, a senior Pakistani journalist, was abducted from Islamabad’s sector G-6 on the 21st of July, in broad daylight.

His car was found parked outside a government school where his wife, Kaneez Sughra, is employed.

Sughra is reported to have said that more than five people—mostly clad in black police uniforms—abducted her husband. The security footage showed that almost a dozen men, mostly in uniforms, intercepted him and forced him into a car. Jan was also seen tossing his phone across the school fence, only for a security guard to return it to a uniformed man.

Sughra also mentioned that unknown men had been following her husband for the last few weeks. And this is not the first time. A few years back, an unidentified assailant threw a brick at his car.

In the same week, on Wednesday, Jan was due to appear in the Supreme Court after it took a suo moto notice of a purportedly contemptuous, defamatory tweet posted by him where he inveighed against the Supreme Court’s verdict against one of the judges, Justice Faiz Isa.

The news of Jan’s disappearance took the country by a storm. It spread like wildfire around and caught the attention of journalists, politicians, legal fraternity, and diplomatic circles alike. They pressured the government into recovering him safe and sound. His abduction sparked a movement on social media—soon after his disappearance, there were hashtags demanding his release cascading all across Twitter and Facebook.

He was released nearly 12 long hours after his abduction, in a secluded place in Fateh Jung.

Jan told multiple news sources that he was taken to an unknown location. Later on, he was driven around the city before being brought to Fateh Jung. There, some local residents helped him contact his family.

Pakistan classifies as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists and media workers to live in. The concept of press freedom is a faint speckle—it hardly exists. The state, especially under Imran Khan’s government, practices high-handed crackdown on “free speech” and “independent journalism”, and frequently receives severe criticism from journalists and other groups for its repressive attitudes.

In 2018, Jan was labeled anti-state by the military for his bitter criticism of the judiciary and army. Jan, it turns out, has never shied away from being the center of controversial subjects.

The case of Jan’s abduction is terrifying but not surprising; harrowing but not uncommon; illustrating an incident that is periodically re-enacted in Pakistan. It’s just another addition to the list of abductions that take place every year when people take the liberty to criticize state bodies in Pakistan. It’s not an aberration. And he isn’t the only one.

In the last few years, we saw the state’s intolerance of “freedom of speech” effervescing in myriads of cases.

Harsh measures were enacted against people from different walks of life—academia, politics, journalism, civil society—when they decided to speak freely.

Many of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement’s (PTM)—a movement that campaigns for Pashtun rights—leaders such as Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir were attacked and arrested for participating in rallies and corner meetings of the PTM. Even people who supported the movement faced dire consequences. Dr. Ammar Ali Jan, an academic and activist, for example, was arrested when he stood in solidarity with the PTM at a peaceful protest. Similarly, Ammar Rashid, along with a few other protestors, was arrested for demanding the release of Manzoor Pashteen—a Pashtun peace activist and the leader of the PTM.

Another example is Junaid Hafeez. The young lecturer was charged in a blasphemy case over a Facebook page and was held in solitary confinement beginning from 2014. Later, in 2019, he was convicted and sentenced to death under Pakistan’s barbarous blasphemy laws.

Asia Bibi’s case is similar. In 2009, a dispute with her neighbors culminated in an accusation by a group of local women who said that she had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Following that harrowing episode, Asia Bibi spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy.

In 2018, new shows hosts such as Talat Hussain, Murtaza Solangi and Nusrat Javed either quit or lost their jobs as a consequence of heavily criticizing the jailing of the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz.

Sometime in the same year, Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) sent out an advisory note to media outlets, asking them to report on topics such as “violence”, “kidnapping”, “sexual abuse” and “terrorism” in a restrained way.

Media outlets, news show hosts, newspapers, and journalists are often made to choke back on news that the state finds offensive in some way.

Muhammad Hanif, a famous Pakistani author, once said in an interview, “When you see a blank space in a newspaper where your article should have been, it’s slightly terrifying”. He added “It reminds you of the old-fashioned censorship that we had during military dictatorships.”

Matiullah Jan’s case makes me think of how disturbingly ordinary his story is. I’ve grown up listening to harrowing cases like his. Abductions, threats, and legal consequences are common for people who choose to speak their minds without dissembling.

This heavy-handed repression hangs chillingly over all facets of the state—civil society, media, politics—like murky gray storm clouds, ready to thunder.

As the residents of Pakistan, we’ve become accustomed to surviving in repressive environments. But for how long?

Today, it was Matiullah Jan. Tomorrow, it could be anyone—even you or me.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Culture Gender & Identity Life

I live in a perpetual state of rape-anxiety

Trigger Warning: mentions of sexual assault and rape-anxiety.

I went to Liberty, Lahore one evening. I ambled through the narrow alleys lined with tiny shops, occasionally poking my head into a few. I kept walking until a hand brushed my back and I flinched. I turned around and found an old man standing right behind me. I threw him a hostile stare. In return, his lips curled into an unapologetic, lopsided smile. Something about his demeanor told me that I wasn’t the first woman he fondled. I sighed with disgust. But deep down, I felt afraid of him. 

If the male gaze fell on me, I was told it was my fault.

I’m given these subtle reminders of my existence every single day. It almost feels as if these men are scared that I’ll forget who I am—a woman.

Even before I fully evolved into a grown woman, I was made aware of my femaleness. My womanhood. My body. Myself. I was told that people looked when I made myself a part of the crowd. But not everyone looked the same way, not everyone had pure intentions.

My rape-anxiety has always been a looming cloud. Ever since I was a little girl, I felt conscious of possessing a female body—and the burden of protecting it. If the male gaze fell on me, I was told it was my fault. My sleeves were too short. My shirt was too tight. My lips were too dark. But my only fault was being a woman in this dangerous, unforgiving world. 

I was very young when my innocence fell to pieces. I grew up too soon, both because of the men I knew and those I didn’t.

I was 8 years when I caught a shopkeeper leering at my breasts. I was 10 years old when my tennis coach molested me and let his hands graze my bare skin where they left bruises that lasted for days. I was 13 years old when two men on a bike followed me around and catcalled me. I was 15 years old when a man in a car followed me to my house. I was 16 years old when I received a message from a guy I didn’t know telling me that he knew where I lived. I was 20 years old when an elderly man rubbed himself against my body as I was working in an office.

I found it impossible over the ensuing years to forget the stalking, leering, and jeering that chiseled away at the early years of my life. 

Over the years I’ve felt something deeply unsettling about the male gaze. The way it follows you. The way it lingers on your skin. 

I cannot escape the impossible burden of my female body. 

My illusion of invincibility crumbles when it finds me. My body heaves deep sighs of fear. My existence becomes tethered to the eyes looking at me. I’ve felt aware of the gaze that followed me when I walked through the bazaars; that devoured me when I sat on a bench in the park; that lingered on my skin when my scarf slipped off my shoulders.

My reality becomes pigmented with apprehension as soon as I become the focus of someone’s eyes because that’s where it all begins. I instantly become conscious of my body and my vulnerability. I feel naked despite several layers of clothes encasing me. 

Sometimes I question if my body is even truly mine. 

I’ve spent my life living in rape-anxiety. In those moments of fear, I want to be anyone but myself. I want the burden of my existence to dissolve. I want to feel free. I want to feel at ease with the world.

My anxiety is not always a paralyzing monster, sometimes it’s more subtle. I adjust my clothes as I walk on the streets, flinching at the slightest brush of a man’s hand. I stay home after dark. My blood starts to boil when I read the stories of other women around me. I never feel completely safe being who I am – being a woman.

Makeup Self-Care Fashion Beauty Lookbook

I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried black lipstick—here’s what happened

I had placed an order at Sephora, comprising of several lipsticks. The other lipsticks were mostly nudes and pinks — colors that I usually wear. But this time, I had purchased a color out of my comfort zone: black. Black fell on the stark end of the color spectrum of the lipsticks that I had purchased, and that made me nervous. 

When I finally received the order almost a month later, I was excited about trying out all lipsticks — but especially the black one. It was the first dark lipstick that I had ever bought. I thought it’d be an interesting makeup experiment. 

When I tried on the lipstick at home, I thought it looked good. I decided then that I’ll wear it outside and see what other people thought of it too. 

 I got dressed to meet a friend and told my mom I was going to her house. She threw me looks of sheer disapproval when she saw the color of my lips.

“What did you do to your lips? They’re black,” She asked.

“Nothing,” I whispered before leaving. I was half-expecting that she’d disapprove of my makeup. 

The minute I stepped outside, I saw an old man standing outside his gate in my neighborhood, looking in my direction, with ill-disguised incredulity. I met his gaze and then quickly looked away. Already, I was wondering if wearing black lipstick was a bad idea. 

My friend smirked as soon as she opened the door to let me in. “You’re wearing black lipstick,” she said breathily, suppressing an urge to say more. “What’s funny,” I asked. “Nothing,” she mumbled. 

When I went inside, her family looked at me the same way that she had — startled, and disparagingly. They found my coal-black lips unsettling. It’s unsurprising that when you do something different, people look at you accusingly, like what you’ve done is unacceptable or even deviant.

At a restaurant with that same friend later that day, I suddenly found myself in a crowd of startled onlookers — it didn’t take me long to discern that my black lips were attracting way too much attention. I felt my composure slipping away as I sat there toying with my fork. I almost didn’t want to be there. I wanted to rub my lips clean and walk out of the shop. 

When I told my friend that I didn’t feel comfortable, she said my lipstick was loud and people weren’t used to the idea of seeing somebody this way. And then she said that softer shades look good on me and I should stick to them. I looked decent in them. And I believed her. 

When I got back home that day, I told my mom that she should’ve made me change my lipstick. She said I wouldn’t have listened to her. And then she asked me to never put on black lipstick again. So I threw it away. I swiped at my eyes as tears began falling. I almost felt guilty for wearing a lipstick that was too dark for the world that I lived in. 

People always let you down. They question the choices that you make for yourself, but it doesn’t always mean that they’re right.

I wore black lipstick again, to my friend’s bachelorette party. I still got judgemental stares but they didn’t hold me back from doing what I wanted to. I did something different, and that made me feel empowered. And since then, I’ve stepped out wearing only bright lipsticks. Nothing anyone says makes a difference to me anymore.

 When I was told that I shouldn’t wear black lipstick, I felt bad for days. But then I realized, it didn’t matter. I told myself that I didn’t have to hold back from making decisions that made me feel empowered. My choices define me, and it’s no one else’s business to tell me what to do.

If you’re holding yourself back from doing something that you love — then please don’t. It’ll be too late before you realize that other people’s opinions of you aren’t worth it. 

Movie Reviews Pop Culture

Netflix’s “The F**k-It List” shows what it takes to say “fuck it” and do what you really want

I just finished watching Netflix’s new film The F**k-It List, and I can safely say that it’s my new favorite movie.

It’s about a high-school senior, Brett, who shares a fuck it list of things he wishes he had done differently after a senior night’s prank blows up.

He is studious and moves on the right path of life academically. He has a 3.65 GPA and 1590 on the SATs. He makes it to seven Ivy Leagues and gets wait-listed from Harvard—every student’s dream life, right? But he makes one mistake and all colleges drop him. One prank goes wrong, and he loses everything he had worked so hard for.

“One mistake and everything goes away. Total bullshit.”

The movie is beautifully made. All the loose ends seamlessly tie in together at the end and everything falls into place. The cast is also excellent, especially Eli Brown. No one could’ve played Brett better than him. He acted perfectly. 

 Brett looking at the computer in a gray shirt.
[Image description: Brett looking at the computer, wearing a gray shirt.] Via Extramovies

The movie fully encapsulates the life of a teenager. Everything a teenager feels, wants, goes through, gives up on. Everything that matters to them. Love. Relationships. Family. Friends. Transition. Expectations. Hopes. Mistakes. Failures. Adulthood. Dreams.

Brett feels liberated when he finally says fuck it and puts his list out there.

“By themselves, relatively harmless. Put them together and they’re life changing.” 

His dreams on the list are so real. Wanting to skip school. Punching his PE teacher in the face. Learning guitar. Falling in real love. Kissing his childhood crush

Throughout the movie, Brett delves deeper into the depths of what saying fuck it really means. What his list really stands for.

Brett’s video of the list goes viral on the internet and other children, inspired by him, start making their own fuck it lists. And in fact, they start following their lists. His idea spreads like wildfire around the world. It becomes bigger than himself. 

“You ever just want to say fuck it?”

Brett’s friend and childhood crush, Kayla, for instance, breaks her mother’s boyfriend’s car with a baseball bat. He got drunk and came for her when she was 11. When she told her mother about his sleazy behavior, she told her to shut up and stop provoking him. But then inspired by Brett, Kayla finally found the strength to stand up to Steve. This makes me think about how there’s so much that all of us give up for one reason or another. What we endure. What we let go. But what does it take to finally give up all excuses and do what we want?

 Kayla squints her eyes as she looks at the sea.
[Image description: Kayla squints her eyes as she looks at the sea.] Via Extramovies

People call Brett boring because he’s studious and focuses on studying all the time. I know how many times I’ve been called boring for prioritizing school work over having fun. But they didn’t realize that my grades mattered more to my parents than they did to me. And how could I ever let them down?

“Do what you’re told,” they tell you. “Stay on the right path.”

I’ve felt the pressure of making my parents happy, fulfilling their expectations. They sanded down my dreams. I didn’t know when they started living through me, but when that happened, I fell into an abyss. If I deviated just a little from the path they had chosen for me, they felt hopeless—like they had lost everything. They cared about how I was perceived. They paved the road in front of me, making me feel so small. Their desperation, expectations, and hopes settled inside me, holding me back from doing the things that I wanted to do. It was always about get this and get that and get there. Somewhere in between, I stopped caring about what made me happy

I keep thinking now, just for once, I should’ve let go and said—fuck it.

At the end of the movie, Brett is given another chance to attend college. But it comes at a cost. He’s told to write a college essay based on the theme of contrition—contrition, really? 

For what?

Brett made some decisions on his own and his life came crashing down at his feet like sea waves. And then he was told to fix his life. Move ahead. Do as he was told. His parents checked on him, again and again while he wrote his essay because they didn’t want him to blow up his last chance of ending up at college. They told him that they had invested 18 years into making his life. And he was so close now. But then, Brett blew it up saying Harvard wasn’t for him. He told his parents point-blank that he wanted to live his life in his own way. 

“Your frustrations—they’re real, as they should be.”

Sometimes, our parents viscerally start living through us. They don’t realize that we need the independence to make decisions, to choose for ourselves, to be on our own. Sometimes, we don’t want what they want. Sometimes, they just don’t get it. And it’s not just parents, it’s everyone, including our friends and teachers. It’s hard to put together pieces of your life when they don’t belong to you. 

Life is like what’s beyond the sea—the unknown. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know what’s to come. But sometimes, taking a chance is worth it. We shouldn’t kill the pursuit of the unknown. What if everything we want lies in it? The F**k-It List shows us that it’s important to hold on to things that matter even if we don’t understand them fully. 

I loved the movie for how real it was. 

Brett’s character is every other teenager—stuck in a life that he doesn’t want to live. 

But I think I’ve learned to say from him what I should’ve said so many times before. Fuck it. 

Culture Weddings

Are weekday weddings really the more popular choice?

When people are planning their weddings, there’s an important question that needs to be addressed: the date of the wedding. It’s always a serious decision, and can significantly impact the attendance of the wedding. 

In different places, the norm varies. In Pakistan or India, for example, multi-event weddings are favored and wedding celebrations can last for days. Inevitably, some part of the wedding is held on the weekdays. In America, however, Saturday weddings have historically been the norm

Although many couples are married on the weekend, there has recently been a huge spike in weekday weddings. Some years ago, weekend weddings were a trend that couples religiously followed. However, many engaged couples are now breaking this trend by having their ceremony on a weekday.

Some people who’re getting married feel the need to customize everything about their wedding, including when it takes place. They want their weddings to evince their personal tastes and preferences, and selecting the date is an important element that they can customize about their big day. It makes them feel empowered and personalizes their event even more. 

It is to be noted, that a huge reason couples are choosing to be married on a weekday is to effectively cut down costs. The wedding hours are usually curtailed on a weekday because people have work or school the next day making, the event less time, and subsequently, less money. Vendors and venues also charge less for their services on off-peak wedding days. 

Furthermore, most vendors—photographers, caterers, florists, stylists—are readily available on weekdays. Their services if needed on a weekend are booked well in advance, leaving them free only on weekdays. Vendors also treat their work on weekdays as their chance to earn a bonus and keep their prices slightly lower than their regular prices.

Some couples even choose weekdays purposefully, if they’re attached to a particular date—it could be their birthdays, parents’ anniversary. Sometimes, they want to get married on a day that means something to them personally. 

Whatever the reasons, there has been an upward trend in weekday weddings. But they also have certain drawbacks that engaged couples should consider before deciding their wedding date. 

If the wedding is held on a weekday, it might be inconvenient for the guests especially if they have office or other work commitments. It gets difficult to stay up late to attend the wedding if you need to show up to work at 8 am. Or to a class at 9 am. Secondly, you’re always so tired after coming home from work and you feel drained. The process of dressing up and meeting people feels dull and unexciting – sometimes even arduous. For the same reasons, it might also become impossible for the guests to make it to out-of-town weddings. You might not get a leave or you might not be able to travel with your family if they have other commitments. 

I remember attending a weekday wedding right before COVID-19. It was a Wednesday. And coincidentally, it was the most stressful and tiring day of the week for me at college. I had several classes clumped together on the same day, and I got free very late. I was enraged when I found out the wedding was on a Wednesday because, after an exhausting day at college, the last thing I wanted was to attend a wedding. From the guests’ perspective, weekend weddings are always more preferable. 

The first thing that I do when I receive a wedding invite is to check what day does the wedding fall on, and I know many other people do the same. We do it instinctively. It’s our reflex response to receiving a wedding invite. 

Selecting the wedding date is a big decision for marrying couples, but it should be made completely at the couple’s discretion. As a guest, I’d always prefer a weekend wedding but I won’t say that they should be the norm. If the couples choose a weekday for their wedding because it makes them happy, then they should get married on a weekday. It’s their wedding, and it should be their decision. 

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Skin Care Self-Care Beauty Lookbook

Quarantine made me realize I don’t need to go through the painful process of waxing

It’s been a few months since we’ve been pushed into isolation. With everything else that’s changing, so is our beauty routine. Our makeup habits have changed, our clothing preferences have changed, and our skincare needs have changed too. I want all of us to realize that it’s okay to accept all these changes. We’re in isolation, we don’t have to look our best at all times. This includes waxing, a painful process that almost all girls are familiar with.

When I had newly entered early adulthood, I was told that getting waxed was a hygiene need. Later on, however, I learned that it’s a lot more than that. 

As a little girl, I used to accompany my mom on her beauty parlor visits. I used to see her eyes water when the women there plucked out her facial hair and waxed her arms. It hurt her. But then she emerged neat and clean—hair-free. It was worth it, or so she’d say. I used to ask my mom why did she get her hair removed if it hurt so much. She always told me that it was important from a hygienic perspective. But only my mom stopped herself at the hygiene part. Other people had more to say regarding the process of hair removal. 

I had thick eyebrows when I was younger. And I still do. I vividly remember so many women—my mom’s friends, parlor ladies, my friends’ moms—telling me that I’d look so much prettier if I got my eyebrows waxed. I’d look neat. Some of them couldn’t wait for me to grow up just so that I could get my eyebrows thinned. 

Eventually, I started getting my eyebrows waxed and upper lips threaded. I was supposed to look neat, wasn’t I? But then I was told I should also wax my chin hair, my sideburns, and my forehead. And of course, the rest of my body. Sculpting my eyebrows wasn’t enough for them. 

When I waxed the rest of my body, I experienced immense pain while they ripped out the little black strands from my skin. I was doing it under an illusion that it was important for me to be clean. Over the years, however, I realized that a perfectly waxed body has become more of a beauty standard. Girls are expected to remove their hair because hairy arms, legs, and faces are unpleasant to look at it. 

If waxing really was for personal cleanliness, then the need to suffer the pain of removing our hair won’t fall on girls’ alone; everyone would’ve felt the need to get waxed regardless of their gender. But waxing is gendered. It is a beauty standard that girls are expected to abide by on a weekly or monthly basis.

In normal days, I’m always conscious about covering my body if it’s not perfectly waxed. I wear full sleeves, I don’t pull up my pants too high so that my legs don’t show, I pencil my eyebrows so that they don’t look too thick—because I know I’ll be judged if I’m not hair-free. I won’t be a pretty girl if I’m hairy.

While in quarantine, I thought that I wouldn’t have to get waxed so regularly. I thought nobody cared if my body was covered in hair or not. For once, I felt that I could go without waxing myself for a longer stretch of time without hearing any unsavory, judgemental remarks. But my dream of not putting myself through so much pain, at least while quarantine lasted, was crushed when a girlfriend told me on a zoom call, that small black threads of hair were visible on my arms even across the screen. I ended the call feeling more conscious than ever. 

These beauty standards are so deeply embedded in our society, that it’s almost become impossible to extricate ourselves from them. They’ve even followed us in quarantine, a time when we’re supposed to stay indoors and not meet people. I didn’t think it mattered anymore if my body was hairy. But it does apparently. 

Waxing is a norm in our society but for the wrong reasons. If you’re doing it for the sake of personal hygiene, or even just to feel good, then that’s still okay. You can wax for different reasons, but it shouldn’t be to measure up to self-imposed beauty standards.