Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pashtun Marriages in the West - Part 4a: Misconceptions about Pashtun Women Raised in the West

This is part 4 of the Pashtun Marriages in the West series that began several months ago but have been neglected due to a lack of time (and because it's a bit overwhelming, since there's really so much to say about it!). The series addresses some possible causes to the problem of marriage among Western Pashtuns or among the Pashtun Diaspora. I believe--and many Pashtuns agree with me on this--that one of the major causes of the problems is the misconceptions that Pashtuns, whether in the West or "back home," have about Pashtun females who are raised in the West. Here, I'm going to quote some Pashtun females, some of whom live in the West and others in Pakistan/Afghanistan, whose main point is that, yes, there are some many unfair and incorrect ideas about Pashtun girls/women of the West out there, and something needs to be done to dispel these myths.

Although discussed in this link, let's recall some of these problems.

- marriage to cousins or other close family "back home" when the individual, whether male or female, has grown up in the West all her/his life, hence incompatibility in some or several major ways
- people generally thinking that "Western Pashtaney" are "kharaabey" (bad, indecent, un-Islamic, un-Pashtun) and hence should be avoided -- and so Pashtun families in the West don't want them to marry their sons, even when their sons are also raised in the West, because of the fear of a potentially "bad" addition into their families
- unrealistic expectations (from both males and females) raised in the West, which means:
- a lack of cooperation (as I understand it) as well as a lack of effective and good communication between parents/elders and children so that the parents/elders understand what the issues are and how they can be dealt with in a healthy and peaceful manner.

Before I proceed, I understand that I must point out that, yes, yes, for the fiftieth and a half time, these "misconceptions" are not exclusive to Pashtuns or Pashtun females. It's common knowledge that these are also shared by other ethnic/racial groups, such as other South Asians or Arabs--or just immigrants in general. People are generally believed to be more authentic when raised on their own native soil and not among the diaspora, but I'm talking about Pashtuns and not others because I'm myself a Pashtun, I experience these problems myself regularly, and--let's face it--no one else gives a damn about Pashtun problems and concerns, so it's up to us Pashtuns to talk about them. 

So, according to Pukhtun girls/women in the West, what are some of the misconceptions about them from "back home"? In July, when this discussion on Pashtun marriages led to some hot conversations among Pashtuns on Twitter and Facebook, I decided to discuss these with some Pashtun females I know who live in the West, some of whom were born and raised in Pakistan/Afghanistan, to see what their thoughts on the issue were. Below are some of their responses; the post was getting too long, so I decided to share the rest in the next part instead. The following are direct quotes but modified for grammar and clarity when necessary but not always. The number in front of each quote represents the number of the person talking.
 1. I think when it comes to people getting surprised when they know we respect our parents, cover ourselves and speak good Pashto here in West, is changing and becoming a thing of the past, because people are getting more and more aware through Media (Thanks to Hum & Geo TV series).... Girls in Pakistan think we are kinda more kaliwaaley ["backward"] than they are. ;)
2. Agree with 1.  Girls back there think we are kaliwaalay and men back there think we're ultra modern and have scores of boyfriends. Amongst a lot of other stuff too, of course. 
3. My experience and reading is a little different since I was born and bred in Pakistan. I think the difference to choose a West-born Pukhtana bride for a son/brother depends on a couple of things. Amongst others it depends on the boys' family: their educational, economical experience and personal exposure to west etc. I mean some girls in Pakistan are way more 'modern' (as they say there) and progressive than some desi girls I have met here. Besides, among the Pashtuns, preference is still predominantly given to girls from their own family or very rarely to daughters of family friends. 
4. I believe there are many misconceptions. 1 just recently happened to me. all my fob/back home cousins now know i am a "good girl" but one (who lives in london) was so shocked when i sent him a text message in Pakhto. I guess he assumed that because I was born and raised in the US that I wouldn't know how to read or write in pakhto. for them, it was big that my siblings and i knew how to speak it properly/respect our elders and customs when we would go back home to visit. secondly, for some reason, back home (Afghanistan and Pakistan) they seem to think we aren't good girls. approximately 2 years ago i wanted to do nursing. a cousin informed me that only "faisha's" do nursing and that they sleep with doctors. Not only was I shocked by this but hurt a bit as well because here i was thinking i would bring pride to my family. They also seem to think "halakAno sara lArey achaw" ... that we have boyfriends and no sense of direction in terms of what is the correct thing to do, what we want in life, etc. what i have mentioned above are the thoughts of the younger generation of Afghan guys. My cousins. My uncles seem to really love me and always urge me to go far with my education. Perhaps this is because they have dealt with the heartache that comes with giving a daughter away to someone and knowing that apart from that, you didn't do much else for them.
5. @ 4, that's awful but at the same time, I remember being told similar stuff about professions that they aren't used to seeing women in back home, or if they do they are not seen as "good" professions. Oh and guess what, when I was "EIGHT" years old, we visited Pakistan for an Uncle's wedding. I was constantly questioned but much older cousins and even some aunties about "how many boyfriends" I had. I was 8 friggin years old! 
6. As you may know, my 20th birthday is coming up, so this "wedding" topic is all I'm hearing about in my own home. My mom got married when she was 16, had my brother at 17, so me being a Pashtana girl and single at age 20 is alarming to them. Alhamdellah my dad wants me to continue my education and has turned down many proposals (again I'm not boasting , but girls at age 20 have gotten quite a few proposals by now). A lot of the proposals I have gotten are from families who were first hesitant, because they were afraid id be too "americanized," "angreeza," and they felt like I would never agree to the "typical" Pashtun man. And to some extent, they were right. I will never be a submissive house wife, but that doesn't mean I'm completely white-washed. I visit pakistan every summer and I've noticed that the girls there have changed their views on the kind of life style they want to live also. The girls are more active, and they too want to participate by going to school/work; of course most of them are denied their wish, but thats a whole different topic. They were surprised I could speak Pashtu fluently (I do kind of have an american accent when I pronounce my R's - whenever I said "larkiga" [get lost! or go away!], I'd get made fun of). But they were surprised I knew how to wash dishes, do chores, do basic cooking, and not be the "angreez bachi"[spoiled] who mingled with guys behind her parents' back and wore mini skirts. If anything, the girls in peshawar were a lot more foreword thinking than me, like most complained they didn't want to marry a Pashtun man (whereas I would LOVE to marry one), and I've been called a "kaliwala" [in this context, close to backward] because I never wore half sleeve dresses.  
One of the ways the marriages in the west work differently then back home is, you get more time to consider the proposal, and as a result get more time to get to know your "potential husband" or wife. [...] I think the way proposals in the west and the proposals back home in pakistan all depend on how educated the family is. For example, I've had friends born and raised in America who've gotten forced into a marriage without even knowing their bride or groom, all because of the way their parents views marriage. Then I've had friends back home, get to know their potential husbands/wives, for a long period of time before they tied the knot. It all depends on the families morals and beliefs. So, yes,  in the villages marriages are backwards, and can be very traditional, but it happens here also sadly. And also, I feel like the pressure of "dowry" and money in general is a big concern when it comes to weddings back in pakistan. Here, [in the West], it's less of a worry, and people don't pay that much attention to it. The more educated a family is, the more they try to think out side of the traditional ways, in areas such as marriage. 
This entry is getting too long, so this is to be continued as "Misconceptions (b)" in the next blog post. There, I'll summarize these misconceptions and analyze them as well if necessary.

Coming up in the series:

- Part 4 (b): misconceptions about girls raised in the West
- Part 5: traditional Pashtun ideas of marriage (e.g., how do we get married, how do arranged marriages
work, what are alternatives to an arranged marriage, etc.)
- Part 6: possible solutions to these problems (or the overall problem of marriage) among Pashtuns

Previously on Pashtun Marriages in the West:


  1. well personally i USED to think that west is bad for Pukhtun girls only for the reason that , at times they or their parents married them off to non Pukhtun guys (though it happens back here also)it was a bit saddening for me ( reason being may b i was possessive about the Pukhtun blood, that Pukhtun guys would have been the best for them) but with passage of time my thinking changed, marriage is a personal affair, if they are happy i shall not be possessive or shall not mind it, so i m happier now .... it is being said in pukhto that ZRA DAY, KO PA GWAL DAY OUW KO PA GHWAL DAY..

    1. Thanks so much for your insight, Anonymous!
      I'm glad to hear your thinking changed (for the better)!

      ... although if the question for anyone today is about Pukhtun "blood," then we must remember that "blood" is passed down not just from the male but also from the female, so why does it matter if the girl/woman marries a non-Pukhtun man? Her kids are still going to be at least half Pukhtun :)

      Thanks again for your comment!


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