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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Where do Pukhtun women stand in Paltalk?

Where do Pukhtun women stand in Paltalk?
Posted in by Lyla on Sat, 2007-01-06 14:29
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In early 2006 a friend from Khyberwatch introduced me to the world of Paltalk. This was a totally new experience for me and thus an eye opener. (For those of you who like I did not know) Paltalk is a Web-based text, chat service for voice and video chatting.
After registering myself I clicked “da nationalisto pukhtano hujra”, where my eyes were assaulted by the multitude of running texts of different colors, fonts, and sizes. It was kind of weird to hear so many male voices in my library.
Imagine a woman attending a hujra back home in reality. It felt strange and kind of exhilarating to be able to see what goes on in a traditional male mentality and society. I have technology to thank for giving me an opportunity of participating in a male hujra of paltalk.
In order to learn more about Pukhtun rooms of paltalk, I braved a lot of crap, useless discussions and humiliation. It did shake me at first but decided that if that was the price I had to pay the piper then so be it. Due to my feminist nature, I cannot help notice the biased use of technology and now I have decided to share my experience with my sisters.
The first couple of days I just listened and then gathered the courage to speak on the microphone. I asked the room, “Why don’t women speak on the microphone?” One brother replied, “Honor is linked with women, and it is not good to speak on the microphone. In the past women’s voices have been recorded and played in other rooms, thus discouraging them from further participation.”
Amazingly many people approached me through private messaging after I spoke on the microphone. Some appreciated my confidence, some warned me of the un-seen repercussions, and some were only interested in finding my background.
Due to my analytical nature, I was curious as to why women are absent from this technological discovery. It is hard to see women absent from a technological development that would let them talk to each other. These are the answers and reasons I could come up:
Often assumed absent from technological history, women are stuck in their homes giving birth, raising children and making food. Un-equal access is also sometimes the result of beliefs about the “natural” abilities of the sexes. Thus certain technologies are perceived as psychologically in appropriate for members of a particular sex.
Recently I decided to get feedback from paltalk Pukhtun men as to what they think of women chatting in Pukhtun rooms. One brother said, “Many women don’t come as they fear someone will record their voices and will use them for whatever reason. We as Pukhtuns are not mature enough to accept women in media and especially in paltalk. Many pukhtuns think that they are coming purely for chatting purposes looking for intimate relationships and try to be their potential lover. In men’s opinion women over there are not proper Pukhtun women. Many men from Pukhtunkhwa use paltalk to find women living in Europe for marriage. (Malak junior)
One other brother added, “I think we really need our women to talk on such fora and rooms. The primary reason is to fill the communication gap that has been created because of the mix of illiteracy with traditions. This is not going to be easy. Women will be and, in fact, are being discouraged to participate on fora like these. Even if they are present they are expected to keep silent and listen to what men say. The reasons why our men discourage women to talk on such fora (though they would very much like to talk one to one in private to them) are basically two: firstly, our men are not used to listening to women; and, secondly, the overall perception about woman with a very passive role has generated a socio complex where talking on the part of woman is considered as a challege to the status quo and thus the ensuing jealousy on the part of our men when they see a woman talking. (Dawezay Mohmand).
In this age when we have left our footsteps on the moon, women still have to take every step in accordance to what “others” think about them. One is forced to ask that why is it that in our culture a man chatting online is considered “normal”, but there is a risk involved if a woman does the same thing? Why should a woman get scared if someone records her voice? And what joy/pleasure do men get by recording women’s voice and playing it back in other chat rooms?
Women should be given a chance to educate themselves about the right use of computers by plunging in first and trying to understand later. Take video games, for example, it is almost impossible to learn to play a video game if you try to understand first and play second. They need to be given the opportunity to become confident and mature. We can not blame the internet for what we do. Cyber space is a good medium to rotate ideas about different issues we face everyday.
As one brother said, “Knowledge is power and it is a two way process which can be exchanged and communicated by different means. The best way to communicate your thoughts and ideas is by directly speaking to the audience. I have observed in paltalk that even if I am exchanging my thoughts with someone in the text I am listening to the speaker as it has more power to attract the attention of audience than any other medium. That’s why if women really want to make difference positively they must speak. By silencing your voice, you are depriving yourself of your right. Sharing your point of view will bring variant solutions to a problem. (afridi-59)
I thank those brothers who warned me of the environment that prevails in paltalk, particularly for women. Lately some Pukhtoon brothers have taken an initiative to begin very fair, and decent rooms for Pushtoons. They can express themselves freely regardless of their gender. After visiting all Pushtoon rooms I realized that "Nationalists" rooms in paltalk are more generous and wel-coming to new comers. They have some meaningful subject to talk about.
I also want to make myself clear at the end of my article. I did not write this article to compare Pushtoon rooms of paltalk, or criticize their topics of speech. I just wanted to highlight the reaction of different genders towards machines (technology). Women even inside the boundary of their homes (purdah) are not confident enough to get their voices heard on different issues. They have been marginalized by labeling them as "idle" or "bad" women. What makes our men "categorize" women into different levels?

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