The recent shooting of Malala Yousafzai has torn me up. Deeply. You’d have to be an automaton to feel anything but grief. But she continues to hang on, and along with the rest of the world, I'm hoping that her doctors' most recent predictions--that she'll make a "decent recovery"--will turn out to be true.
I mourn the disruption, if not the destruction, of a young and very promising life. But violence is often a response to fear, and it gives me hope—real, fierce hope—that the Taliban is so terrified of a teenage girl.
They should be.
Malala Yousafzai stands for everything the Taliban does not. She stands for good books and informed choices and speaking in the public square. Malala stands for principled and fearless resistance to the forces that threaten her very existence as a girl—and in a couple years, as a woman.
I don’t rejoice in her martyrdom. A teenager should not have to fight these battles. But now more than ever, we need to recognize that these battles exist.
Malala shows a rare moment of vulnerability.
This is why I find it unspeakably insulting when someone tells me that the fight for women’s rights is no longer relevant. Malala was shot because she was female. She was shot because she had the radical motherfucking idea that women deserve equal access to education. She was shot in the name of male supremacy and female obedience, and she was shot to maintain this power imbalance in a new generation.
No matter how many shitty semantic circles Taliban spokesmen run around it, the fact of the matter is that she was targeted because of her gender. There are many incredible men—including Malala’s own father, Ziauddin—working for education equality in Pakistan; they were not killed, and Malala was targeted on her own school bus. That is not up for debate.
Malala returns to her home in Pakistan's Swat Valley after spending three months as a political refugee in 2009.
It’s an insult to Malala, and the millions of female victims of gender-related violence, to consider this tragedy in isolation. Women and girls are beaten, tortured, raped, maimed, and killed every minute of every day on every continent.
Though it feels disrespectful to talk about mundane American sexism (whatever that is) in the context of attempted murder, it is vital to the continuation of the female race to recognize that violence is just one derivative of a large, nasty, and well-entrenched framework. Whether it’s with a gun, a bucket of acid, an unwanted sexual advance, or a Supreme Court decision, women are constantly being punished for daring to resist a system that crushes them.
I am sick to my stomach over this story. I am tired of being angry over women being harmed. Most of all, I don’t want to expend any more energy on making a case for feminism when the justification should be clear to everyone. And yet, I feel that I’m doing a disservice to my fellow women by writing and talking about anything else.
I am terrified that yet another generation of precociously bright women has to keep fighting the same battle. They have too much else to do. They have college to attend and books to write and MDs to append to their last names.
So no—I don’t want Malala to survive. Fuck mere survival. I want her to thrive.
Malala (far R) meets with late U.S. Special Advisor on Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke (second from L) in 2009.
Originally posted at In Our Words.
Photos via "Class Dismissed" at nytimes.com