A man within a woman and a woman within a man.

Anum Nawaz
4 min readSep 18, 2019

I was born a girl but that's my sex. I was raised a girl but that's my gender. I had to work like a man, but what was that?

Social standards tell us girls to keep their respect by staying home, covering the head, and never talking to strangers or boys or falling on love or taking their own decisions or playing with the butterflies all alone. By social standards girls are also supposed to have long hair because It is associated with beauty. Wear Bengals and payals and show some girlish attitude of being a delicate piece of decoration. Being all so tender and shy, never disagreeing to anyone.

I was raised like that.

But something in me had always been different. I can't pinpoint one thing.

But I always had this urge to break the stereotypes around womanhood, not because of feminism, that came later but because I had a fire in me to change things. Change myself. change my identity.

Fortunately or unfortunately my family situation led me to work during my undergrad. That gave me the confidence of being an adult, responsible and committed to work. In this process, I forgot wearing bangles and having long hair. I became bold and like a tigress, looking for the right stereotype to break. short haired girl, funny and intelligent (time to flaunt).

During this time, I would take part in activities, I would wear simple clothes, I had only a few friends. I was very busy working at two places and studying simultaneously. Upon that, trying to help my struggling family meet their ends because my father never really cared for my family, but his own.

During the end of my undergrad I was offered a job at an enterprise as a researcher and curriculum developer. I got busier and stronger. I had greater self esteem because I knew I could deliver. I initiated My Voice Unheard, because somehow I thought my own voice was unheard. So I decided to know what people had to say about their lives. Tell us stories about their lives. Of course this was an entirely humanitarian initiative. But meeting many people, gave me the confidence to express deeply and publicly which many women in our society do not practice.

With my work I slowly began to take care of my family both financially and emotionally. Things that are associated with men.

When I went for my Fulbright, I don't know what happened in Pakistan but in US I slowly began to think about who I was. And I thought that the things I have been doing are all manly in nature but I'm dressed like a woman. So there must be something womanly in me. I tried to introspect on that but found no answers. I knew what made me a man. But what made me a woman? After A-lot of thought I began concluding that well, my sex is a female so I must be a woman. I look like a woman so I must be a woman. I sound like a woman so I must be a woman. I slowly started wearing Jewellery, putting on and learning make up, wearing heels, and it felt like a woman. I would put on perfumes, and necklaces and rings to feel like a woman. But my dressing was always formal. A collared shirt with a coat, or a sweater. So even at parties I had no clothes to wear because all I had was formal clothing. Which reminded me again that I was not a woman.

When I came back to Pakistan. I was very excited because now my dream of being an independent woman would be fulfilled. I looked recklessly for a job because I knew I had to support my family. I started a new initiative called Academics Accessible- my little contribution towards public scholarship. When I finally got a job, I was very happy that now I am an independent woman. But what is an independent woman? A woman who can dress the way she wants? A woman who can take care of herself? A woman who can take her own decisions? A woman who can do whatever she wants? But slowly I questioned, do such women exist? Because I wasn’t clearly this type anymore.

I became a man once again. Dressing like a man, sometimes like a woman. Spending 70% of my pay at home. Taking care of my family. Doing things as they say and want, sometimes doing things my own way which always ended up in an argument. Was I a woman or a man, I questioned once again. Or was I anything at all??

I concluded that the society wants an object who works like a man but lives like a woman. Who is used by her own family. And it keeps going on for generations. But am I one of those?

And the question remains.



Anum Nawaz

Lecturer @IAC|Fulbright Alum @TheNewSchool| Founder @myvoice_unheard ,@academicsaccessible,@cc.canvasconnection,@la1dayuniversi1|Previously @rabtt,@yesnetworkpk