In a country like Pakistan, it is often difficult to raise your voice and have it heard. Especially, when you are a female. Nineteen year old Areeba Siddique has done so, and along with that, accumulated over 24 000 followers across her multiple platforms. She is breaking down barriers for young women all over Pakistan, and encourages them to speak up about issues they feel necessary . Areeba is not only a role-model to many young girls, but is also an activist, artist, social media influencer, and a blogger. Areeba uses art pieces to exhibit the world around her including her feeling about politics, feminism, and culture. I interviewed Areeba regarding how she felt about being an outspoken Pakistani girl, while living in a cultural society that at times, does not encourage such openness. Here’s how it went.
Q. When you decided that you wanted to post videos on YouTube, and put your day-to-day life on Instagram, did your parents encourage you to, or were they hesitant?
My parents don’t really stop us from much. When I say us, I mean my twin sister and I. Anyway, they want us to build ourselves up and in all honesty, what they really encourage us to do, is stay in our limits. We’re allowed to do as much as we want, like, we make videos, drawings, write for magazines, but as long as we stay within our limits. I have limits for myself too, and they revolve around you know, dressing modestly, in the way that I want to be seen online.
Q. How long have you been doing these activism art pieces, and when did you decide, ‘this is it. I’m going to make my voice heard’?
“I have been blogging for around six years, but I switched to this Muslim or you can say Pakistani persona about a year ago. I was tired because I felt as though everything was very whitewashed. I found myself not being able to connect to anyone online as they were all trying to change themselves. I mean, I come from a traditional household, so it was weird that I was spending hours online, but the person I was, wasn’t really me.
Q. In a country like Pakistan, there’s this stigma of females not being able to do what males can, or that they aren’t worth as much. What are your thoughts on this stereotype?
To be very honest, when you’re a girl in a Pakistani household, you have to take precautions to be extra careful. The saying boys will be boys has been implemented in most South Asians extended families, so it’s easier for boys to get away with it. But, when my sister and I do something, we’re told off. It’s somethings that’s been set, and we can’t change it. I mean we should try, but as of yet, we can’t. So, as a result, if you’re a Pakistani girl, do things, but do it in such a way that people don’t even get the chance to raise a finger. If you’re not a male in Pakistani society, be careful with how you do things. I mean, I’m not saying anything bad about them, but in reality, this is how it works here. Don’t be like them, and misuse what you do.
Q. Arranged marriages are a very common theme in Pakistani households. What do you have to say about arranged marriages, and speaking as a Pakistani would you ever have one?
I’m perfectly fine with arranged marriages. When it comes to love marriages though, it’s not like no one in my family has had one, but I prefer looking into arranged marriages. I don’t know if it’s relevant or not, but I have this theory I want to go forward with. It revolves around the concept of getting married to some I don’t at all know. And the idea excites me. I mean, if someone wants to have a love marriage, their parents should be supportive. But, overall, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the concept of arranged marriages. Personally, I love the idea of doing it the traditional way, but that’s just me.
Q. You’ve grown up in Pakistan, and as a result of living there for so long, you must’ve gained some sort of insight on the culture. What are your thoughts on Pakistani culture as a whole and how it is meshed with religion?
Firstly, Pakistani culture is something that is really beautiful. But, at the same time, the people are considerably hypocritical, including myself. It’s true that Pakistan is my home, but when I commute or when I used to attend college, I would at times feel uncomfortable or unsafe. It’s a half and half, you know? Moving on to the mixing of culture and religion, for instance when it comes to weddings. It’s not in Islam to have the dholki and so many days of the wedding, but Pakistani’s adopted these from other cultures, and claim it is normal. However, most people do these extra cultural traditions, because although a wedding may be taking place in an Islamic way, people will still insist on a cultural representation being present. That’s just the way it is. Like I said before, people are hypocritical. On one hand they’ll say don’t do this on a normal day, but when it comes to a wedding, there’s complete freedom. Sometimes, it’s nice to see culture and religion going well together, but other times, people use religion to justify something in their culture and vice versa.
Q. One of the things that you are known for are your journal pieces. You incorporate politics and religion into them in a very distinctive and creative way. Why?
I’m into visuals, I can get across what I’m feeling or trying to say through my art, and in all honesty, I’m not that good at writing. This is my medium. I want to create a lasting and impactful way to get what I am saying across. My mom is a major reason as to why I started doing this. She’s really religious, and would tell us to make something of our time, rather than wasting it. I think it’s sort of like fan art. I mean, I would make fan art for Zayn Malik, so I thought, why not for something that’s very important to me. When I would read Quran and I saw an Ayat that spoke to me, I would find a way to create an art piece around it.
Q. One thing Pakistan is famous for is their television shows while India is known for their movies, do you think that they serve as a good influence to the youth in Pakistan and India?
I actually have days allotted for my T.V shows! A lot of the Pakistani dramas revolve around topics of Islam as well as culture and show a differentiation between the two, which is always a good thing. Yes, a lot of the times they talk about cliched topics, and those get annoying, but there are a few shows here and there that have very good messages. And I think it’s great that Pakistani dramas are focusing on more and more topics such as Gender equality, and fairness rather than the typical mother-in-law and daughter-in-law dynamic. In terms of Indian movies, I grew up thinking Raj and Simran from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge were meant to be. But, recently I watched it again and all I could think was WHAT’S GOING ON? You know, we grew up watching these movies and thinking that everything happening was right, but it really wasn’t. It ruined a part of our society in which guys think if they keep on calling or trying to go after a girl, she’s his, when in reality, she’s not. Even now, there are so many people who believe that the can make someone like them through force.
Q. Lastly, what advice would you give young Pakistani girls in terms of starting to put themselves out there or making a name for themselves?
I think the main thing is stay yourself. Don’t try to change yourself for others or do something you are not meant to do. Stay within your limits whether they be limits you have set for yourself or a limit you do not want to overstep. It’s difficult because sometimes all you want to do is get a lot of followers and become famous, but if you stay on the right path to getting what you want, there’s no doubt that you’ll achieve it.