About The Queer Zenana

Zenana is a word used in Urdu, Hindi, and Persian for women’s space.

For Pakistani women, the zenana is a homosocial space of women that we come into contact with so often; that we learn to feel comfortable in; that, as liberal muslims (whatever that means), we criticize as being conservative and prescriptive. And of course, the zenana is created as a controlled space by patriarchy, and of course it has a history of Purdah and upper-classness. What make the zenana special for me, however, is how women reclaim this controlled space to make it their own. I am interested in my own, and other women’s queer-ing of this space. A space that the Abbus and Uncles and Mullahs think is asexual and unworldly and apolitical and “pure.”

To me, the zenana is a space where women celebrate love and intimacy. It is a space where we heal from our past traumas, and accept our bodies for what they are. For me, it is also a space of erotic encounters, or intertwined bodies, or intimacy and healing that can also at times turn into hatred and betrayal. It is a space of open possibilities that were not given to me in the heterosexual patriarchal middle-class urban environment that I grew up in.

To me, the zenana is the kitchen of my grandparents’ house, where Nani Ammi and her household helpers engaged in intimate conversations despite the glaring class differences between them. It is the living room where all the aunties buzzed loudly during dinners while the men stayed in the more formal drawing room and talked about the economy. It is the nook in the bazaar where two women share an ice cream cone in the Lahore heat, giggling as they win the race with the sun to slurp the ice cream (together). It is my childhood bedroom where boys weren’t allowed, but my “special friend” was always welcome by my family. It is the safe women’s space where we love other women and ourselves, in all kinds of ways.


6 thoughts on “About The Queer Zenana

    Trista said:
    August 5, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Lovely to find your blog here- enjoyed what I read so much. Thank you.


    Maria said:
    December 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Would love to hear more


    SaifUllah Nasar said:
    April 11, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    I like the name, Queer Zenana


    Amanda Chahine said:
    April 11, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    YES. Love the embrace and love of queer existence. Please keep this up!!!


    rehab said:
    July 31, 2016 at 8:07 am

    good blog … really nice to see something we can relate with
    why dont we make a plan to have a meet up
    all lahore Queers 🙂


    warda7 said:
    August 17, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Hi. I found your blog after reading your article on Tanqeed and I love, love the way you write and your opinions in general. Keep smashing the patriarchy! Lots of love xx


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