South Asian students discuss culture of prioritizing career over marriage

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Photo Credit: Michelle Peck | Daily Texan Staff

Many South Asian women are used to brushing off ideas of marriage with perfectly rehearsed responses such as, “No, I don’t need help finding a significant other” and “I’m not planning on getting married anytime soon.” 

An arranged marriage is defined as a marriage planned by the guardians of the prospective bride and groom. Although the continuation of such practices are important to traditional cultures, many are starting to acknowledge that making a living and finding one’s identity should come before getting married. 

Pre-pharmacy freshman Imaan Al-Luqman said she understands her parents want to see her settled early in life, but that stability doesn’t outweigh the fact that many people in their early 20s are not ready for marriage. 

Even before she graduated high school, Al-Luqman pushed aside her parents’ suggestions of marriage despite feeling as though her actions were disappointed her traditional Pakistani immigrant parents.

“I never agreed with the mindset of getting married young,” Al-Luqman said. “I want to experience life before settling down.”

Pressures from traditional immigrant communities encourage parents in some South Asian-American households to clash with their children when it comes to things that are more important to the younger generation. Al-Luqman said the long-standing history of misogynistic ideals in some South Asian cultures often subjects women to unfair ultimatums.

“The things my parents say to me when I disagree make me feel worthless, insecure and insignificant,” Al-Luqman said. “My dad has been mentioning marriage and children for as long as I can remember and it definitely gets frustrating.”

Whether it be arranged out of love or not, economics senior Saad Maqsood said he disagrees with the notion of being forced into an early marriage altogether. Maqsood often tells his parents he prioritizes education over romantic pursuits.

“My parents have literally told me that they are going to find me a significant other as soon as I graduate and get a job,” Maqsood said. “I’ve managed to convince my parents that I’m definitely not getting married before 24.”

Although the cultural notion that women’s education is less important than men’s is beginning to change, electrical engineering senior Fatima Abdullah said some parents still fail to acknowledge that for many young students, building a career takes precedence over getting married. 

“The most dangerous part for a woman not establishing a career before marriage is leaving herself and her children open to abuse,” Abdullah said. “We don’t address these issues enough in Desi culture.”

Since it is common for parents to restrict friendships of the opposite gender, Abdullah said that lack of communication about relationships leads to unhealthy gender relations.

“We are taught that intimacy is wholly bad,” Abdullah said. “Our parents should be more open with us from early on and teach us that relations with the opposite gender are healthy and normal but maintained within proper boundaries.”

According to Abdullah, contextualizing a woman’s contributions to society as a wife, daughter or mother rather than focusing on intellect and her as a person is a destructive mentality.

“We live in a patriarchal society where controlling behavior and domestic abuse is not uncommon,” Abdullah said. “Having your own career can help to safeguard against both the issue of abuse and finances.”

As circumstances begin to change for the younger generation, some parents are beginning to shed their traditional thought processes.

“My mom was married at 17, and she single-handedly supports herself and my sisters without a college degree,” Abdullah said. “From the day I stared pre-K, my mom’s experiences led her to encourage me to pursue my career so that I never find myself in a similar situation.”