Shazia Mirza: Diary of a disappointing daughter

I have three brothers and a sister. The dynamic between us has always been distinct. My parents brought us up with the boys having the status and power and the girls encouraged to be subservient little women who’d one day make good wives and respectable daughters.

My brothers had a lot of freedom: they could play cricket, eye up girls and wear string vests in public. We girls weren’t allowed out of the house after school, and were certainly not allowed to look at boys. We found this restrictive and unfair, so we rebelled. At 17, I dyed my hair pink, wore patent Doc Martens and ran away. My sister shaved her head and wore her underwear as outerwear.

My mum would say: “But you have got to learn to cook and clean – it’s important.”

I’d reply: “If a man ever asks me toclean, I’ll spray Ajax in his face.”

Because of our upbringing, we have forever tried to assert ourselves and gain a sense of equality with men, while my brothers have had to realise they do not have automatic authority and dominance over women. What they’ve had most difficulty dealing with is the reality of two sisters who have gone from being timid housewives to being confident, assertive women whose ambitions stretch further than being a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom.

In fact, we’re the ones now playing cricket, eyeing up boys and wearing string vests in public.