By: ALINA HANIF
Karachi: Decades have swiftly passed since the first time a woman said to herself “I want to prove to the world that just because I am biologically different than a man, that doesn’t mean I’m incompetent!” Since that point of time, numerous female scholars from the past and the present have written books and published articles on the experiences of women in history, or as some say, “herstory”. If someone asked me if it has been entirely necessary for women to go around their way to voice their opinions and rights even till now, I’d say yes, but it depends on what topics are we raising our voices on.
In my opinion, women need to be heard on three matters; harassment, education, and career. Not many would agree to my limited list to which I’ve given approval to. But these three categories are much broader in reality. Harrassment, according to me, includes anything that leads to a woman feeling uncomfortable during an encounter with anyone, from staring at her from top to bottom without her consent, to manipulating her into believing that she is completely fine during harassment and that she has full consent. In matters pertaining to education, I support women who wish to pursuit higher studies in order to lead a more successful future that they have control of. Which leads me to the final category, career. If a woman has passion in earning a living by becoming an accountant, an artist, or even a hockey player, she should be free to do so as per her will. This would not strip her away of her femininity.
I could go further into explaining my utmost admiration to the idea of women empowerment, but this is not what my article is about. I wish for you to take some of your time to reflect on one question: In a country such as Pakistan, why do people not take feminism seriously? Well for starters, both genders are to be blamed for this. In a country such as Pakistan, as much as people cherish their values, fundamental and spiritual beliefs, they justify every argument on the basis of their Islamic teachings, at least that’s usually the case, and more often than not, it gets out of hand. Many people, for the sake of strengthening their own argument, would go so far as to distort the teachings their religion and use it to attack the next person. We as a nation are so insecure of our own flaws, that we are experts in pointing out what other people are doing wrong in order to curtail our own actions. Here you’re either the purest soul in the world, or you’re just not good at hiding your dark secrets. Misogynistic Pakistani men, despite not having read a single book throughout their entire lives, with an internet browsing history that they would die before letting anyone see it, would start online feuds on how Muslim women should be kept in their houses, majorly using Facebook as their battlefield (which too has been created by a non Muslim. Oops! You made a smart move by saying that. You must be a feminist! LOL.) Such part of the population needs to be dealt with strategically, and not simply by throwing intellectual words at them.
Now let’s get to the female spectrum. What is the mistake that we women are making? For starters, even WE have no idea what we strive to stand up for. We grimace at news about honor killings, yet we don’t hesitate while discussing about another woman’s character during social gatherings. We let our sons conduct courtships, yet if it was our daughter in his place, we would have married her off to someone she has never met up until the day of her Nikkah, in order to preserve our honor. We talk about freedom yet we are critical about women who choose higher education over early marriage. We speak so highly in favor of body positivity yet we judge potential daughters in law on the basis of the color of their skin, their weight and their height. We need to address these issues first, before starting arguments with the opposite gender.
The concept of feminism was originally highly beneficial. It became a means for us to raise our voice in matters pertaining to the fact that we are just as good as men. However, this new wave of feminism has made a lot of its supporters aggressive, and not willing to listen to the opinions of the other person. Let’s take an example of the recent protest that had been conducted by women against sexual misconduct on the day of the Aurat March (the Woman’s March).A photographer came across one poster that said “Khud khana garam karou” (Heat up your own food). As a result, the poster took the internet by storm. The idea, although became powerful enough to trigger a lot of its viewers, majorly ended up as a satirical meme that people shortly did not take seriously, the reason being that it came off to be as too hateful, especially in a nation where most people are sensitive towards the slightest of controversies. The concept was right, but the words were not put in a way that they provided a clear understanding of its message.
Feminism is about loving and supporting one another as fellow women, while representing women’s basic rights and also maintaining harmony with the other gender. We ask for equality, howeverwe represent ourselves in a way that sets us further apart from men. We cannot turn this beautiful concept into something aggressive and provocative, so much as to rubbing people of this nation the wrong way. We cannot ask for liberalism right off the bat, without first making the audience aware of the initial issues that we women are facing. Yes, we are in dire need of changing mindsets, but the problem has to be addressed in a more refined way. We are more likely to curb the issues through early awareness and education among the youth about both gender rights, rather than sparking feuds that lead to little to no change in results.
The writer is a student at IoBM.
Note: The views express in this article do not necessarily reflect SDLP policy.