Just because she’s saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean she’s doing ‘nakhras’!

Published: May 23, 2014

I might construe this ‘nakhra’ as a ‘hard to get’ approach, and continue to harass her until her series of resounding no’s turn to a tired yes.

Sheryl Sandberg makes an impressive argument against the use of the word ‘bossy’, which is often used pejoratively to describe assertive women with ‘executive leadership skills’. In Indo-Pak vernacular, there’s another word far worthier of being thrown before the social media’s firing squad.

The word ‘nakhra’ is more formally used for ‘coquetry’, but in common usage it refers to a stubborn refusal to submit. In each sense, it is used almost exclusively for women, who are referred to as nakhraybaaz. There are many scenarios I can describe where this word is used as a cudgel against women, but I’ll make use of a classic Bollywood music number to illustrate my point.

A male Indian or Pakistani archetype, a cocky hunk with no sense of boundary, dances circles around an obviously uninterested female. He expresses his affection for her in song, makes googly eyes, invades her personal space and inquires if she wishes to be his chamak challo.

The girl declines. *disk scratch*

She did what? Does she not know that the man is fully entitled to have his feelings reciprocated?

Has patriarchy taught her nothing?

Who on Earth gave her the idea that she’s a free human being with an inalienable right to choose her own friend or mate, and not fall head over heels for the first creep serenading her outside the college canteen?

He doesn’t have to dig deep into his bag of limited vocabulary to pull out the perfect the word to explain the girl’s attitude – ‘nakhra’.

As a man, it’s a word that is extremely handy for me to keep at the tip of my tongue. It can’t be that a woman is simply a little conserved and more discerning of the sort of company she keeps. It couldn’t have been a flaw in my approach or the fact that I’m just not the kind of person she is interested in.

I head over to my guy friends and explain the rejection by calling her ‘nakhraybaaz’ or ‘nakhray wali’, or whatever tense or form of the word fits. I spare my own ego and assert that the fault lies with her… if she’s lucky.

The other possibility is that I might construe this ‘nakhra’ as a ‘hard-to-get’ approach, and continue to harass her until her series of resounding no’s turn to a tired yes. Because honouring her decision and backing off at the first refusal is either proof of my unmanliness or a sign that I don’t like her enough to pursue her, or both! Really, bro, her ‘nakhra’ is just a way of telling you to come at her even stronger. She wants you to put your back into it, crash her wedding, enunciate your love in front of her family and family-to-be and use your nails to leave scratch marks on the carpet as you’re dragged out by her angry uncle.

It is not only in romantic settings that this word is used. A man who refuses to budge in a negotiation may be described with a variety of words from ‘ziddi’ (insistent) to ‘dheet’ (stubborn) that loosely fit the situation. On the other hand, a woman will almost always be accused of doing ‘nakhra’.

It is used far more often to describe nay-saying women than men. At times, when it is thrown at men, it is the feminine nature of the word that is intended to cause the sting.

Patriarchy doesn’t always precipitate as specific flash-words in a language for us to highlight, but ‘nakhra’ is one of the few exceptions. It is a word used consistently to undermine a woman’s consent; discrediting her refusal of something as either prudishness or undue stubbornness. Though I clearly don’t believe in any legal restrictions, I do believe that its use ought to be strongly discouraged.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Zack

    Same happens for a good looking handsome boy like me but girls call me maghroor or too proud.Recommend

  • Kya Bhai..

    World is full of important issues …and i read this ‘piece’..shame on me :(Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    World full of important issues, yet you choose to procrastinate in the comments section?

    I believe misogyny is an important issue.Recommend

  • Queen

    I wonder why you wrote an entire blog on the use of the word ‘nakhra’ but yes, I do agree with you that the male population, instead of labeling the girls as ‘nakhraybaz’, should back off and give respect to other person’s views.Recommend

  • Aam Si Larki

    Seriously ET! You decided to publish this useless crapRecommend

  • Batool

    ET why girl in photo is wearing western outfit. Pakistan mein ye kapre allowed nahin hain.Recommend

  • Kya Bhai..

    Well …for me..the most important issue is trolling..so didnt put anything on hold..rather attended to it.. :PRecommend

  • sparrow

    Just because you can write doesn’t mean you can write such useless blogs…Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Most of the girls in pakistan do nakhra before agreeing. So the few who don’t do nakhra pay for itRecommend

  • Hala Syed

    just because you can comment doesn’t mean you can leave such unhelpful meaningless commentsRecommend

  • Hala Syed

    just because you can comment doesn’t mean you can leave such unhelpful meaningless commentsRecommend

  • Hala Syed

    because the words we use reflect the way we think. so its important to examine why we use certain wordsRecommend

  • Hala Syed

    because the words we use reflect the way we think. so its important to examine why we use certain wordsRecommend

  • Mukhtaran

    wow this guy needs to come out of his world and live real. First of all the picture in the girl is NOT how a Pakistani dresses. Good subliminal effort there . Recommend

  • gp65

    if you do not see disempowerment of women as an issue, it is unfortunate. But it affects a large proportion of desi women and prevents them from achieving their potential.

    The word nakhra that the author has written about is symbolic. There are many other words / phrases in the language that undermine a woman and not just in Hindi/Urdu but English also.

    Use of language to reinforce stereotypes is something that has to be acknowledged first before it can be changed.Recommend

  • gp65

    if this did not resonate with you, then you definitely are not an aam si larki because clearly you have not ever been undermined due to your gender.

    Alternatively, you did not comprehend the intent of the article. The word nakhra is symbolic. There are many other phrases in our language that reinforce unhelpful stereotypes.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Within limits ,i think its fine . Men chasing women and women playing hard to get is as old as humanity itself . After all nature has to do its job, is it not ? Its only humans where the females are ’empowered’ with physical beauty ( among other qualities ). In all other species like the lion / peacock /elephant its the male which has ‘luring’ qualities like the mane / colourful feathers/ tusks etc.,Recommend

  • Saad

    Calling yourself handsome and good looking, yup! those girls are right when they call you maghroor and too proud.Recommend

  • Midhat

    The Blog is not about the use of the word ” Nakhra”. Clearly people are missing the rather obvious point. The author is pointing at the patriarchal nature of our society which is so used to the submissive behavior or rather expectations of submissiveness from women that the male ego fails to accept any form of refusals/ rebuttals or differing onions from women. it is dismissed as Nakhras/bossiness. It may seem a non-issue but it actually is a reflection of a bigger problem: misogynyRecommend

  • Midhat


  • Language shapes how we think and behave, and it structures important power relations, sometimes without us even realizing. For instance, if I called you nakhraybaz for dismissing this article, I’d be refusing to engage you as an intelligent person and undermining you with my condescension.Recommend

  • Muhammad Javed Iqbal

    so it means you must be a professional play boy in order to do all the acting a girl needs, and once she marries you, you can show her your real face ?Recommend

  • Alina Javed Siddiqui

    I approve!Recommend

  • S.A

    I found this piece interesting, and most of what the writer has to say is true, sadly. I also see men are offended by this writing, i wonder why. … easier to accuse women of doing ‘nakhras’ and difficult to accept the truth isn’t it?Recommend

  • Another Person

    This is why this country needs feminism. If a girl says no.. You do not keep pursuing her! It is her right.Recommend

  • Another Person

    How is this crap? This is a real issue in our society and this article is simply point that out.. Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    Haha nice article ..! And very true too ….. I dont focus on the part about the female but rather the male ego which is very pathetic… its natural for guys to have an ego but the part where they refuse to admit they are wrong – when they are (which they usually are) .. ..that part is the most frustrating about paki male gender..!Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Regrettably, that’s the sort of ‘blurred lines’ argument that also powers the rape culture.

    That “no” is really just a sly way of saying “yes”. Her lips say “stop harassing me”, but her hips say “come hither”. Men aren’t so unintelligent as to not know the difference between a flirtatious woman, and the one giving a clear refusal. They simply pretend that they don’t know, because it allows them to justify their unwanted advances.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was brilliant……..’ nakhra ‘ is such a feminine trait that the correct amount, in the correct fashion, is simply charming….. the cinema industry is full of it.
    You of course have taken the debate to a whole different level……BRAVO !Recommend

  • Sadiq

    Agreed. The world needs to respect women.

    However, maybe its just my experience, but my classmates who used to on a routine use derogatory comments towards their female counterparts, were the ones who inevitably got to take them out on dates…True Story. Obviously, they probably acted differently around them, and perhaps their need to appear aloof and crude was necessary to maintain their manliness…Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    “Subliminal” is what’s beyond the threshold of conscious perception.

    If you’re able to perceive the woman’s dress clearly, it’s not a “subliminal” message. It’s just a picture that you may be over-analyzing.

    Also, are nay-saying ladies not called nakhrabaz in your ‘real’ world? I’m not being flippant; just genuinely fascinated.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    It’s always difficult for a person to accept that what he normally does, and has done for a long time, is actually harmful to the social fabric.

    All my buddies do it, and they’re good people! My parents do it. I’ve seen women do it to each other. Everybody does it, so it must be okay!Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Women empowerment is one of the most important things that should happen, also one of the most difficult.

    I appreciate any piece which talks for Women and supports them, especially if the Author is Male.

    For too long have women been subjugated. In most of the Religions around the world, the God is of Male form, the Priests are Male, the Dictators who ruled countries were male, most of the mass butchers of History are Male.

    Yet, the insecurity of Man knows no bounds.Recommend

  • abubakar

    Another useless article. Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I am just here for the comments…Recommend

  • Zeta

    They aren’t banned either.Recommend

  • Unknown

    Only a Pakistani medical doctor can write such a piece.Recommend

  • no nakras!

    uff i love it!!! the title!!! the content!! EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!
    just because you say no means you have attitude!!! what rubberish!!Recommend

  • no nakras

    jay ho moiz bhai apki!!!
    why arent all guys like you!!!Recommend

  • Kya Bhai…

    The real misogynists are not browsing around news sites n reading blogs..they are out on the streets doing stuffs…i believe everyone here is sophisticated and considerate enuff to respect women….so phewwwww…Recommend

  • Waqas

    Because he is bahiii :PRecommend

  • Desmond

    I agree with the writer , but partially ……
    Okay , it is a women’s right to reject a man , sure , but unfortunately ,Pakistan faces much ” Sex discrimination ” i.e. the women are granted preference over men . Have you ever wondered , why does men always propose to women . Why ? ? Why isnt this process the other way around ? This presents a general negative aptitude ( maybe called Nakhra ) , that shows that the females these days are Proud. Why wouldnt they be ? We , the idiots , the men , give it to them . Just try to learn to live without the “Nakhra”.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Waisah I am a literally a bahi. :P. But it was really more because I was fortunately born in a sane (well mostly sane) and generally liberal family.Recommend

  • hehhehe

    The word in english used to be shrew,as in shakespeare’s “taming of the shrew”.Recommend

  • Loaka

    You can calm down; she is a cartoon.Recommend