Dear misogynist from Parhlo, this is what Pakistani feminists want you to know

Published: March 28, 2017
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Lastly, the need for feminism will only be over once there are EQUAL rights for women.

I came across an article on Parhlo today, and infuriated does not come close to encapsulating how I feel, so here’s my response to it. Before you start calling me a “feminazi” – listen closely. The roots of feminism lie in finding equality; it is not about disowning male rights, or putting women above, it is about finding an equal ground that pleases both genders. Questioning, or challenging or taking offense to feminism makes you a sexist, plain and simple.

Have you not heard of the damsel in distress? Have you not heard of the ‘Angel in the House’? I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t because let’s be honest, you seem rather misinformed. Because I have heard of these concepts, I have read about them, and in ‘modern day’ Pakistan, I live through them every single day.

Sidenote: Feminists and feminazis are not the same thing. You cannot possibly equate the two. Feminazi is a derogatory term used to dismiss and silence women, and it does not even stand in this argument.

I see women everyday grooming their daughters into the perfect wife, bahu, daughter but what about the perfect thinker? Doer? Believer? Why aren’t we teaching our daughters to thrive, why are we teaching them that silence is the best answer?

Picture this: I’m out at a relative’s house for tea. Be careful what you wear, my mother says. I must wear shalwar kameez because what would they think if I show up in jeans and a tee? Tauba Tauba, she is not wife material. Puhlease, who cares about being wife material if you aren’t even allowed to be a person before that? Not me, that’s for sure. I couldn’t care less what the rishta aunties say or do. But it isn’t about my caring, Mr Misogynist. It’s about society – yes that’s right – society DOES restrict us. Am I allowed to choose how I dress? No. Am I allowed to choose where I go when I want? No. Because of society. We women are limited to private spaces because public spaces are reserved for men.

When I get to said relatives’ house, I am told to smile, sit politely with the women and sip on tea that to be honest, I don’t even want. I am told not to speak loudly, not to cross my legs like that, not to move or breathe or act in any way that is not ‘lady like’.

So, today, I’m going to answer all of your questions. Which just by-the-way, are in fact eight questions. I think that says something, no? You couldn’t even come up with 10 questions to pose an argument.

1. Do you really understand the movement you’re diehard supporters of?

The answer is YES. Why on earth would we fight for something we do not understand? And you, my friend, should not question something you do not understand either. The movement stemmed from the belief that women should not be limited to certain aspects that men are given the rights to, and yes it has grown boundlessly but we are not even close to our goal.

Men and women’s rights are not always synonymous. Today, patriarchy seeps through the fibres of our society and if we do not raise our voices to fight for our rights, we won’t get anywhere. Are men forced into marriages they do not want? Are men stared at every time they wear jeans and leave the house? Are men told that they should not voice their opinions because that makes them less ‘masculine’? Are they told to smile and look pretty as a series of women come and question if they are good enough for their son? I didn’t think so.

2. Don’t you think that you already have the rights you are demanding?

I don’t even want to dignify that with a response, but for your sake, I will. Yes, a privileged few of us have the right to education but is that seriously something you want us to celebrate? That’s a basic human right. But the problem stems from parents not allowing their daughters to pursue higher education, it lies in teachers coercing girls to study humanities over engineering or medicine (Yes, that does happen). In AS Levels, I chose to take Biology and my headmistress said to me,

“Darling wouldn’t you be better suited to a subject like Sociology?”

Darling, I’d be better suited to whatever pleases me. This problem is so deeply rooted in our cultural background that some people tend to ignore that it even exists. Silence is not the answer; pretending it will go away is not the answer.

3. Where are the ‘strong and independent women’?

Strong and independent women exist. They are all around you, if only you’d open your eyes. Sometimes, we aren’t given the choice. I don’t see how you would understand because you do not have the same restrictions as we do. Who said that women do not raise their voices? Who said that they don’t fight to get out of a forced marriage? Recently, I heard about a 17-year-old girl who was forced into marrying a 30-year-old man. Her parents arranged it, his parents okay-ed it. Her aunt fought against it. But she was quiet because she was afraid. She was afraid because in a society like ours, you are told not to question your elders. You are told that they know best. Some people do not have the exposure to know more.

So when you talk about the right to education that we are so graciously given, did you take into account all the girls that are not allowed to leave their houses? Since girls have a limited access to education, the number of opportunities available to them are considerably low. Education is the tool that provides power, and without education, female empowerment is close to impossible. There are girls that sit at home and learn how to perfect their rotis, while their brothers go out to school because they are told they have to be the bread-winners of their houses one day. Is this justice? Is this equality? You tell me because from where I’m standing, it sure as hell isn’t.

4. What are you doing to prove that women are as capable as men?

Yes, we have the women’s protection bill but is it actually enacted? Yes, there’s a fine against forced marriages but that is more often than not implemented.

There was this girl who worked at my house a few years ago. Man, was she smart. She was studying for her matric exams; she wanted to get a job, any job that didn’t revolve around house work. She began working at my aunt’s shop; she handled the books, organised the displays, and she was happy. But one day, she came home after 9pm and that was her last day of work. You know why? Because she got home after her brother. Because we live in a society that adheres to the notion that women cannot stay out late, and they cannot be independent.

We don’t need to prove that women are as capable as men. It’s a fact. Have you done your research? Maybe there are fewer women in the labour market because of the amount of discrimination they face? Did you take into account harassment at the workplace that occurs more often than not? What about the fact that women earn 38.6% less than men? Did you ever think about that? Probably not because in your case, ignorance is bliss.

5. Do you really think the patriarchy is the problem?

If you think patriarchy is not the problem, you have a problem. For generations, women have been pushed to the side because of the social construction of gender in Pakistan. There are pivotal roles pre-set for women. They will grow up, become good wives, good mothers, then what? Are they ever told to work on themselves? To flourish as a being as opposed to always being attached to the man in their lives? You say,

Photo: Screenshot

Mr Misogynist, that is not a fact. It’s hearsay and this is the essence of the problem. Why does one gender have to be in control of another? Why does our evolution have to rely on patriarchy?

6. Why is there such hypocrisy in your movement?

Why is there such hypocrisy in your questions? Firstly, feminists are not the only people who say that men objectify women. You cannot blame mothers for something that lies in the mind-set of society. Mothers shape the way we think, but that too, in accordance with the patriarchy because in effect, it is the patriarchy that forms that matriarchy. Aren’t fathers around too? Aren’t they also teaching their sons? Growing up is pivotal in establishing notions between right and wrong, and if you grow up in a society that constantly sees the submission of women at the will of men – how are children supposed to learn otherwise? Don’t blame mothers because they are not at fault. I’m not saying that all men are a certain way because I do not believe in generalising, which clearly, you do.

7. Why don’t you start a movement for Islamic rule?

You seem rather misinformed because women do not have more rights than men, so please, study your subject before making tall claims. Most of the time our society breeds upon the cultural as opposed to the religious. Are you forgetting that most of Pakistan’s population is illiterate and thus they do not have the exposure to religion that we do? They are not educated between right and wrong, all they know is the culture and tradition that lives around them and thus they adhere to that.

8. When do you think the need for feminism will be over?

Lastly, the need for feminism will only be over once there are EQUAL rights for women. Once we have the same opportunities as you. Once we can roam around freely without constantly being evaluated, questioned, and reprimanded for our actions. Do you see that happening right now? Do you see equality for us? Because Pakistan is ranked second last in the Gender Equality Index. Forget the West, we are looking at Pakistan here, today, right now and the picture is not pretty.

Please keep your winks to yourself because we don’t want them. Maybe it’s your bruised male ego that thrives upon attacking feminism, or maybe it’s purely ignorance. Either way, saying “I love women ;)” is condescending and phrases like this are exactly why we need feminism.

Feminism does not equate with man-hating, in fact it’s the opposite. The problem is not about who is going to protect us, because we can protect ourselves. It’s about countering that harassment in the first place.

What’s the right way to go then? Feminism is fighting for women’s rights, and if we don’t have that, what do we fall back on? Patriarchy? Because that sure as hell isn’t going to fix anything.

Maheen Humayun

Maheen Humayun

The writer studied Literature and Creative Writing from John Cabot University in Rome. She is the author of the novella Special. She is currently a sub-editor at Tribune. She blogs at karachiiloveyou.wordpress.com/ and tweets @MaheenHumayun

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

  • Aarij Siddiqui

    your mum told you to sit a certain way
    your headmistress told you to take sociology half of the women problems are created by women themselves.
    the fact there are more male engineers than female engineers does not necessarily means that there is discrimination at play.
    women dominate loads of fields like nursing and teaching and there is nothing wrong with that, women are generally good at that stuff just men are generally good at engineeringRecommend

  • Uzair

    The article does what it proposes not to do. That is, portraying men as adversaries. Feminist movement has lost its meaning because it’s taken over by pseudo-intellectuals from privileged classes.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Here goes TNT and Jinnah Fourteen point for toss.Recommend

  • Zeeba Hashmi

    Good read, though I would have loved to read more of the author rebutting “since the start of the human race men have been in control”. It is not true, men were not in control of women before; they started exercising control only with the rise of agrarian civilizations and organized religions in the ancient world.Recommend

  • Ijaashi Undme

    Your words in bold doesn’t reflect the same expressions in the words below. Sounds like an extreme behaviour towards women, not about just their rights, and that’s where the problem starts! Extremism, wether for something right or wrong, is a wrong approach. It makes the right, even wrong and we have gone to an extremism about feminism. We must admit that negative notion about masculinity or masculine behaviours needs to be challenged to address gender based violence and we must also admit that such extreme feminine behaviours, that infact justify masculinity, needs also to be challenged, to ensure equality. Recommend

  • PatelPara

    It’s cool to be a feminist and you have no idea who gave you this term. lolRecommend

  • M. Osama Rajput

    You were not very clear on no.7
    The point about Islamic principles with regard to this. Why not answer that?
    Neither were you clear about the white/blue collar job difference. If you want equal pay as men, work as much as we do and in all economic sectors. Why ask for CEO and managerial jobs only? You don’t wanna make gol rotis? Thank the system u don’t have to go out and earn bread every other day no matter what. Stay satisfied that you’re out of this. You won’t be getting cursed if you’re not earning for your family. You work for yourself. Unless of course for some other vital necessity. You don’t really wanna be part of this. We do not hate you or your movement. God made us different. Just don’t forget the esssence of the difference which makes each one of us better than the other in respective cases and start looking for equality everywhere. Equality is never justice. You said it was not about bringing men down but you were doing that only throughout your article.Recommend

  • Muhammad Irfan

    My Sister,
    your views are what you are looking in the west and thinking that if you dress modestly will bind you in any way or other things said above..but the point is very simple that what is feminism and why does it exists in any way the reason is this that people living in the west or the east does not own any relationship what so ever..so they need protection what ever you call it..they are lonely crowd..

    Now we as Muslims are most liberal people and we own our relationships in every way mother, sister , wife and daughter ..this is what has happened with me..

    Now you have described few problems which you could think of and obviously you cannot think of all the problems…and definitely you do not have the answers of all the problems because yo do not even know the problems right..

    But you know my sister ALLAH knows our all Problems and knows our solutions that is the reason has given us our prophet.ﷺ who has described the best way of life with the best out comes guaranteed in this life and the hereafter..

    now it is not about feminism or any thing else just follow and you will be blessed simple as that…it is our choice what we choose??Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Whole article is full of your helplessness. And then in the end, you say, “We can protect ourselves”. God has created men to protect you. But they will protect you if you acknowledge them as your leaders Recommend

  • Atira Ikram

    Love it. Love it. Love every word!Recommend

  • John Anderson

    How wonderful you remember why feminism started, unfortunately it has evolved to be about dominance. They dont want equality, they want men to be totally powerless and stored in a cupboard. Just look Van Badham or Clemintine FordRecommend

  • ioer

    Mindless careerism is the best alternative that the feminists can come up with? Most men work not because they love it, but because they have to, unless you’re blessed to be in a career that you love.Recommend

  • Omer Jaan Durrani

    such a feminist rant!Recommend

  • farhan

    the girl dosent know that in Sahih Bukhari the Prophet(SAW) said women are less in intelligence and religion in islam..Also they cant be leaders of a country..Recommend

  • farhan

    a woman chooses feminism when she has no clue about islam or dosent like what our religion says about women and their rights, definitely westren thinkingRecommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “Are they told to smile and look pretty as a series of women come and question if they are good enough for their son?” Shouldn’t that be “daughter”?Recommend

  • Saeed Ahmed

    Thank you Maheen! wonderfully written :)Recommend

  • Immad Uddin Khan

    I lost the whole article by the time I reached to the end of the first paragraph. ‘Questioning, or challenging or taking offense to feminism makes you a sexist, plain and simple.’ The amount of links in your article actually shows that you don’t want the reader to read what you have written. Or maybe ET decided to sabotage your personal opinion because they don’t care about your opinion. You know, feminism. IYKWIM.Recommend

  • Ahmad Zafar

    Really Cool of you to take on that troll, while he could be ignored but that’s the easier path to take, you did the brave thing to actually take “that pathetic excuse of a man” on his ignorant rant. Keep writing more please. It’s nice to have more voices of reason over these misogynistic people…Recommend

  • Qaiser Wakeel Khattak

    I stopped reading after “Questioning, or challenging or taking offense to feminism makes you a sexist, plain and simple.”

    What a Joke!Recommend

  • Rohail Khan

    Well written, Maheen!Recommend

  • Khawaja Fahad

    “Patriarchy? Because that sure as hell isn’t going to fix anything”
    The city you live was once a wilderness it was tamed by men. The roads, the cars , the ships ,the aeroplane, the rocket, the computer, the mobile phone and the internet were all built because of men ingenuity. The medicine that you take was made by men. The sanitary napkins you use and even the contraceptive pill that brought about women’s emancipation was invented by men .There are problems and I concede to that but don’t start bashing men without cause when they are the ones who have provided you with the comforts that allow you to criticize them on a medium they invented.

    “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.” – Camille Paglia

    Side Note: Firstly How on this God’s green Earth has patriarchy affected you? You seem to have had the means and the support from your family to study abroad and yet you choose not to take up a higher paying profession like in STEM and complain about it.

    I am answering your questions and statements

    “And you, my friend, should not question something you do not understand either”.
    This is the major reason anyone asks a question when a person is ill informed about the topic, questioning is how one gets to understand it.

    “Today, patriarchy seeps through the fibers of our society and if we do not raise our voices to fight for our rights, we won’t get anywhere.”
    It has been the case from the dawn of time.

    “Are men forced into marriages they do not want?”
    YES which planet do you live in. Men just tend to accept it and move on with life .(Not saying that it is correct)

    “Are men stared at every time they wear jeans and leave the house?”
    Yes they were once when it was not the norm and plus irrespective of gender people should wear dresses.

    “Are men told that they should not voice their opinions because that makes them less ‘masculine’? ”
    No they already know to remain quite and listen to their elders as they have more experience and wisdom .In a gathering of men the young listen.

    “Are they told to smile and look pretty as a series of women come and question if they are good enough for their son? I didn’t think so.”
    No because when you allow someone in your home you already know their sons socio-economic status , his vocation, height, skin color and lineage and that’s why they were allowed to enter your home in the first place.

    “But the problem stems from parents not allowing their daughters to pursue higher education, it lies in teachers coercing girls to study humanities over engineering or medicine”
    Firstly more women than men study medicine in Pakistan government universities. Secondly a person ego should not be that inflated that the person is unable to listen to a suggestion from a teacher.

    “Sometimes, we aren’t given the choice. I don’t see how you would understand because you do not have the same restrictions as we do”
    Really, men don’t have restrictions e.g when he has to sit on his fathers family business although he wants to study. But again men take it on the chin and move on.

    “independent women”
    No soul on the face of the planet is independent we are all dependent on each other. It is just a naive statement.

    “There are girls that sit at home and learn how to perfect their rotis, while their brothers go out to school because they are told they have to be the bread-winners of their houses one day.”
    Well in one sentence your claim for equality evaporates as on one hand you would like a women to have the right to choice but men forced to be bread winners is okay

    “Because she got home after her brother. Because we live in a society that adheres to the notion that women cannot stay out late, and they cannot be independent.”
    Although I don’t support the brothers action men are biologically wired to be protectors of their family and if they think some action will hinder that they try to eliminate the possibility. Plus we do not live in a utopia men and women alike are in danger when going out of their homes there are factors like terrorism, kidnapping and run over by drank drivers especially a night

    “What about the fact that women earn 38.6% less than men?”
    It is because of a amalgamation of reasons firstly women do not tend to work late in offices firstly because they choose not to for factors including marriage, children, housework etc, secondly because their employers don’t ask them to because they might lose the employee if she chooses not to do all nighters or her parents won’t allow it. Secondly women do not ask for higher salaries in negotiations

    “There are pivotal roles pre-set for women. They will grow up, become good wives, good mothers, then what? Are they ever told to work on themselves? To flourish as a being as opposed to always being attached to the man in their lives?”
    What’s wrong with trying to follow into traditional roles men also have been doing the same over centuries. Men also are taught to start earn more and early to support a wife being a good husband , good father.

    “men objectify women”
    Don’t women too objectify men for the size of a men’s wallet, to the clothes he wears to the car he drives and the phone he carries to the amount of muscle he packs

    “women do not have more rights than men, so please, study your subject before making tall claims.”
    Please enlighten me with what you have fond out because I fond that a Muslim women has no financial responsibility even to the case of sustenance, or the fact that you can chose to marry a married man of your choosing or the fact that what you earn and spend on your family is considered charity and the list goes on

    “Are you forgetting that most of Pakistan’s population is illiterate and thus they do not have the exposure to religion that we do?”
    Firstly the page you referenced to said 58% which in simple math’s means most. Secondly literacy is the ability a person to read and write by saying that a person cannot think critically if the person is illiterate is plain wrong

    ” Once we can roam around freely without constantly being evaluated, questioned, and reprimanded for our actions.”
    Why should a person be not held responsible for their actions?

    “The problem is not about who is going to protect us, because we can protect ourselves. It’s about countering that harassment in the first place.”
    I go back to answer I gave to one of your statements WE DO NOT LIVE IN A UTOPIA and I do not see us living in one in our lifetimes so be pragmatic about what you want to achieve their will always be bad people and it is not possible to monitor every human actionsRecommend

  • vinsin

    Agree. In this age, these women should be allowed to change their religion instead of allowing them to change the religion.Recommend

  • Syeda Alia Kazim Rizvi

    they are.. No one is superior to another, that’s the freaking point we are trying to make. Men was not and will never be superior to women!Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    It is always nice to hear the views of a woman especially from a muslim woman of Pakistan, the country underdeveloped in women rights. Maheen keep up your mission to promote the women rights since men will not easily relinquish their patriarchal role.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • farhan

    .sister dont you know know that in Sahih Bukhari the Prophet(SAW) said women are less in intelligence and religion in islam..Also they cant be leaders of a country..may Allah guide the wrong one amongst usRecommend

  • Aqeel Ahmad

    I just don’t know what you are trying to prove.Your words seemed to me an echo rather an answer.I agree what you are saying most of the times but you seem to be a bit egoistical about yourself.You are living a normal life and legitimizing normal things by adding them in the definition of oppression.I am a feminist but to me the most important fight is about women who are having no education and are being subjected as things rather than humans.I have been travelling to different parts of Pakistan looking at the miserable lives of women and feeling sorry because I can’t change that.May be you feel you are being suppressed or oppressed or whatever you say.Think Again.Recommend

  • Rosie

    Farhan, please DO NOT quote a Hadith out of context, when you don’t know what that specific hadith is referring to. Just like Islamophobes use specific Hadiths to attack Islam and don’t know in what context it was said. You are only sharing half truth which is way more dangerous than a lie. Islam and Hadith are not a weapon to be used against a person you don’t agree with. If you genuinely want to share a Hadith and enhance someone else’s knowledge about Deen then do a thorough research of its background, and mention that as well. Otherwise, it is best to let an expert talk about the Hadith. May Allah(SWT) forgive and have mercy on all of us-Ameen.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Its funny how the original article on “Parhlo” has been deleted (probably by the editors there) but there are 5 blogs that answer the supposed questions that were raised.

    Feminists are ridiculously hysterical. They want to censor the slightest bit of scrutiny or criticism of their cherished beliefs. In many ways they are exactly like religious, conservative extremists.

    Just like anyone who questions the Mullahs gets declared a Kafir/Islamophobe, anyone who dares question feminist ideals gets declared a Misogynist/Sexist. It is a cheap ad hominem tactic.Recommend

  • farhan

    i am quoting it as it is..and its not out of context..do read the comment i was replying to..facts are facts and emotions cannot change it..as any Alim if im wrongRecommend

  • rationalist

    “Now we as Muslims are most liberal people”

    Wow! You surely are living in a well. Reminds me of the story of the frog in the well.Recommend

  • rationalist

    Feminism is anti-Islamic.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “Just like Islamophobes use specific Hadiths to attack Islam and don’t know in what context it was said. You are only sharing half truth which is way more dangerous than a lie”

    There it is! The predictable “my context is more correct than your context” straw-man argument!Recommend

  • rationalist

    “”But the problem stems from parents not allowing their daughters to
    pursue higher education, it lies in teachers coercing girls to study
    humanities over engineering or medicine”

    That is a problem prevalent only in Islamic countries and Muslim societies. Take the example of India. There, women are enrolled in large numbers in science, engineering and medicine.Recommend

  • Muhammad Irfan

    you can say what ever you have to say…but in west only naturalist are the most liberal people reason being they want to be more of like animals are born and live without any restriction..WOW! it reminded me of animals so we can say animals are the most liberal ..but i do not know if naturalist are the most liberal or the animals i guess you decide..Recommend

  • Agha

    Western third wave feminism is not the same as feminism here. We CAN learn from their mistakes and be better here.Recommend

  • Yo Bro

    In a perfect world that might be trueRecommend

  • farhan

    not out of context hadith sister, you dont like hadith that goes against you women. i dont care ill repeat it again..its totally relevant to the person i was replyinh to, please think before you write feministRecommend

  • Mohammad Osama Rajput

    A feminist will never accept this.
    Islam is the a solution.
    A Muslim feminist would rather choose Feminism over Islamic principles as it is easier for them with its loopholes and all.Recommend

  • Mohammad Osama Rajput

    True that. Recommend

  • Mohammad Osama Rajput

    You only found this point in his entire argument?Recommend

  • Saim Ali

    Not exactly. Within smaller tribes yes women had level control. With the growth of societies and the disputes between different civilizations, there was a stronger focus on male leadership. Religion itself is likely a construct to further push society into a conservative standard. Islam in particular is itself heavy in its enforcement upon society (I suppose it could be said that Islam was concieved as organizef religion due to its political nature). Hence my understanding is that men have been in control ever since society evolved beyond basic tribes.
    Recommend

  • Mudu Galti Al Qaudhani

    feminism is a pile of nonsense and a tool used by the evil west to cause moral erosion in societies they want colonize ideologically . it is only in islam that both men and women have their full rights .the cultural practices that are common among some muslims and are against women should go .but that does not mean adapting the perverted system of the westRecommend

  • Leonard Harrison

    Very true. Nicely put.Recommend

  • Leonard Harrison

    Dude, men are not superior to women. This mindset is why Feminism is taking root in Pakistan. Treat women as equals like Islam instructs and you can eradicate half of the prevalent social evils. But then if Muslims had the sense to follow the teachings of Islam, things would not have been so pathetic for them.Recommend