A few months ago, a big shot accused me of being a ‘man-hating, fascist, pro-choice, NGO kind feminist.’ Today, reading Rehmat’s page, ‘http://www.facebook.com/pages/Moral-Majority/197706853612457’ I was driven to write. By ‘accused’ I most certainly do not mean to give you the impression that the term ‘feminist’ is a derogatory epithet. On the contrary, I hold most feminists in veneration; they wish to end the gender gap and oppose sexism and chauvinism in all shapes and forms. They work for female empowerment, the recognition of oppression, and the avocation of equality and the bravery with which they do this makes them worthy of praise and appreciation.
The accusation was made by the only man I loathe in the world. He probably has a fake degree and supports the man who murdered Salman Taseer. Yet, he has the gall to act like no one more pious and God-fearing than him ever existed. He makes tall claims that the ‘liberal and fascist’ feminists of our country are soon forgetting their values and morals and that they are indifferent to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s 86 years of imprisonment but condone the treatment lashed out at Bibi Aasiya and Mukhtaraa Maai. He felt the reason for this was that these ‘liberal and fascist’ (his repetition of these words was almost nauseating) feminists will support anything our religion has declared as inappropriate.
He did not stop at that. He went on to state that feminists are in essence, atheists and promote the unabashed way of life of the U.S. And that they seek to give Pakistani women as many rights as the female community in the West has, whereas women in Pakistan have more rights than Western women can even dream of. Right. He asserted that Pakistani women play the role of sister, wife and mother whereas Western women are only recognized as partner, girlfriend or call-girl, slut. His naiveté (or should I say ignorance?) made my blood simmer; his claims were completely ill found; his arguments entirely unsubstantiated.
Travelling has made me realize, that it’s not only Pakistan. Women all over the world have been bound because of the socialized gender roles they are supposed to form, which in almost every society is work subservient to that of a man. From the bikini to the burqa, if you’re a feminist, then let it be. Yet, it is rare in Pakistan to hear feminism being described as female empowerment or as an organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests, which is how it is defined in the dictionary. Why has feminism taken on such a negative meaning? In my opinion, any strong and independent woman would want to be labeled as a feminist. Yet many women are cautious, afraid even, of aligning themselves with the word feminist. Fear is part of the equation…the justifiable fear of what lies ahead for any woman boldly proclaiming her commitment to empowerment. Is it because in order to be a feminist, a woman must deal with false assumptions about her sexual preference, cultural beliefs, and general outlook on life? What woman would want to deal with this constant barrage of insults in order to proclaim herself a feminist?
I’m not a feminist because I witnessed firsthand how bad things could be for women. I’m a feminist because I had the privilege of watching women fight for their rights without compromise.