The Aurat Azadi March

Some observations
It caught one completely off-guard because by the time one realised there could be trouble ahead, there was no turning back. That’s what happened to the author on Friday near the Supermarket, when he found himself stuck in what appeared to be a raging sea of protesting ladies. It later turned out that it wasn’t exactly a raging sea at all: those capturing the event on their cell phones for the benefit of posterity, and the casual bystanders (mostly men) equaled, if not outnumbered, the protesting ladies – all one hundred and fifty of them. (According to reports that later came in, the Karachi show was somewhat better attended than the Islamabad and Lahore editions.) What had made matters worse were the ubiquitous drivers whose idea of supplementary entertainment is slowing down to a halt just to see what the hell’s happening. The principal reason for the jam, however, was that the police had chosen to block Garden Road for traffic.
The Aurat Azadi March (as it was fittingly called) aimed at winning for fair ladies more freedom in a variety of activities – for dressing as they pleased, for not cooking for the husband, for not keeping track of the hubby’s socks (this was below the belt!), for the right to sit with legs spread open, the list goes on… While the demands were many, one thing that stood out was contempt for men, a thread that appeared to unite the participants. Indeed, it was apparent that men seemed to most of the protesters as miserable creatures (no doubt justly so, in many cases). Yet, instead of aiming higher in areas they felt they were lagging behind men, the idea of many of the participants appeared to be emulating men at their absolute worst. Amid the attention hogged by: ‘Stud if you do it, slut if I do it’, and ‘Yes, I am a characterless hobo’ the more serious stuff predictably went unnoticed. (Genuine concerns, such as religious extremism and sexual harassment never stood a chance when pitted against ‘catchy’ slogans like ‘No uterus, no opinion’). One placard that read ‘Our time has come’ had images of a fist raised in anger, a tattooed hand, a hand holding a cigarette, and a hand showing the middle finger. This was reminiscent of the anti-bodily-hygiene brigade of the West that has always insisted on certain disgusting habits for ladies on ‘grounds’ that men have them too. There were other posters that aren’t even fit to be reproduced in a newspaper.
The problem with such campaigns is that either they are not indigenous to start with, or they are soon hijacked into something else. Take the slogan ‘Make your own roti’, for example. Replace roti with sandwich and it’s an imported sentiment if ever there was one. One is reminded of the Australian mom who famously copped a barrage of abuse from her compatriots some months ago. Her crime: she had asked fellow moms, on a closed Facebook group, suggestions for her husband’s lunch. She was called a ‘1950s housewife’, ‘weird’, and a ‘slave’. One response read: ‘I was married for twenty years and my favourite packed lunch for my husband was called a Get it Yourself with a side order of I’m not your mother.’ It’s curious that while we are many decades behind the West in education, medicine and science; it only takes a couple of years (if not less) for us to catch up with them on ‘social awareness’ issues. ‘My body, my choice’ (probably referring to garments) has been similarly imported straight from the Western pro-abortion brigade.
This was reminiscent of the anti-bodily-hygiene brigade of the West that has always insisted on certain disgusting habits for ladies on ‘grounds’ that men have them too
The placards held by the protesters have since been doing the rounds on the social media. As usual, any criticism of or light-hearted banter about those is invoking the familiar accusation of misogyny from the feminists (‘Go back to the cave’, or some reference to Al-Bakistan – usually the first and the last arrows in the feminists’ quiver). And as usual, those who are resorting to it are, for the most part, males. Sigmund Freud would doubtless have much to say regarding these males trashing fellow men in a bid to please the women feminists. We sure could do with some catching up with the West when it comes to realising the benefits of psychoanalysis.
While it’s certainly a tough ask to resist subjecting some of this stuff to ridicule, the author would advise restraint. This is because of two considerations. First, it’s easy to be disproportionately hard on feminism when it’s no funnier or sillier than most other -isms. By their very nature, all -isms grossly exaggerate a cause and thereby leave themselves open to attack from the outside. Sometimes it appears that these movements are deliberately infiltrated to hijack any legitimate issues they may have started with, so as to make their adherents appear even more ridiculous than they would otherwise.
The other reason that calls for an exercise of caution is a more pragmatic one. Hearing passionate cries (on Friday) demanding the freedom to say ‘yes’ and the freedom to say ‘no’ and the freedom for this and the freedom for that, one couldn’t help wondering – and one would be speaking for many – when, if ever, married men too will have the same freedoms. One day, probably sooner than later, the nationwide husband community may find itself compelled to take to the streets for that purpose. We don’t want to be ridiculed when we come out in our droves holding placards reading ‘Change your tire yourself’, ‘I am a man, not an ATM’, and ‘No moustache, no opinion’, do we now?