The most profound piece I can write about the Aurat March from a male perspective, would be a blank page that invites quiet introspection instead of compulsive opinionating. But allow me to challenge myself, and recreate that effect through actual words.
Yes bhai sahib, you are allowed to have an opinion on women’s issues. What could possibly stop you? But the first thing you need is not wisdom, intelligence, or political acumen, not even compassion. What you need foremost is ‘humility’, and the acknowledgement that your experience may not be enough next to someone who has walked the earth for 30 years in a woman’s body. This is the same humility you exhibit before a car mechanic when you listen attentively to his advice, instead of teaching him how a carburettor is supposed to be fixed. Perhaps his advice isn’t entirely sound, but even you admit that it’s coming from a place of greater experience and agency.
Last year’s Aurat March took the nation by a storm; a nation that was clearly unprepared for so many women slipping out of the zanana section of whatever venue they’re supposed to be safely contained in. This time, our brethren were better prepared. They descended violently on the posters the women organisers had put up. They filed a petition in court against the Aurat March, calling it ‘anti-state’. I have not been made aware of any specific rape or death threats towards the dauntless women organizing this event, but I doubt it wouldn’t be the case this time. I’d love to have my pessimism proven wrong, but I do not believe that a year that started off with raging forest fires and whispers of a world war would be the lucky year where misogynists spontaneously combust and just leave us be.
The male case against the Aurat March goes one of two ways. The first involves the cartoonish criticism of women’s basic rights itself; where the objection isn’t so much about the demands of the Aurat March, but simply the act of women doing something other than their culturally-approved duties of feeding their husbands and giggling coquettishly through dupattas half-covering their faces
The second objection comes from men who have convinced themselves of being master-strategists when it comes to the feminist movement. “Of course women should have rights, and I totally allow my women to read books and have periods,” he says and waits for applause, “But I just can’t condone the way feminists these days are conducting their movement, which is way too provocative and impractical.” You’re welcome, ladies!
Allow yourself to be wrong about women’s issues. Forgive yourself, bhai, for not knowing the struggles of an average woman. You will not be faulted for not having first-hand experience with menstrual-shaming, just as you won’t be thought of as a lesser person for not knowing the dietary habits of an Azerbaijani fisherman. But you will be faulted for your refusal to learn.
Rarely would this second kind of strategist lend his insight to the first group of loud-and-proud misogynists. He wouldn’t stop his male buddy objectifying a female student at his university, and tell him that his behaviour is provocative and counter-progressive. He won’t stop his friends commenting on a girl’s dress unless that girl just happens to be his sister. His political hot takes are reserved strictly for the ‘females’, who by the fact of being female, have ostensibly no idea what to do with a political movement.
What offends our masculinity the most, are the posters. Even if the posters outright screamed, ”Drop dead men!”, we pray that you’d be able to see this as mere expression of frustration against centuries of oppression, and not an actual plot for male genocide. You understand jokes, right? Remember those dad jokes comparing wives to witches and angry demons? Sometimes women make jokes too. Smile!
I’m not here to be a traitor to my gender, and I’m certainly not here to win favour with the feminist ladies. I’m simply here to relieve my brothers of the burden of micromanaging the Aurat March.
Allow yourself to be wrong about women’s issues. Forgive yourself, bhai, for not knowing the struggles of an average woman. You will not be faulted for not having first-hand experience with menstrual-shaming, just as you won’t be thought of as a lesser person for not knowing the dietary habits of an Azerbaijani fisherman.
But you will be faulted for your refusal to learn. You will be faulted for your hubris in assuming that you have everything figured out, and that you can confidently instruct women on what they should or shouldn’t be marching for.
Sometimes, it’s okay to just listen.