You want to scare a Pakistani man? Say the magic word: feminism.
Over the years, this innocuous word that stands for the equality of all human beings has been equated with moral depravity and the decline of society. We see this more prominently in patriarchal societies, where women rising up to demand their rights is seen as vulgar, propagandist and even calamitous (women in jeans are the reason why earthquakes happen right?).
However, Iâ€™m not here to reiterate common knowledge. It is not news anymore that the word feminism and its basic meaning has been turned into something filthyâ€”a plague that all â€˜goodâ€™ women should avoid. We all know that we live in a society entrenched in myopic views and we are all aware of the slew of hatred and abuse that women receive on a daily basis. Whether theyâ€™re organising the Aurat March, or reporting harassment at the workplace, their demands are contorted and twisted. In the case of sexual crimes, the victim, mostly the female, is slut-shamed and victim-blamed. This isnâ€™t the worst of it thoughâ€”the worst are the supposed allies, the performative woke men and the ones with who carry the mantle of #notallmen.
Barely a second after a woman, fed up of the system thatâ€™s continuously stacked against her, decides to voice her opinion of men, relay an incident that sheâ€™s experienced or bash a man for his atrocious behaviour, a barrage of #notallmen is offered up. This is where the problem lies. Cisgender, masculine men are the most privileged of our society, yet are immediately threatened when someone exposes one of their lot. They run to defend the entire group of them, but for what? Many it seems, want to provide hope for the victims; that there is a world of decent people out there. But, how does this help a person whoâ€™s been through the worst at the hands of a man? What men should be doing is stop feeling so insecure and own up to the gross failings of other cisgender men; they should hold them accountable and actively encourage a relearning of their behaviour towards women. Sadly, the majority of the #notallmen crowd is a long way from that sort of reformation.
I, therefore, would like to focus more on the ones who are woke because itâ€™s cool, the performative allies, whose allyship remains on the surface at best. Additionally, there are many who label themselves as feminists, but are always looking towards others to guide them along. So if your feminism as a man is a bit suspect, hereâ€™s a refresher on how to fix it, in no particular order (Iâ€™d like to thank writer, comedienne and radio jockey Sabah Bano Malik for her input):
- Educate Yourself: the burden to explain what feminism is about, the problems women face and the road to a reformed society isnâ€™t on the affected party. Donâ€™t expect them to sit you down and expend emotional labour to explain to you what you need to be doing. Do a simple Google search. There are plenty of resources out there that will inform you of the issues at hand.
- Listen: when women are talking, it is imperative that you listen to them without judgement. Believe them when they tell you about their problems or the abuse theyâ€™ve experienced and then listen to them when they tell you what needs to be fixed. Do not, for the love of God, try to minimise their trauma or lived reality and do not offer any other variation of #notallmen.
- Use your Privilege: Itâ€™s not enough to simply show up to feminist rallies and tweet your opinion on the matter, feminism starts from home. Look around you, see whatâ€™s happening with domestic staff and their rights, see if youâ€™re being given extra love due to being a son, observe your friends and call out their misogynist behaviour and educate them. If you canâ€™t use your privilege to create opportunities and a safe environment for the oppressed, then your feminism is futile.
- Follow their Lead: Never mansplain. If you think youâ€™re in fact more informed or educated about a certain topic, then find a courteous way to highlight that. Do not talk down to women when theyâ€™re discussing solutions to problems they face. If they say x is a problem, then it is a problemâ€”even if you werenâ€™t previously aware of it. Let the ones affected by the patriarchy define what change they want to see.
- Youâ€™re Not Always Required: There will be times when a feminist discussion or forum will be held where you, even a well-meaning individual, will be excluded because youâ€™re not a woman. Do not complain, do not fuss and remember: itâ€™s not about you. Women need spaces where they can feel safe. So donâ€™t impose on such gatherings.
A few other things to keep in mind are:
lÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Do not expect a badge or medal for your efforts, or even a reward
lÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Be intersectional in your feminism (look it up)
lÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Being a feminist to get a girlâ€™s attention makes you the opposite
lÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Itâ€™s not about you
lÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Constantly analyse your own behaviour
I spoke to friend, journalist and fashion stylist Haiya Bokhari and she stated that the first thing men should do is to learn empathy. She says, â€œItâ€™s difficult to empathise with anyone else if youâ€™re suppressing your own emotions. Before men can embark on a journey of becoming allies, they must be able to look inside and have difficult conversations with themselves.â€ This is incredibly true. Men need to realise that the patriarchy is also damaging to us and our own development. Learning to be in touch with our own emotions isnâ€™t weakness; toxic masculinity and fragile egos must go.
And as Sabah said to me, â€œAcknowledge that a divide exists, acknowledge that the world is different for women and girls and non cisgendered males. Acknowledge your privilege and donâ€™t make excuses.â€
Because the fact of the matter is, till the patriarchy survives and cisgendered men reap its benefits: #yesallmen