A Man Just Tried To Criticize The Aurat March And Here's Why I’m Calling Bullshit

By Sajeer Shaikh | 10 Mar, 2019

The Aurat March was a surreal, iconic moment. Women, men and even members of the transgender community gathered from all walks of life to champion for a cause that promotes equality and retaliates against years of patriarchal oppression and internalized misogyny.

Despite the fact that the March was inclusive and gave a platform to countless individuals to share their stories of oppression and survival, a lot of people seem fixated on the posters. Women carrying those posters or even talking about them have been shamed. The concept of feminism has been questioned (mostly by men, LOL).

A lot of people seemed to have missed the point: the March was a form of protest – a way to vocalize our collective anger, fear, emotions and messages – and we all did that in a rather sassy and highly creative manner.

Unfortunately, one of the many people who didn’t quite understand the point of Aurat March was this guy right here, who shared an Instagram post belittling the magnanimity of the March.

View this post on Instagram

‪Ten fifteen privileged women with silly offensive posters at the #AuratMarch destroy the legitimate equal rights movement of tens of thousands of middle class women. Extremism is problematic in any form. On the other hand, Pakistani people shouldn’t focus on the handful of these pictures making rounds on social media and start writing off all women/men who support the idea of a more equal society. Just as Al Qaeda doesn’t represent all Muslims and shouldn’t be a reason to write off discussions about Islamophobia in the West, similarly, individuals with twisted views do not mean you write off the entire movement. As a man, I feel isolated and marginalized in certain areas too and I support calls for conversations that allow us to open up about our fears and problems, irrespective of our genders. #Gr8Aurat #Gr8March #Gr8KhanaFoodPandaSayMangwaLo

A post shared by Syed Muzamil Hasan Zaidi 🇵🇰 (@muzamilhasan) on

“Ten fifteen privileged women with silly offensive posters at the #AuratMarch destroy the legitimate equal rights movement of tens of thousands of middle class women,” he wrote in his post. “Extremism is problematic in any form. On the other hand, Pakistani people shouldn’t focus on the handful of these pictures making rounds on social media and start writing off all women/men who support the idea of a more equal society.”

“Just as Al Qaeda doesn’t represent all Muslims and shouldn’t be a reason to write off discussions about Islamophobia in the West, similarly, individuals with twisted views do not mean you write off the entire movement.”

Hoo boy, there’s a LOT to unpack here. 

Source: Nickelodeon

Firstly, let me outline what a protest truly is. I won’t even be fancy about it – straight up dictionary ki definition:

Now, I don’t know if those objecting to this March know this, but protests are meant to be a way to let people release their anger, their pent up rage and their frustration with what they’re protesting against. The protest validates those feelings and provides a platform for their expression.

Now, these posters were just straight up sassy, funny or blunt. I’m not saying y’all should be grateful, but every time men have tried to protest for anything in large numbers, they’ve burnt down buses, blocked roads, wrecked homes and straight up caused massive destruction. The outrage over that is yet to be seen.

Did the Aurat March want to cause any harm, any inconvenience? Nope. It was a gathering of feminists and their allies simply vocalizing all they’ve had to deal with – all of which is valid and necessary.

Next, before I go on to actually dissect and counter what’s stated here, let me just quickly share a few important images that will make my point for me.

“Ten fifteen privileged women…”

Via Facebook

“…with silly offensive posters at the #AuratMarch…”

Via Facebook

“…destroy the legitimate equal rights movement of tens of thousands of middle class women.”

Via Facebook

I…I can go on, really. There are countless posters that talk about absolutely grave issues, too. Those weren’t shared on mainstream meme pages, toh shayad zyada logon ne dekhein na hon. And God forbid the critics of the March actually physically go and be a part of such a significant movement. But chalo, next up, let’s bring in some facts that I found off of an important Twitter thread posted by Hamna Zubair, an Editor at Dawn Images.

As abysmal as these numbers are, they:

a) do not exclude “privileged women” who are victims in many ways as well

b) do not exclude less privileged women either, who undoubtedly experience heinous injustices

c) include topics that were tackled at the Aurat March.

Now, let’s get to the actual post. 

Opinions are tricky. Everyone’s allowed to possess an opinion, but if it invalidates the struggle and efforts of a marginalized community/sector/group in society, well, then you done fucked up.

Via Facebook

Aurat March was not a gathering of rich, elitist women banding together for a glorified party with flashy placards. The members of the march included women who had traveled long distances from rural areas. It included members of the transgender community. It included members from marginalized communities within Pakistan. More than anything, it created an unwavering alliance between these people from different spheres of life.

Via Facebook

One heartbreaking poster that stayed with me, personally, is one held up by two young girls and it states: “I will build a home you can’t kick me out from.”

The heartbreak, the pain, the absolute mental torture and scarring that goes behind making this poster is something that can only be empathized with, but not fully understood, for we haven’t faced that trauma. Yet, this March that allegedly “destroyed the legitimate equal rights movement of tens of thousands of middle class women” gave a platform to this sentiment – because that was the entire point.

Via Facebook

As a man, you don’t to decide what feminism is and what it should be. Yes – the movement calls for equality. But if you, as a man who has an immense amount of privilege, come for the movement, you cannot expect to be taken seriously.

For all the other oppressed genders to rise up to the level where men already are, men must, with all due respect, let the other genders speak. Don’t mansplain feminism to us. We’ve already dealt with decades of the male gender speaking over the other genders. It’s no secret that patriarchal oppression stems largely from there and trickles down to impact EVERYONE – even men.

Therefore, leave it to us feminists to handle feminism. We will dictate what it truly is and what it isn’t. If you’re an ally – great. Then take your seat as an ally and watch us work, hear us voice our struggles and pay heed to what we ask of you. Then, act on that. It’s really that simple.

You can mansplain your way into saying this is an isolated opinion. But really, it’s not.

The post itself contains plenty of criticism – all along the lines of what I have tried to state in this piece. But what’s ridiculous is how ill-thought out the post is.

Forget everything else for a split second. To draw a parallel between a platform that gives all genders, all oppressed communities a voice, to the Al Qaeda – a terrorist organization that has caused mass destruction? I struggled to take the post seriously. A statement like that comes from a dark place, where entitlement reigns supreme. The irony is palpable when you use your privilege to denounce an empowering movement, criticizing it, in turn, to be a display of privilege itself.

Let’s also, for a second, narrow down the fact that it is no one’s place to tell someone what “real issues” are. 

Issues are issues – everyone is impacted by what they have faced in their life. If a woman is holding up a sign that says, “Khaana khud garam karlo,” it doesn’t mean that we’re asking for something superficial. It comes from a place where we know that an equal distribution of household chores is essential – it is not a woman’s job to bear the burden of creating a home from scratch.

If a poster that says, “Tum karo toh stud, main karoon toh slut” is being held up, it highlights the double standards prevalent in our society. It sheds light on how a woman is quite literally killed in the name of honor when you label her a slut, whereas a man who is accused of sexual harassment will walk free as an icon, with people coming to his defense, asking for proof.

Similarly, posters that protest against rape, the concept of dowry and child labor – all of which were held up high during the Aurat March – hold their own significance. These matters are pressing and must be paid heed to at all costs.

However, all trauma is trauma. You don’t get to tell a victim how valid or invalid their feelings are. It’s not a case of either/or. It’s a case of tackling all issues head-on at the same time.

The criticism that states how only privileged women were a part of this invalidates itself through a quick Google/Twitter search. Women marched across Pakistan – not only in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, but also in Hunza and Gilgit. And next time around, it’s only going to get bigger, better and even more inclusive.

The March paid tribute to the women we’ve lost as a result of patriarchal oppression and the values it propagates. It allowed people from various communities to feel safe and vocalize their trauma and suffering.

It was this movement that made survivors of assault feel comfortable about sharing their stories. It was this platform that allowed a Christian woman to get up on stage and talk about forced conversions. It was this March that was inclusive of communities that otherwise remain shunned, ostracized and a target of rebuke.

This isn’t the only post, the only argument against the Aurat March. It’s a movement that has received a lot of criticism. Some of it is valid, and since it’s a learning experience, constructive criticism will only help us all better accommodate more diverse voices.

One must remember everything that the March stood for, though, which has been outlined in their manifesto.

Agar woh bhi na ho sakey, toh there are people actively explaining what the posters that apparently come from a place of privilege really mean.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Doing your own research, rather than having others put in the required labor for you, is a great way to help feminists, instead of dictating what feminism should be according to you, as a man. The way we choose to protest for our rights does not need to be chalked out by those who have no idea where we’re coming from.

If you will base your judgment on aspects that constituted to a small percentage of the March, from the comfort of your home behind a keyboard, and use that judgment to invalidate the struggles of the individuals this March highlighted, then it is you with the “twisted view” who needs to stop giving people reasons to “write off the entire movement.”

That is all.

 

Pakistani Women Participated In The Iconic Aurat March And Our Desi Ghairat Brigade Just Can’t Handle It

 

I Couldn’t Attend The Aurat March, But Here’s How I’ll Support The Cause (And You Should Too)


 

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