The piece has been updated after Uzma Al-Karim’s response to the outrage.
Before you come for my throat and say the male gender can also talk about feminism, here me out: sure. They should, and they can, to the best of their abilities – as allies. However, hijacking a movement to present “the other perspective” is plain absurd, for a number of reasons.
First, some context: The Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi will be hosting an event on Friday where an all-male panel has been scheduled to talk about the other side of feminism. The speakers include:
- Duraid Qureshi, the CEO of HUM Network – a man
- Jibran Nasir, a human rights lawyer and activist (and a man).
- Mohsin Sayeed, a senior journalist and social commentator (what do you know, also a man).
- Muaaz Ahsan, the Director Programming of Geo News and, you guessed it, a man.
- Nabeel Qureshi, a filmmaker and by now, you get the drill, a man.
The only female name I can find on this panel isn’t even on the panel. It’s barely on the page. It’s at the bottom, smushed alongside two other men. Which is ironic (and kinda sad), since she’s the Chairperson. Talk about a lack of space, in a literal and figurative sense.
Obviously, when news of this panel spread, it wasn’t well-received. And rightfully so. What this panel does is propagate an existing privilege and highlight a perspective that has been the dominant narrative for years.
These men wanna give the ‘other perspective’ on feminism. Maybe the intention here was to use their privilege for the cause – but this isn’t how allyship works. This is, however, what taking up space looks like.
It is also what men exploiting feminism to build capital looks like pic.twitter.com/lN40rVGfA2
— Aiman Rizvi (@Aimanfrizvi) November 19, 2019
This is such a horror. Even before women feminists find platforms and political voice, men helping themselves to more. Opposite of feminism.
— karachi feminist (@oil_is_opium) November 19, 2019
It’s unfortunate that events like Aurat March are hijacked by Mard March enthusiasts. Now, it seems that supposed allies are utilizing feminism to further their own causes.
— Atiya Abbas (@AtiyaAbbas_) November 19, 2019
There is so much wrong with this where can one even begin….
— moon river and me (@a_kela_banana) November 19, 2019
Ok let's start by the fact that " Other Perspective" is for perspectives that are Other. That are NOT mainstream, not status quo… Yk…Voices from the "Others".
5 straight men sitting around circkejerking about feminism is the least "Other" perspective you could find in PK 🤦🏾♀️
— moon river and me (@a_kela_banana) November 19, 2019
People called it what it is – a manel, i.e: a panel dominated by men. If this isn’t a microcosm for how other genders are treated, I don’t know what is.
Yar ye kia scene hai? Another manel on feminizzm? The other perspective, you mean the ONLY perspective we've been listening to since ages?
what are men, really pic.twitter.com/dfohQDN0KS
— nuwanda (@ManalKhan0) November 19, 2019
This Friday I'll be giving a workshop on how to menstruate at the Arts Council of Pakistan followed by a talk on breastfeeding children.
10% discount for all attendees on my pregnancy management course.
Please join me in teaching the world about women's lives. pic.twitter.com/OLE5YJtS9y
— Shehzad Ghias Shaikh (@Shehzad89) November 19, 2019
But let me still walk you through why an all-male panel is absurd. Because I know a lot of people will argue that if feminism is about equality men should be able to speak about it too.
Men can speak about feminism – but not OVER other genders.
The entire point of a movement that calls for equality is to provide a platform to the genders that haven’t had those spaces or that voice, to begin with. To claim to be a feminist ally and then speak over other genders that are already oppressed, goes against the very belief of the topic you’re trying to tackle. The least you can do is have a few women on the panel for the gathering to even qualify as a discussion.
“The Other Perspective” is still the perspective that’s been resoundingly loud since time immemorial
Let me explain how this sounds, okay? One gender, that has predominantly been known to be an oppressive force, gathers to give their take on a movement that has been conceptualized to tackle the aforementioned oppression. Do you…see how that’s a paradox in itself?
It’s like calling Kate and William alone to give a talk on the “The Other Perspective” on 1947. Like, buddy – you guys were the oppressors. Even if you want to talk about how independence was a great idea, it’s redundant and unnecessary. Or, if you do want to be on that panel, you need people from the subcontinent to be present to tackle your hot takes.
And fine, chalo, you’re an ally and you want to talk about how the movement is absolutely vital. That’s great. Or, you want to discuss men’s issues within the fabric of feminism. Fine. But then, have the feminist leaders who have been tirelessly working towards and for the same on the panel as well. Where are those names? Where is their recognition, the acknowledgment of their labor?
Mansplaining. Naam toh suna hoga
I mean, is there even a better way to summarize this? You ignore the countless women who have worked towards creating a feminist society for the longest time, only to include five men, because you think them talking about those issues will legitimize them? Or perhaps, you believe it’ll hold more credibility? I don’t know – it seems like a great way to circle back to my first point and have men speak over women, even if they may not have sufficient merit within that sphere.
I feel like this is one of those moments, where a line-up goes wrong and it ends up trolling the event itself. Will a vast majority see it that way? Well, I hope after reading this, they get the feminist perspective. But I know that’s not the case.
That’s what terrifies me. As a woman, I’m afraid that if a misinformed perspective is propagated on this platform, it can’t be combatted, because by providing one perspective, you’re leaving out…well, the OTHER perspective.
Misinformation, disingenuous allies, attacks on feminism – all of this already exists. And feminists are working tirelessly to carve a space for themselves within our society. To overlook and ignore that, all to provide a platform for a dominant perspective seems unfair, unreasonable and, very honestly, a disservice to the topic and the movement itself.
However, to get – well, the other perspective – I reached out to some of the speakers. Jibran Nasir responded, and had the following to say on his behalf:
“I’ve advised the organizers to clarify the intent of the panel as it was shared with me on which I agreed to be a part of it, that it is about men who identify as feminists speaking to other men and challenging fellow men on their notion of masculinity and need for men to change their views about women. The panel is not intended for men to tell women what feminism is and how women should struggle to get their rights.”
“At least, I don’t intend to do any such thing or claim that I am fit to do so. I intend to use my space to speak to men of my age and those younger and share my experience of how my views changed about women and masculinity hoping they will relate and try to change their views as well.”
“I have been a vocal critic of all-male panels on political, social, religious and economy-related topics but since here the intent is to speak to other men as men, I agreed to be part of it.”
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Upon reaching out to Uzma Al-Karim, the Chairperson of the Electronic Media & Aesthetic Committee, here’s what I heard back:
“[The] narrative will be explained in the session. If I talk about it now, it might disclose what’s going to be discussed there.” She then assured me that we won’t be disappointed by what’s going to go down in the discussion.
With some context, it makes sense – you want men, who identify as feminists, to talk to other men about feminism. Perhaps, that might facilitate the movement. Who knows? However, since feminism is still about creating equality for oppressed genders, some form of representation on the panel would be ideal.
See, this piece comes from a place of great exhaustion, for it seems like the non-male perspective doesn’t hold a candle to the male perspective when it comes to having a conversation on a greater scale.
It’s 2019. Almost 2020. We want OUR voices to be heard. We don’t want another gender that has – quite frankly – been a huge part of the problem, to be our mouthpiece. This is the time for the other genders to take center stage, as opposed to the male gender continuously soaking up the limelight. Because this matters to us in ways that people still can’t fathom. And it’s high time they did.
In a refreshing change of events, the collective voices of many have been heard and a female speaker has been added to the panel. Uzma Al-Karim shared the following updates:
Hello all, as a female it feels great that we have strong feminists around us. My idea was simple that as electronic media build opinions; what do the Male decision makers of EM think and perceive about feminism. (The other Perspective)
But it hurts the sentiments of many 1/2
— uzma alkarim (@uzmaalkarim) November 20, 2019
so now I am adding the female speaker in the panel.
Requesting all of you to attend .. will share the new invite by eve.. mark the date as your participation will add value to understand the meaning of feminism more clearly. 22nd nov. 4-6 pm at arts council auditorium II 2/2
— uzma alkarim (@uzmaalkarim) November 20, 2019
It’s great that the voice of the public was heard and paid heed to. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below.