The women who participated in the Aurat March held a number of placards, each making a statement and highlighting some of the crucial aspects of the society which hold women back.
The placards spoke of the concerns that these Pakistani women had and slogans they wanted to propagate so they could get their actual issues out in the open
However, one placard which particularly sparked debate was this one
This one poster not only ignited a fiery debate among men and women, it rubbed some people in such a wrong way that many fights broke out online.
“Khud khana garam kar lou” was able to catch the attention of many and it started a very interesting debate
The choice of words and the sheer simplicity of the expression has left many debating whether or not the message on the placard is correct or not.
I got in touch with a few people who were actively participating in this debate to understand their perspective better and here’s what they had to say
Leena Ghani was one of organizers of the Aurat March. I contacted her and wasn’t surprised to find out that she had been debating this for a couple of days.
“It’s absolutely incredible how a few words on a plycard[sic] can send so many people in a state of frenzy! And to be honest all this hoopla makes me happy, because it means what we aimed to do we succeeded in. We perhaps pinched many nerves, and that helped spark a conversation that was otherwise lacking. ‘Khana khud garam kero’ especially made many a men uneasy. As if women have all collectively decided to throw in their aprons and have vowed never to step foot in the kitchen. While completely missing the whole point about shared responsibility,” shared Leena.
“These words don’t aim to malign anyone infact [sic] they are a plea to men to become more self sufficient. Is that really such a crime? Then I saw a couple discussions online, comments and slurs hurled at feminist for disturbing the peace. Blaming them that because of this plycard[sic] they might die of starvation. If only they knew how easy it is to heat food. Women have been doing it for centuries sometimes kids in tow, and no house has ever brunt to the ground while warming food, so clearly it’s not rocket science. What’s most amusing is that it wasn’t even a demand to cook food,” Leena continued.
“I wonder what horrors will befall us once women demand that men start cooking. In a day and age when microwaves are so common, yes a luxury I admit, I find it especially troublesome that this has become such a big deal. I mean, it would take a lot less time to throw the plate in the microwave than sit and compose all those horrible comments that only highlight how unaware and privileged these men are. It seems like another ploy to hijack a movement that demands equal rights for all genders into a man bashing ideology! This debate requires more nuance than that. It’s about challenging gender roles and stereotypes not about the the task itself. Khud khana garm karlo, mein khud gari chala loon gee” she said.
However many people see the poster’s message otherwise, and it was important to reach out to them
For many the message represented a lack of understanding of the cultural setup of the country.
It is borne of ignorace for the cultural, traditional values and norms that have formed after of social evolution.
— TQ (@khattaAngoor) March 13, 2018
While others thought that the messages on the March should have focused on the larger debates about the issues being faced by women
The same view point was shared by another Twitter user who discussed why they disagreed with the message of the poster in these words:
“All those who know me since long will agree that I can never mean any disrespect toward any lady and I have always supported the right of women and feminism thing (I don’t know if my opinion matters or it can make a difference). My point was only against the poster. Imagine going to the rally against Nawaz Sharif and you have a poster saying “Nawaz Ganju”, not talking about the real issues that is corruption, money laundering, tax evasion etc. Same way if a poster talks about equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunities, workplace harassment, honor killing, education for girls etc every reasonable guy/girl will agree.”
I decided to contact the people behind the Facebook page that started much of the controversy around the poster. It was their post which had gathered a lot of traction and they were very vocal about their disliking for the placard
" Khana khud garam kar lou". The kind of things Phohar women want, bet this girl can't fry an egg but wants to change the world. Also, probably has failed her A-levels twice.
Here’s how they see it:
“I don’t see how doing chores for your male counterparts is wrong or is somehow suppressing women’s rights. There are countless women who are not only great professionals but also great mothers. The fact that the new wave feminists mainly consist of DHA/Beaconhouse hormonal teenagers, its not very surprising to see women’s rights boiling down to ” Khana khud garam lo” You want equality? Start off by paying your own bills.”
We can clearly see how the frame of reference for those who agree and disagree with the poster is completely different and we can break down their arguments like this:
Those who agree feel that this simplistic notion represents how women are coerced into performing certain roles. It is not necessarily demeaning those who choose to do it. Point is that each woman should have the liberty to decide what role she wants to play. The placard can also be a personal statement for the lady carrying it and again, the point of holding these placards was also to highlight deeper problems of the society with a satirical approach. And this placard certainly did the job.
Those who disagree feel that the fight for equity and equality should be more about discussing larger issues that effect women in the country. It should be about equal opportunities, not being treated as subhuman, equal pay and the right to choose however they want to lead their lives.
If you think discrimination against women and their oppression needs to be stopped, here’s a post by a Yusra Habib to sum up the debate about how everyone’s essentially on the same side:
My mother believes men and women have different roles and for a household to run in an appropriate manner, both of them…
Discussions, especially important ones like these, are not always as black and white as we would like them to be. Both parties arguing want the same objective, i.e women empowerment.
If we understand that, maybe we can find a feasible solution as a nation to actually achieve that.
Cover image via: Pakistani actor and actress / Facebook