The Aurat March in Lahore saw hundreds of women from different socio-economic classes and various NGOs come out together for the first time to march for their rights. There were various signs and banners: some were playful, some were serious, and many were just individuals expressing their own personal struggles as women.
No one policed anyone’s sign.
For example, I had a sign that said “ Humari sadkein” because the right to public space and being able to walk comfortably and without harassment in the city as a woman (regardless of which class you belong to) is something very important to me. It is possible that it may not be the number one issue of concern to another woman (perhaps what she struggles with the most on an emotional and personal level is the judgment she faces in what she chooses to wear- that could be a Hijab or Burka). We all have issues that are important to us- all feminists do not have the exact same issues with patriarchy – their struggles vary and are personal as well.
One sign, in particular, has riled up a lot of men and women. The sign read:
“ Khud khaana garam kar lo”
Responses to the slogan were something like this:
Totally correct, feminism is not JUST about that. There were hundreds of other signs there condemning domestic violence and rape. Others were celebrating the power of being a woman. But this sign, in particular, has made many upset and somehow this is what a lot of people want to focus on. Why?
It’s easy to take things out of context and be reductive. Easy to say look what feminism has come to and they are protesting who should heat up the food. However, that isn’t true. Women were there protesting for their basic human rights. which they still don’t have.
What does “Khud Khaana garam kar lo” even mean?
As a feminist I have no issue heating up food for anyone. Male or female. I actually quite enjoy feeding people, cooking, and being hospitable. The statement is obviously playful in tone and points to a culture: A culture of entitlement and one in which most men are not told that housework is their responsibility too. That they may also have to look after themselves. Now there are many women who are stay-at-home moms. There is no shame in that and no real feminist would look at this is an infringement of rights or oppression. Women should have the choice to work at home as a homemaker or to pursue a professional career. And I believe men should have the same choice. Housework is work too, crafting a division of labor that works for your family unit, personally fulfills both individuals, and is based on choice may be difficult to do but it is something we can aspire to. A woman who is managing the household and heats up food for her husband or family- we can all agree, there is nothing wrong with that.
What can be a problem, and what this statement is directly referring to (since many missed the point) is that there is generally an attitude shared by many in our culture, which forcibly places the burden of nurturing the man on a woman. It also restricts a woman to only a certain kind of work- with or without her choice.
Men could come out with a sign and say “paisey khud bana lo” but I doubt most men’s egos would allow it- especially when today more than ever, women are becoming increasingly financially independent.
Furthermore, men are expected by society to be the primary breadwinners, something that can be a harmful burden for many men to bear. However, it also suits some men to have control over finances. Unfortunately, our society tells us that 95 percent of his duty towards his family and wife is fulfilled if he can support them financially. From a young age, men are told to work harder, do better at school because one day they have to take care of their wife and kids. This taking care is almost always just financial. Not many men are told that the definition of a good husband or dad goes deeper than just financial support. This can be a burden for many men and also for women who expect emotional support from their partner but do not receive it.
If you consciously or subconsciously appoint a role to another gender without their consent or choice there WILL be many who are upset about it. Many men will and do complain about how they work very hard to bring home money, and women do complain that they have to constantly raise a grown man. No one wants to babysit an adult- most men and women don’t enjoy it.
The good thing is that the Aurat March has started a discussion and debate. What does it mean to be a feminist? How is our feminism different from the west? Are we REALLY listening to what women are saying or are we nit-picking and pulling things out of context to distract from the larger picture?
Haan bhai, aadmi khaana khudi garam kar lo, aur auratein paisay bhi khudi bana lo. Just give each other the CHOICE. Be independent individuals who allow others to make their own choices and work together to find a balance.