Tahira Abdullah and Why Her Comments on Feminism were Necessary for Everyone to Hear
In a recent interview, social activist Tahira Abdullah got into a heated argument with Pakistani drama writer Khalil ur Rehman Qamar, and his portrayal of women in his TV shows
Gender debates have, in recent times, become the talk of the town. While these debates are done on a different level in Western countries – which are more open to change than South Asian ones – the ones here could still use some improvement. That being said, it’s still worth appreciating that women in countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – where they are often ignored or not heard – are finally coming out on the streets and making their voices heard. They are asking for their rights, which seem to have upset a lot of men – for unknown reasons. Feminism is, hence, considered a “disease” in countries like Pakistan and India, where the norm is to keep the women under the man’s feet – or as they say, “Aurat tau aadmi ke jootay ke barabar hoti hai”.
When it comes to Pakistan, the country’s famous drama writer, Khalil ur Rehman Qamar has often found himself on the radar for either, having something problematic in his TV shows that portrays women in bad light or not worthy of their rights. If it isn’t his dramas, it’s his interviews that seem to mock the women’s struggle to make their presence known. However, in one recent interview, women’s rights activist Tahira Abdullah was asked to get into a debate with Khalil and a senior journalist, Owais Touheed regarding gender issues. In the interview, hosted by Ehtesham Ameeruddin for Samaa TV’s News Beat, the host asked Khalil about why he hates on women to whom the writer shared that he respects women and consider them a higher being than men in many aspects. However, it’s only his recent drama, Meray Paas Tum Ho, wherein the women is shown in bad light and being hated on by the entire country. Upon Khalil’s comment, Tahira explained feminism to what it means in its true sense. She said, “Feminism is an ideology and a point of view that understands that women are humans too. That’s it.” She continued that the power to give women their rights, are not under a man’s control – and instead a woman is born into the world along with her rights. Tahira also held up the Constitution of Pakistan of 1973 in heards, making her point clear that her rights are safeguarded by it, which is why she doesn’t need to “ask or demand her rights from anyone else”.
If this wasn’t enough to shut down all the men, especially Khalil – who has made comments on women’s characters in the past – Tahira stressed, “We do not need any man to tell us which women is good and which one is not – this is called mansplaining.” Khalil then jumped in and commented, “I don’t understand why women get upset whenever there is a mention of a man. You mentioned that men and women have the same rights, but I don’t believe so. I believe that two different beings can only have the same set of rights, of the same things are available to them – which is not in the case of men and women. Because when women step out of the house with placards fighting for their rights, they are demanding a chunk out of men’s rights – and those will never be given to you.” Now while the debate continued without reaching a definite conclusion – as expected, social media went in a frenzy over Tahira finally slamming Khalil’s comments on feminism and women.
Looking at it from a larger perspective, Tahira did bring in the best arguments forward – and not only the best, but also the most accurate ones. Women are, in fact, born with their rights – whether these rights are mentioned in the country’s constitution or a religion, it’s something that is given to them as human beings. Even if a country’s rights do not grant some to its women, there are rights given to them on the basis of their religion – and while many may argue that these are not always balanced, it eventually comes down to how they are perceived. Now this perception that is then accepted by a larger chunk of people is also created by men, implying that even though women have rights, it’s often the men who apparently feel threatened by them. For example, a woman has been given the right to work in any field that she wishes to, but stakeholders of certain company create policies that prevent women from joining the firm and working alongside them – thus taking away their rights – and in this case, their right to equal employment opportunities.
Moreover, Owais’, who mentioned that women should not be labeled by men, was also right with his comment as more often than not, it’s the men who create these stencils for women to fit. In a society that is still a long way from letting women practice their rights, men have limited women to stay within the limitations of either being a mother, a sister, a wife or a daughter – implying that they do not hold an identity of themselves, which is the basis of the problems – once again, stripping women of rights they are born with. So when women rush out to the streets, to demand their rights and reclaim public spaces, they are not asking for those from men – but the protest and marches highlight that they, in fact, have all of these rights but are not allowed to practice them because of the patriarchal mindset that has been existing in many parts of the world – that considers women as inferior beings.