The problem with what Sadaf Kanwal said
To equate your whole being to your male partner and believe that he should not care enough about you as you do about him and call that “culture” is what is so wrong with Sadaf Kanwal’s statement. Has she really believed all her life that a single man in the universe will justify her existence as a human being? I really don’t think so.
The fiasco that broke out after Sadaf Kanwal and Shahroz Sabzwari’s interview on a local television channel happened because, quite frankly, their statements failed to make any sense when compared to their actual daily lifestyles. Even though Shahroz’s statements proved just how big of a misogynist he is, a lot of us also expected Sadaf to say something useful considering she is a woman. However, disappointment spread like wildfire with every word she spoke.
When she equated “culture” to her husband and his needs, she conveniently forgot about the plight of single women, single mothers, and divorced women in this highly unforgiving society. If a woman does not have a male partner by choice or by her trying circumstances, is she automatically an outcast? The toxic Pakistani culture already regards them as outcasts and when people with social power like Sadaf, especially being a woman, normalises this narrative it has a dangerous impact on the lives of ordinary Pakistani women who have very little or close to no autonomy or agency in their private lives dominated by their fathers, brothers, husbands and even patriarchal mothers.
By claiming that, as a wife, her sole role is to act like a mere helper and/or babysitter for her overgrown man-child like husband, she forgets to mention that her privilege allows her to take a day off while her paid house staff takes care of the domestic duties. Whereas, these very same tasks – when not completed by women in ordinary households – could prove to be deathly, literally. Many women have been killed over not fulfilling some of their housework, such as their rotis not being round enough and the food not being heated before serving. Not only that, the constant abusive taunts about not being good are hurled at women continue on a daily basis. So, this misinformed and blinded interview given by Sadaf only furthers the extremely unfair and one-sided expectations imposed on women.
Sadaf, not knowing a thing about feminism insults it by dismissing it as a subject of the “liberals”. Does she not remember the liberal environment she enjoyed and benefitted from while she excelled in her modelling career? Modelling is definitely not meant for conservative people. The only reason she even met her current husband is thanks to the liberal lifestyle she led before she got married. The “celebrity” title she gained is also thanks to the same. Perhaps, Sadaf should leave her very comfortable and privileged bubble to step out onto the streets on March 8th, (International Women’s Day) to attend the Aurat March and comprehend what it stands for. In fact, she has fully taken advantage of feminism as she has had the choice to do with her body and her life as she saw fit before marriage and continues to do so even now. Also, someone should really school Shahroz on what feminism is as well. It certainly does not deny the biological differences between the two sexes as he claims. The simple definition of the term on Google says, “The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes; the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes and the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” It is literally as simple as that and I just cannot seem to understand why any of this is so insulting to so many men and their fragile egos. To ring in the Islamic aspect, let’s not forget how helpful our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were around the house with chores, how physically affectionate he was, how he never raised his hand on a woman and how much he respected women and their rights. Never have I read anywhere that he differentiated between the roles of men and women because he ultimately believed in a community setting where everyone worked together to get ahead. Maybe that’s something Shahroz should learn from.
No one is questioning Sadaf’s personal choice to take care of her husband at home, but by saying that this is all there is to a woman’s life she is perpetuating and justifying the suffering many women in Pakistan already face. Therefore, the outrage following her interview is solely because her speech hides her privilege and she speaks without understanding the implications her narrative will have on the already patriarchal livelihoods women are a part of.