Turning issues into fads

Published: April 11, 2016
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The past year has seen the rise of a popular women’s rights movement on the posh side of the bridge. It is called ‘Girls at dhabas’, where high society women frequent faux dhabas in DHA and Clifton and take pictures of themselves, throwing in words like ‘empowerment’, ‘liberation’ and ‘freedom’ into the captions.

Then they organised the ‘Girls play street cricket’ movement, and this time it was girls playing gali cricket on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, in DHA. Now, the most recent of these events is a bike rally on Sea View and the posh parts of Lahore in efforts to liberate women.

Everyone has been raving about the movement, about how it is ‘making a difference’. There is one question to be raised though: how is writing ‘Cycle chalaao, patriarchy dubaao’ on a placard and riding a bike in a posh area helping the cause of oppressed women?

Being someone who lives on the wrong side of the bridge, someone who has spent the past four years travelling in a public bus, someone who has walked through the busy streets of Saddar, let me tell you that the movement makes me angry. A bunch of entitled people, doing Instagram-worthy things on weekends, do not bring change.

This, whatever this is, feels like mockery of the plight of women that are groped in buses, catcalled at, even if they are ‘appropriately’ dressed. These women go out there and make themselves as small and invisible as possible just to survive the social setting that they have the misfortune of being a part of. Your slogans and hashtags are actually hindering their progress. Every time one of us wants to speak of our actual rights, like decent sized compartments in buses or actual liberation like the right to walk down a street without feeling ashamed, we are shut down and told, ‘look at the Girls at Dhabas movement, there is stuff being done for you, women need to stop whining.”

My open challenge to all of these women is to try riding a bike in Saddar, to have tea at a dhaba in Nazimabad and try playing cricket on a street in Gulshan.  Once you’ve done all of that, seen what the real world is like, you’ll laugh at yourself and realise how little you know about the problem you’re trying to beat. I’d rather you find some other way to while away your time than make a laughing matter out of our misfortune. It is very well to dream of conquering the world while you chant slogans within your comfort zone.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th,  2016.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Apr 11, 2016 - 4:32PM

    The narrative of ‘posh area’ is based on assumptions which are too simplistic. Karachi is very diverse in all its localities and the patriarchy runs equally deep in all segments. Go make your own initiative if you disagree. Go talk to people in person. Engaging with real people is important before putting rhetorical and emotional appeals like “let me tell you that the movement makes me angry”Recommend

  • Japakistani
    Apr 12, 2016 - 1:01PM

    I don’t usually comment on such pieces, but I couldn’t keep away. I read your piece carefully and I couldn’t find any evidence that you had indeed talked to anyone involved with the movement or understood what they are trying to achieve. I understand that there is a huge socio-economic divide in Karachi which leads to how you feel about what Girls at Dhabas is trying to do. I get that you feel that these girls are entitled and are just doing things they think will look good on their Instagrams. I understand that, but I do think you should try to have a conversation, even perhaps volunteer some of your time to see what they are trying to do. Maybe you’ll find that they really are helping, or maybe you’ll find that they really want to help, but because of their backgrounds this is the only way they know how. Maybe you can help them understand how they can make more of a difference, how they can breach that socio-economic divide. And yes, maybe you will find that they just want something shallow that they can come up with hashtags for, but at least you will know that for sure instead of just assuming that people who are trying to help are actually hurting.

    And as to the notion that the Girls at Dhabas movement is hurting other women because it is held up as an example of things being done for women – I find that a bit absurd. The kind of people who are using that as an excuse to not do more for women, to shut down women who are standing up for their rights – do you really think that they wouldn’t find some other excuse if the movement didn’t exist? It might indeed come from a naive place, but women do need to help each other out, no matter what boundaries we have upon ourselves. Women are women anywhere, even if they do reside bridge ke uspaar. Recommend

  • Zahra Aamer
    Apr 12, 2016 - 11:31PM

    Have you attended any G@D’s events? I suggest you do and also talk to the founders since a lot of your concerns have been heavily discussed by the team, actually in the very first meet-up they discussed methods to make spaces class-inclusive. Tbh, we often lump together any womxn starting a movement into “high society women” to derail the very real problems they are discussing: the hostility of public space to women. And what makes you think that women from “high society” are never sexually harassed? Because patriarchy cuts across classes, even though women are more vulnerable as they go down classes. Recommend

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