The Power of A Placard

Bariya Shah

A picture of a girl holding a placard that said “tan khashtaran, tan zapan tan nigor” (Do your dishes and laundry yourself) at Aurat Azadi March Islamabad went viral on Chitrali pages on Facebook and is still doing the rounds. It was stolen from a personal profile and had been posted on a public page.

The story is mine and I still don’t know which page posted it first.

A friend shared with me a link to one such page because she was genuinely worried about the hate in the comments. The amount of hate I received is disturbing and unbelievable. There were personal attacks, character assassination and my family was insulted. It was too much to take and my first response was to report it on all these pages and DM the admins of the pages but soon I realized that I cannot do anything about it and gave up. And the irony is all these men claim to be the flag bearers of respect of women in our culture!

I wonder is this respect only reserved for those women who keep silent at every injustice they face because that is how every woman should be in their view. The tragedy with our men is that they think that they are entitled to decide what a woman should do and what she shouldn’t in order to be respected. I want to tell them that women are fully capable of doing that for themselves, what you need to do is respect their right to decide and their freedom of choice. We are not your property or honor, we are living breathing human beings with hopes and dreams and aspirations of our own. We want to play sports, do performance arts, fly planes, become journalists and what not. Don’t keep us tangled up in the dishes and laundry.

So what was wrong with the message on the placard? It asked men to share household work. It is not and should not be the responsibility of women alone because it’s a never ending, fulltime job. A job which is taken for granted and not even recognized and valued. This was clear from the reaction to the picture by Chitrali men as if I had called for their destruction! Some of them invoked Islam to justify their point. So let’s be clear that Islam does not say that household work is the sole responsibility of women. Our Prophet (PBUH) would mend his sandals, patch his garments, sew his cloths and would milk his goat himself. Moreover, in the context of 21th century putting all the responsibility of household chores on women is worse still. Many women have careers as well, especially in Chitral, and that means they have to carry a double burden now and this seriously affects their efficiency at work. It’s about time that men start sharing the household work for the sake of a better and just society.

But all this hides a much more sinister idea. The idea that housework is demeaning and hence only fit to be done by inferiors. Patriarchy rears its ugly head in even the most innocuous of places.

I am still in shock and trying to recover but to no avail. I wonder how can these men spew so much hate, how can they be so insecure and how other girls manage to take all this hate. At the end I would like to request all the woke people in Chitral who are silent at this rampant misogyny and chauvinism that silence is also violence and it makes you complicit in their crime of online harassment. We cannot progress as a society unless and until this mindset is countered. People who can actually bring a positive change will keep leaving Chitral for good and then no one will be left to do anything let alone the dishes.

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