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Aurat March: An Elitist Movement



Can you imagine a woman slouched over a burning stove back from her tiring day cleaning houses lashing out to her husband and saying “khud khana garam kar lo” [heat up your own food]? Realistically, her clan of women would vehemently advise her against it. According to a study, the highest prevalence of domestic violence was recorded among the working class and lower middle socio-economic classes. While I understand the sentiment behind the slogan, I believe it to be unsubstantiated and detached from Pakistan’s reality.

 

The supposed acts of defiance against the strong foundations of patriarchy are hollow. Showing up in designer clothes in airconditioned cars while claiming to fight for the freedom of women nationwide is merely a performative brand of selective feminism. Instead of addressing basic issues that plague our society, “feminists” have decided to put up a show. Who cares if women in Balochistan do not have access to basic menstrual hygiene products? Who cares if women and children make up the majority of 20 million homeless people? Who cares if girls from remote areas of Pakistan are still deprived of their right to education? Who really cares about these issues? As long as they can easily come out on the streets for a superficial display of feminism with nonsensical street plays, it is all good and well in the la la land.

Truth be told, Pakistan’s Aurat March is just a personalised version of white feminism. Only those issues will be addressed that are faced by the elite. How dare you ask me to stay at home and not be out at ungodly hours of the night, I am a modern woman who should be able to roam around the city whenever I wish for it! How dare you ask me to sit properly? Let me do away with basic manners and sit however I want even if it makes people uncomfortable!




What began as a movement towards ensuring the well-being, empowerment and development of women went down the drain pretty quickly when participants prioritised provoking the nation with outrageous, vulgar slogans instead of raising awareness on real issues that affect real women. Now a slogan (I am sure, well-intended) “mera jism meri marzi” [my body, my will] was supposed to ignite a productive discourse on bodily autonomy and gender-based violence, but it was tainted with remarks of vulgarity and obscenity. We support bodily autonomy but we can not support outright obscenity which by the way is a public offence as per the Pakistan penal code.

It should not be unimaginable if Aurat March hurts religious sentiments. A reactive Haya March was initiated to counteract the Aurat March which gained a bit of traction on its own. That proves that there are still women who are not entirely convinced of the march’s objectives. If Aurat March truly cared for women of all classes, sects and ethnicities, it would have tactically recognised and mitigated the challenges these women still face instead of laughing in their faces and calling them every name under the sun.

Moreover, social media has acted as a catalyst for the widespread of elite feminism. Want to take a guess on who does not have access to social media? The other 70% of the total Pakistani population, so no your passionate rants will never reach an illiterate girl yearning for access to education. Who it will reach are keyboard warriors who are chronically online and living safely in a bubble of their own delusional reality. This phenomenon has been perfectly capsulated in the dialogue from the movie Darlings “dunya twitter waalon ke liye badli hai humare [lower working class women] liye nhi” [World has changed for people on Twitter, not for us] demonstrating the glaring truth that world is still the same cruel place for women but now with a veil of performative feminism to sell a pretty picture.

The divide between the elite and working class women is so vast that women battered by their circumstances scorn as they look up. Women must participate in decision-making at all levels if we are to live in a nation founded on democratic principles. (Important keyword: All levels.) To the fullest extent possible, they must be provided with equal opportunities to practise changing society. To truly be free from oppression, patriarchy must be destroyed for this reason. The current, fourth wave of Pakistani feminism spectacularly fails to involve the majority of stakeholders in the discourse.

Here is to hoping that some miracle knocks some sense in the minds of established activists and they try to bring every impacted party onto the table for an effective discourse, without which every Aurat March is just an annual festival to beat up some drums, dance around and hang out for a while, shouting hollow slogans!




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10 Comments


Nimrah
Nimrah
Jun 30

I really like your blog ! , Your blog offers a compelling critique of the Aurat March, highlighting the disconnect between elite feminism and the real issues faced by many women in Pakistan. You raise important points about the need to address fundamental problems like education and healthcare access, which are often overlooked in favour of more performative displays. what do you think ,While the Aurat March aims to promote gender equality, how can it be restructured to genuinely include and address the concerns of all women across socio-economic classes? What steps do you think are necessary to bridge the gap between the elite and working-class women in these discussions?

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I am glad to hear that the blog resonated with you! I think the first step will be to have a diverse planning committee for the aurat march which represents women from all walks of life rather than just elite women. Another step that can be taken is to decentralise these marches. We know that aurat marches happening only in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. If we have smaller marches in smaller cities, that can have a great impact. 


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I loved reading what you've written!! You've brought up several important and persuasive objections to the Aurat March in this blog. Undoubtedly, a perception exists that the movement's objectives are at odds with the urgent needs of a large number of Pakistani women, particularly those from a lower socioeconomic status. The debate around performative feminism and the march's exclusivity is so important and emphasizes the need for a more inclusive strategy. Despite the shortcomings in execution, it is imperative to acknowledge the value of the Aurat March in drawing attention to issues about women's rights. I think that constructive criticism of the movement, combined with an appreciation of its contribution to important conversations can aid in bridging societal divides. How do you think…

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I think steps need to be taken to make the aurat march more acceptable to the broader society and this can be done by showing sensitivity to different religions and cultures. The goals of the march should be made in a way that respects and acknowledges religious traditions and focuses on common goals like justice and dignity. 

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Excellent post!! Your post raises important points about the Aurat March. While its goal is to empower women, some slogans and actions can sometimes give a negative impression to the public. Slogans like "Apna Bistar Khud Garam Karlo" and the ones you have mentioned might sound disrespectful or insensitive, especially in a society where many women face serious challenges. While these slogans aim to promote independence, they might not consider the difficult realities some women face. True feminism is about empowering everyone equally, not creating gender divisions. It's crucial to think about how messages are shared to make sure they include and respect everyone's experiences.

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I agree with you! There is a need to promote dialouge and discussion between different social classes of women so they can realise and understand the actual difficulties that women from the lower economic strata face and work together to solve basic issues and make those issues the main priority in aurat marches. 

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I have been trying to put this thought into words but you did so in a very well manner. Aurat March has always been something that I have had my reservations for. Like you mentioned the truly suffering women are those of lower class and lower-middle class and the slogans that are focused on women attire and who gets to do what does not make any major difference or bring a change for them. In reality, it does not even touch the surface of the issues these women have to go through. The people who march in aurat March are mostly elites who demand for western notions of feminism. They proceed to go against the Islamic principles of hijab and…

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I am glad you liked the post! The aurat march needs to shift its focus from western notions of feminism to cater to the Pakistani masses. Going against islamic principles will cause more harm to the movement than good since Pakistani society is dominated with people with strong religious beliefs. You have made a very valid point and I agree with you that dialouge with lower classes is important to understand their problems and address them effectively. 

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Your critique of the Aurat March raises valid concerns, but it seems overly dismissive of the movement's broader impact. While it's true that elite participants may not represent all women, their visibility can help spotlight issues that affect everyone. While the march may seem disconnected from the struggles of lower-class women, it provides a platform for discussing crucial issues such as gender-based violence and reproductive rights. The visibility of these issues can eventually lead to broader societal changes that benefit all women. Social media, despite its limitations, has the power to amplify voices and bring attention to issues that might otherwise be ignored. The elitism you criticize is a real concern, but dismissing the march entirely undermines the efforts of…


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You have provided a balanced perspective on the aurat march however I may not completely agree with you. I think its important to stat with the most basic issues and once there is acceptance of the aurat march in the broader society based on these goals, the march can diversify its goals to cater to more complex issues and issues that may be sensitive for religious critics. It should be a step by step process. 

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