Women are strange beings. Suffering silently. Taking in whatever comes. You wonder if they are black holes — sucking inside the cruelty, the injustice. Without a whimper. With bruised souls, they continue to exist. Hidden from the ‘all-knowing’ male eye.
But at times your black hole metaphor collapses. Something happens. A rare event. They refuse to rake in any more. They explode. And the rebels are born.
They simply stand up and walk down the streets, picketing!
A rare phenomenon indeed, in the female population deprived of education. Pinned down by the hard issues of survival, they appear immovable. And their privileged few sisters rack their brains in vain to change their lot.
‘How to wake them up from their slumber? How to raise their consciousness?’ Women’s groups ask themselves. They hold seminars, organize workshops, present theses, , plan strategies. But somehow they can’t reach them — the common womenfolk, the most affected people whom, paradoxically, nothing affects — least of all sexual discrimination.
The women’s groups, the concerned ‘haves’, find it difficult to make the ‘have-nots’ aware of their rights. To make them protest against the injustices and to bring them on the street seems a mammoth task. The mere thought exhausts many radicals. Not even the issue of price hikes (which directly affects their lives) is strong enough to mobilize Pakistani women.
So the feminists end upraising consciousness of those with already raised consciousness. And focus on shaking the high-ups, exerting pressure with subtle tactics to make the male chauvinists behave themselves. Meanwhile they keep wondering about the common woman and her lethargic, resigned attitude.
But one day you wake up. And there it goes- The headline. ‘Women stage demos against narcotic dens’. A little surprised, you feel jubilant. You tell yourself, ‘I knew there was a streak of courage and smoldering fire underneath the ice of resignation.’ And pat yourself for your intuition.
Who pushed them out of their houses? No women’s group ever held a meeting in their mohallah telling them of the ills of drug addiction and motivating them to struggle against its alarming spread. The pushers did it, I guess. Pushing the sale of heroin to their sons and husbands. The women saw what was happening to them. Those very women whom the feminists thought did not possess ‘raised consciousness’.
One thing which is painfully clear now is the fact that a wide gap exists between the educated women (with ‘raised consciousness’) who form groups and hope to bring a social change and the common womenfolk of Pakistan who are ‘not aware of their rights.’
To feminists what matter are the soft issues. For instance, the discriminatory re-commendations of the Ansari Commission relating to women. Or provoking official statements like ‘Women in government offices won’t be allowed to wear sarees’ or ‘Single women won’t be given foreign scholarships’ etc.
I don’t say soft issues are not important in themselves. Unjustified laws and senseless curbs would go toward reducing the status of Pakistan woman in the long run. But these are the issues which probably don’t matter to the common women. These problems fall outside their domain. It doesn’t make any difference to them if TV announcers are forced to cover their heads with a duppatta or if Dr. Israr pronounces that working women should be pensioned off.
And it doesn’t matter that much to the feminist groups if women of particular areas are hit by crime or drug addiction. I don’t say feminists are not concerned with such problems but their concern is limited to rhetoric and to the holding of seminars, on say crime against women, in the YMCA Hall or the Press Club.
I can assure you none of the feminists would have ever thought of visiting the areas hit by drug peddling and motivating the women to stage demonstrations against it. It just could never have occurred to them. Just as the common women didn’t give a damn when a handful of feminists staged a demonstration outside the KTV Station against Dr. Israr.
The alarming gulf between the two segments of women is now quite discernible.