When a placard can enrage an entire gender group


By 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 an Aurat Azadi march in 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 (peace be upon him) would mend his sandals, patch his garments, sew his cloths and would milk his goat himself.

Moreover, in the context of 21st 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 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.

  1. Shafqat says

    @Rizvi: The piece you have written is alright rather PERFECT and I appreciate whatever you have said here. But targeting a particular group or sect is NOT JUSTIFIED at all. It is not a matter one particular sect which you are referring to as black sheep are present in all communities.
    I come from the sect which you think is a bit secular which I completely reject. These black sheep are present in both sects and I am sure you must have heard of a Chitrali girl in US who has become quite popular or controversial for her nasty activities on social media.
    And you MUST be aware that she comes from which sect or background?? So pls keep that out as it is not fair to blame any sect for the sake of one nonsense.
    I can give you 100s of examples if you think it is the fault of a particular community. I am sure it is clear to you!

  2. Rizvi says

    @Atta Ur Rehman Her comment reflects she came from respected family maybe her father would do all cleaning,laundry and cooking .sorry for OLD man.She is educated she should know husband and wife are both are just like two front wheels of the car .they are moving in balance.But no one knows when one of them fail and second wheel accept it as its own part and drive it to safe place.Likewise no one predict life and wealth.How long it will be with us.i spent my whole life abroad and i know the christian and jew society how stressed their lives are .i dont want to mentioned any high rank religious person and his personal life here.

  3. Rizvi says

    All these girls who has cards in their hands they all belong to open minded family.Open mind in sense their parents gave them all rights,good education,good food,good shelter,good cloths and even they have open minded boyfriends and they dont have any religious limits too.They all came from secular sect we all know in gilgitbaltistan and chitral who is more upgrade activities wise.But the problem with these people is that they dont want to see their fellows in universities or in work place in hijabs or not hangout with boys they want all of them should be like them.Their demand is lipstick feminism.Islamic feminism restricts those immoral activities in case.

  4. Shahid says

    Listen ma dust Shapar: The girls of this class which we are seeing do not deserve to be a lady health worker. To say that girls are heading international monetary institutions like IMF is like building castles in the air. In fact the girls who could be seen displaying such banners are frustrated. They have no achievement in life. These are cheap publicity mongers. if they had been successful in life, they would not have resorted to these tactics to get attention. So stop comparing the Chitrali girls with the women heading IMF etc. Tell the girls to even qualify NTS test for PTC teacher.

  5. Shah says

    The message is fair and just; there is nothing wrong in the placard, it’s a form speech and conveys a serious counter narrative to the existing one which we have taken granted for centuries. It’s time for introspection and ponder seriously at the faults in our culture and try to address them.

  6. Shafqat says

    Greetings liberal buddies,
    How pathetic it is to see these liberals advocating to wash the clothes, dishes of their wives. They must be polishing their shoes besides doing sweeping and moping early in the morning after preparing breakfast for their wives 🙂 They must be enjoying while washing the dirty linen in winters. And the young liberals must have learnt making chapati. Oh I forget they must panicking while preparing lunches for their “husbandly” wives working for NGOs or running some hotel management businesses:))) Lack of exposure is a curse. It is a curse because you are ignorant about the word freedom. These liberals girls who have been pressing that hubbies should do the dishes and laundries, will also start demanding that if a man can dance at dhola ishtok, why not a woman. They will certainly start demanding that if a man can sing, why not a woman and some Chitrali girls have already started posting their songs on youtube. These girls will certainly demand if a man can have wine, why not a woman. These girls will definitely start taking charas as again something which mostly men do. Things will not stop at dish washing, it will have serious repercussions. Given the situation, I would like to ask liberal tola who have joined hand hands from Japan to US and Lotkuh to Kosht, to practice their noble ideas within their own gathering as you have no right to misguide the whole area.
    If this remained the situation, the day is not far when Chitrali girls will be taking pride on getting divorce in the name of so called freedom. Some liberals still think that divorce is no issue but again I would say these people come from such a background where there is no concept of “shame”. They just do not care if their girl is divorced but there are people for whom, it is a matter of death. Some people just do not care if their girl starts singing, dancing, taking wine etc but there are also people who would prefer death instead of seeing their daughters doing all this. again it is all about upbringing. And one must not forget that Islam has given all the rights to a woman. In a society like ours these dancing and singing ideas must not be promoted. Otherwise, we will be left with nothing to be proud on. The agendas being promoted by one NGO henchmen for the sake of few bucks will be resisted tooth nail.

    1. Rizvi says

      They are Liberals and they demand for Lipstick feminism.They are already free and even they have bunch of boyfriends and hangout with them.its not issue but they face problem in public because in pakistan some girls dont accept them because they want to do whatever they want to do in public.otherwise they are enjoying islamic feminism.There are some women who are away from their rights.Sorry for them.These NGOs were sleeping when 5 girls have been killed in kohistan.

  7. Shah Karez says

    To my mothers, sisters and daughters. The slogan on the placard is a little too sentimental. Women must speak out their concerns with rational approach. Fighting militantly will only prolong the balancing process. Time and prudence is needed to do away with the cultural constraints. Change is inevitable, what is unacceptable to day will be adopted as a necessary part of life tomorrow. Consistent struggle will take it to the intended destination. Bravo!

  8. Wajahat says

    Wow, brother Shahid, you made my day. You have given a “SHUT UP” call to all liberal aunties and uncles who are trying to misguide young girls in the name of so-called women rights. The lady officer who is the in-charge of the provincial capital of Punjab should be the role model for every woman in Chitral.
    The liberal aunties who are trying to misguide the young girls in the name of rights must also learn a lesson from DC Lahore. Hats off to you brother @shahid. May Allah bless you! Shabash….very calculated strike…it would not be wrong if I may say that it is no different than PAF pilots airstrike to bring down India’s Mig22 fighter jets. Keep up the good work.

  9. Javed Karim says

    women rights are defined in every society through practice and tradition and that keeps changing with times. similarly cultures also keep changing. Man helping his wife in household chores is becoming a necessity for those families where women also go to work to supplement income of her family. This is increasing in Chitral bcoz women are becoming educated and also bcoz family budget requires that.
    If a woman doesn’t work out of her home and sits in the house 24 hours her obligation will be limited to her home and she should bot have the audacity to ask her husband to help her in the kitchen. I mean there is nothing written about men and women to do and not go out of the box.
    Going to your point, yes if you express any of your opinion it should be respected bcoz it is not going to impact anybody else.
    having said that, it should not be a matter of ego or you should not be worried what people start saying when you say something against the stereotypes.

  10. SR Khan says

    Sister, I appreciate your efforts to raise awareness about the challenges faced by women in our society and feel sad about the inappropriate treatment you received in the shape of hateful comments and online abuse.

    Any empowerment of women is possible through quality education, access to economic resources through jobs or entrepreneurship, as well as creating awareness in the society. Political-will expressed through policy-making and implementation is a necessary first step for female empowerment.

    I read the messages of a few placards, of the march, on social media; despite my appreciate for the endeavours of the activists, I feel that the placards, I real, actually missed the major issues. For example, honour killing, denial of the rightful share in the inheritance, lack of access to quality education, lack of safe working and study environment and lack of job security are the challenges women are facing; none of these were displayed on the cards. None of the cards said anything about legal provisions, which are discriminatory towards women. Even many of our female parliamentarians come from landlord backgrounds and continuation of patriarchal system serves their political interests, thus they either do not do anything or do little with regard to policy making about gender issues. None of the placards had any message for the parliamentarians.

    I feel (and you do not need to agree with me) that prejudice against women is a real issue of our society, the placards in the march seemed more interested in spreading prejudice against men instead of addressing prejudices against women.

  11. Rameez Rahmat says

    the problem with our society is, our society has no power of acceptance and lack of knowledge unfortunately…
    our society doesn’t try to understand the actual message which u want to convey to us and to the whole society.
    its very unfortunate for us that majority of us are living still in the dark era.they are not ready to accept that women can do more rather than working in house or washing dishes or cleaning houses women can take part more in other activities.. we are with u and we condemn those who are against your thoughts and against the freedom of speech.

  12. Alberque Ibn Bulbul Koshtek says

    Absolutely right sister, we are very weak and sick minded nation..

  13. Shahid says

    I would like to ask all the so-called feminists to go through the link which is about incumbent deputy commissioner Lahore Saliha Saeed. I am sure if anyone has a little shame, he will definitely learn a lesson.


  14. Mumtaz Manzoor says

    Dear Bariya Shah, thank you for initiating this discussiin on gender roles. Only caurageous, enlightened and compassionate men who hold the highest moral values can share household responsibilities with the women in their life. If my father hadn’t helped my mother (who was an arthritis patient) in the household chores, my siblings and I would’nt even be able to go to college and university.
    Only an amazing father would help bringing up his kids. Only a caring brother would do the dishes along with his sister. Only a lovinng husband would help his wife in the kitchen.
    Hope our chitrali men could develop a more humane attitude towards the women in their life. Hope they could show more kindness and compassion by helping their women in the household responsibilities.

  15. Babar khan says

    Sister absolutely right. In the placard there is nothing wrong that’s the reality of our society in which women’s are facing in their daily life. It’s the bad luck of our society when there is discussion of gender equality we always say our culture is not as like that,definitely it shows sick mentality in our society.Let the people whatever’s they want to say. Move forward and raise the women’s rights.

  16. Sehrish Aslam says

    Hey Bariya, sorry to hear about all that. Hope u r doing well by now. You did the right thing, wrote the right thing. Loosers gonna hate you for that trust me these must be those men who stink with dirty sweat n socks smell since they don’t know how todo laundry right! xD more power to you girl!

    1. Bariya Shah says

      Yes dear, much better now. Luckily there are some sane people who stood by me. Thanks for the support.

  17. Bariya Shah says

    Gratitude to everyone who came forward in support publically and also to those who reached out personally. You are the silver lining!!!
    While I continue to be abused online I would like to respond to the valid criticism regarding going public with the placard and then complaining. The placard was held up for taking pictures on our own phones, which were meant to be shared on our private accounts only. As for not standing up and respondng to all the mindless criticism on fb pages, I would like to say that people who get scared by a placard are not worth a response. And they are only proving my point. Moreover, I would like to tell people who think I should be ashamed, I am, on the contrary, proud of what I did and yes I am a feminist. A proud one.

  18. anwar says

    lolz. hamit saf de tan kormo koniyan wa. wa tu ko aiteraz kosan khuro sora.

  19. Zafar Ahmad says

    Just don’t care about sick minds. You raised a genuine slogan and the reaction did nothing except showing mirror to the sick society.

  20. Jalaluddin Ahmed says

    Bariya – Psychologically we are a weak nation. We can plead but cannot voice against injustice. You have taken a step against the norms. Being an easy target (opposite sex), you will definitely receive the frustration. Hold your ground and speak you mind. God bless you.

  21. Siraj Ulmulk says

    Keep fighting. But don’t waste time on barking dogs.

    1. Suleman says

      My dear Mr Mulk,

      “Keep fighting. Don’t waste time on barking dogs”. This is what you say…am I right? Fair enough! You have your right to say whatever you want to say. you have been fighting for whatever you have expressed you wish, your desire and long-awaited agenda. You have been pursuing this for so many years. And on whose dictations, you have been doing all this.
      But, there is no light at the end of tunnel. You have failed. Your failure just remind you that you will not succeed in your motives to turn Chitral into a secular state, which you, and many of your like-minded have long long been striving for.

  22. Sher Afgan says

    Gender Gap exist in the society from ever since …it will take time to become balanced ..although whatever your demanding or saying is a minor or genuine thing but it is a patriarchal society ,and remember now somehow your even able to ask them …when you see the history ,women are not able to perform normal things but now they are enrolled in many things example politics

  23. Fawad Ali Shah says

    In Chitrali culture, daughters do not get their due share from Warasat yet these men talk of Islam only when it comes to supressing women. Do not pay heed to these men who are at least a hundred years behind any civilized society of the world.

  24. Waseem Afzal says

    You were in a public gathering. Weren’t you? Your placard is in khowar. Isn’t it? Your targetted viewers were Chitrali people. Weren’t they?
    So if you are in a public gathering with some message to specific people then you should not expect to hear what you want to and atleast don’t blame others for making your message public. You are and should be brave enough to listen to your viewers point of view.
    Anyways, I totally agree with your message asking men to share household work but to me “you tried to convey your message at wrong place, time and company with erroneous wordings.

    Stay happy.

  25. Muhammad Karim says

    Activism for a cause comes with a cost that’s why few people dare undertake it. Never lose hope. Sane people are on your side. Patriarchy is shaking. The end is near.

  26. Fazal Ghani says

    There is always a way to express one self. Sorry for you dear ✌️

  27. Jadi Khan says

    You need a clear distinctive knowledge of what it takes and means to be a part of a certain religion and a particular society. People out there, they ain’t in wrong to say, quote or whatever about the strict nature of their religion; there are facts to be read (Islamic). It’s exclusive believe it or not. Your words and efforts are appreciated but there should be a distinction of where you stand, for you have mixed up so many things.

  28. Sultan mehmood says

    In the changing times and enviroment the cultural brigade should not and must not take upon themselves as to how a women should live or behave. Why they expect people to be according to their liking otherwise they would pass judgement and use abusive language. Comments and expression of views should be within ethical boundries. The hatemongers should have the courage and capacity to guide the young generation rather then resorting to charactor assasination and abuse.

  29. Shafi says

    All this is pathetic attitude and we as a nation must mould our thinking to the changing world which is educated and civilized. every one has the right to say and do. cultures are for people not vise versa.

  30. saadiasabir says

    Hey old friend! I am sorry that you have to go through this. Clearly some people are afraid of household responsibilities. I have had this discussion with so many Chitrali men. The only answer they have is: “This is our CULTURE”… I am done with this “CULTURE” of double standards.

    1. Bariya Shah says

      Hey dost! These past 24 hours have been really hard and exhausting. Perhaps the hardest in my life so far. But support from people like you gives hope.

  31. Atta Ur Rehman says

    Dear sister,
    I am so sorry the stress and trauma you will be facing right now and in the next few days. You didn’t say anything wrong and you don’t need to worry about these Facebook moralists. You belong to a very respected family and you yourself are a proud daughter of Chitral.

    1. Bariya Shah says

      Thank you!!! Your words mean a lot.

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