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An Open Letter To Pakistani Men And How They Can Be Better Allies To Women

Dear Men.

Let us just start the conversation by thanking you for fighting the good fight alongside the women you know and love and hopefully even for the ones you don’t.  We understand it’s not easy. Believe us, we do. It’s never easy making others in a more privileged position of power understand and accept that they have to step out of their comfort zone and suddenly change the way things always have been done. We know this because we try everyday to achieve this and everyday we see the resistance in many like you and even among many like us.

But you, you’re the ones who know and hope things can change. And they will. Because this isn’t a battle between the sexes. You understand that. It’s a fight and a struggle that we can no longer put off. You see the headlines everyday and wonder when it will come to an end. When will the injustice end? When will you finally feel content in letting your female friends travel alone home late at night without you having to offer to protect them? When will the time come when you don’t have to cringe every time the aunties warn your sister of her inherent “expiry date”? When will “boys will be boys” no longer be tolerated because you realize the damage it does? Not just to women but to men. Your closest friends and the people you care about.

If these thoughts run wild in your mind all the time and you realize that something needs to be done you already understand. And for that we thank you, but you and i both know it’s not enough. This isn’t the part where i pat you on the back for trying to be a decent human being and you realize that. You realize that there is so much more that can be done. Being a male ally in our society means a lot of things.

It means understanding that you were born with an inherent privilege but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can use it to build better, more equal and mutually beneficial relationships with the women around you. You can use it to call out toxic and sexist behaviour in the home, at work or even in public. Understand that this behaviour will also come from those closest to you and that it isn’t always men who are to blame. Get ready for some extremely uncomfortable situations.

We understand that there’s a lot of stigma attached in being more power sharing and egalitarian. Especially in a country like Pakistan? It might be akin to social suicide or perhaps even worse. The backlash for advocating equality might be severe and it might seem just easier to be a neutral force rather than act. But we implore you not to give up and never to give in. However again, this resistance may come from women too and you need to understand why. It might be hard for women around you to accept that you’re actually their ally and not just a “good guy” who wants to be praised for his “Feminist” ways. Historically women have find solace and support only from other women and others who are equally as marginalized and misunderstood as them. Learn to respect that sacred relationship and understand that it does not wish to exclude you.

Understand that women are tired of having to include you and even educate you. You’ll learn that yourself when you learn to stop and listen. That is the most important step. Listen to their stories, their struggles and their experiences and you will find yourself right at home. Learn a little gender humility by learning to not speak FOR women and definitely not speaking over them in matters that they could teach you a thing or two about. Mansplaining is real. Look it up. Do your homework. It isn’t enough to just limit the sexism in your own behaviour. Be empathetic but not patronizing. Make informed, educated and constructive actions.Take action against toxic forms of masculinity exhibited by those around you. Understand that the patriarchy doesn’t just affect or harm women.

And remember that women don’t need you to fight their fight for them. They just need your support and the constructive use of your privilege. Trust them and most importantly BELIEVE in them. Even when centuries of an ingrained patriarchal mindset will try to convince you otherwise. Believe women. No, we’re not asking for blind support and we’re definitely not asking you to support women JUST because they’re women but we are asking you to give us the same benefit of doubt that you would lend to a man in the same position.

If you can understand all this and are willing to stand next to us in this fight for equality, we welcome you with open arms and open hearts.

Yours respectfully,

A female ally.

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