We Must Guard Feminist Gains Created by Malala’s Case

By: Ismat Shahjehanmalala 10

Malala’s case has successfully created a popular narrative of the woman’s question and gender justice in Pakistan, a narrative which is politically progressive and culturally authentic. Key features of this narrative include girls’ education; education for all, end to religious fascism (taliban), and end to patriarchy.  For Pashtun women and girls, creation of this narrative will result into valuable feminist gains.

Followed by activism at home, Malala’s actions on the international stage, has triggered a never before seen influx of feminist literature, media production, poetry, and art in the domestic scene. She has managed to engage everyone, from the media to political parties and governments; the scale of her influence is incredible. We must take forward this engagement.

The sheer force of Malala’ feminist argument has hit the center of the patriarchal narrative of the right-wing and the state, thus their immense resistance towards her. The establishments’ spokesmen, right-wing journalists, political parties and large section of middle-class intelligentsia are at ease with tens of thousands of fascist taliban challenging everything consensual and civilized but are against a 16 year old girl upholding the cause of education sanctified by their religion and Pakistan constitution. The gains achieved by Malala need to be guarded from the attack of the right-wing political parties, media, and the state.

Destroying potential progressive change by imperialist forces and religious right-wing through demonizing/criminalizing of potential progressive change is an old political tactic used by them, as both of them fear change in structures of oppression and statusquo, which they have created to their benefit. We must expose the way, the West smartly organizes imperialist attacks on our region to systematically hijack gains made by progressive forces and individuals; and the way, west glamorizes everything significant happening in the third world, to the west’s advantage. Arab Spring is the latest case in hand. Similarly, the right-wing in Pakistan and elsewhere has demonized secular, liberal, and progressive changes, particularly feminist changes.  We must explain this politicking to the people of our country, who are fooled by corporate and social media, and NGOs.

Malala is our heroin, regardless of the west’s political response to this progressive feminist development and corporate media’s attempt to glamorize Malala or hijack the popular feminist consciousness she has created.

The use of feminist rhetoric by the west is not new, particularly if its function is imperialist expansion. No doubt that the Victorian male establishment, which led the great imperialistic ventures of the 19th century, fought bitterly against women’s increasingly vocal feminist demands and occasional successes (a handful going to university; new laws permitting married women to own property etc.); but at the same time, across the globe, they used the language of feminism to acquire the booty of the colonies. The 21st century neo-imperialist forces use the violation cases of human/women rights to demonize nations, invade them, and loot and plunder their resources. At home, Gordon Brown and Hillary Clinton are no feminists.  The so called liberal feminist majority of the NATO countries support the US armed forces’ invasion of Pakistan and Afghanistan to end the Taliban’s atrocities towards women. While on the contrary, the US and Pakistan military establishment both are the chief patrons and beneficiaries of talibanization. That’s how the liberal feminist political narrative was shaped up the NATO member countries in favor of continued neo-imperialist attack on Afghanistan and Pakistan. This criminal duplicity must be stopped. We should leave it to Malala to deal with “starism” and we must trust her political/feminist consciousness and her ability to maintain authenticity, humility and bravery.

In addition to guarding our gains against the West and neo-imperialism,  we also need to act against right-wing at home. The right wing mobilization of women for ideological and political expansion at home, mainly by religious political parties and tablighi groups has also grown with tremendous speed over the last three decades. The Musharaf’s military regime also artfully used women’s representation card to create a feminine face for the regime and win support internationally and of the local civil society. The so called liberal political parties equally use women constituents to reach power corridors and capture state power but continue with anti-women policies and laws. This anti-women mobilization of women by the rightwing and religious parties and outfits, mainstream parties, and dictators must be stopped, as it is against the principle of gender equality. The same is true for NGOs, who subsume feminist struggles, which must be challenged as well.

Given the fact that no woman in Pakistan can escape war against patriarchy, individually or collectively,we must not burden little Malala with this war, and we must ourselves be the vanguards of this war.

Glory and strength to Malala!

Ismat Shahjahan is from Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She has graduated from Institute of Social Studies at Hague in Development Studies and is now a senior employee of an international bank. She paints and writes poetry.

She tweets @ismatshahjehan 

(Note:This article has been taken from the Pushtoon Women VP)


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