Pakistan: Feminism talks organisers anger women for choosing all-male panel

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A discussion on feminism in Pakistan drew outrage and criticism after it emerged that the panel does not include a woman.

The event host, The Arts Council of Pakistan added two women guest after social media outcry and the Friday event in Karachi has been renamed.

The original title, Feminism: The Other Perspective, drew derision and has now been recast as Understanding Feminism.

Organisers say male decision-makers were to share views on feminism, but many critics questioned the very idea.

In overwhelmingly patriarchal Pakistan, having an all-male panel discuss feminism didn’t seem the obvious way to tackle gender inequality.

The only woman included in the original line-up was discussion host Uzma al-Karim, whose name was put at the bottom of the promotional literature.

After sustained criticism on social media, two women speakers were added to the panel – feminist Mehtab Akbar Rashdi and journalist Quatrina Hosain – and Uzma al-Karim’s name was made more prominent in the amended literature.

But that didn’t persuade everyone.Many criticised the men who’d agreed to take part, accusing them of using feminism to further their own interests.

One woman, ErumHaider, tweeted: “The men I know who are feminists would be embarrassed to be on this panel.”

Discussion host Uzma al-Karim told BBC Urdu: “Our purpose was to get men having decision-making powers in major media houses and those with a following to talk about their understanding of feminism.

One of the men taking part in the discussion, human rights activist Jibran Nasir, said he’d found the original title misleading.

“I was informed the panel is about men talking to other men about rethinking masculinity and why as men we need feminism. It wasn’t to explain feminism or talk about women issues as men,” he tweeted.

Comedian Shahzad Ghias Shaikh weighed in, inviting people to “join him in teaching the world about women’s lives”.

NidaKirmani, professor of social sciences at Lahore University of Management Sciences, says the issue of men debating feminism is justified – but the Arts Council failed to clarify the concept and that’s why there was such a big reaction on social media.

“I think this reaction was also caused by the fact that we are getting sick of seeing male panellists endlessly debating frivolous issues on electronic media,” she said.

“Rarely do we see a woman protagonist, and this seems normal to most people.” (Source: BCC)

 

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