The ‘I need Feminism’ campaign at LUMS has propelled me to think about a lot of things that I feel are wrong or inappropriate in our society. No, they do not pertain to the status of women in Pakistan, or anything that has to do with what feminism stands for, but it is about the way a certain ideology is being propagated in a medium.
Now generally, I would have to go beyond the ‘I need Feminism’ campaign to assess my thought and give it some sort of credibility. So I turned to religion, and to science, and to different ideologies such as communism. There is one remarkable similarity that all of them have in the way that they are being propagated in Pakistan: no one really understand what is going on, and there are an infinite number of confusions and misunderstandings.
I remember that my schooling curriculum, or what I was taught in school, was very systematically designed to make sure that the information being fed to me was neutral. A chapter in the physics book started out on some of the mistakes that scientists made whilst coming up with their interpretation about how the world works. From there, the chapter proceeded to tell us how and why the fallacious interpretation was derived, and then it moves on to what is right, debunking the old theory in a thorough, logical fashion. This only makes sense, and it removes bias, and it also humanises science because we all know that we can make mistakes in our interpretations on our quest for improvement and for finding the truth. This removal of bias and the construction of a fact or theory in a neutral fashion is a very crucial embodiment of our academic system.
Of all the social activism and movements that challenge themselves to increase awareness about the issues they deem important, it is a fact, or so it seems, that our society is not responsive to such activism and movements at all. Feminism is confined to activism, and not much has changed. Speaking up is a nobel thing as well as important, but it is simply not enough. As far as the ‘I need Feminism’ campaign is concerned, it has attracted more criticism than applause, and this defeats the purpose of the campaign.
There is also something wrong with the way we campaign as well. Again, let me take the example of the ‘I need Feminism’, because much of what I’m trying to say has been inspired by the fervour this campaign has generated at my university. Take a look at this photo:
Now, it is another thing whether I believe in what feminism stands for or not. I, however, do believe that they people have a right to peacefully propagate what they believe in. The photo clearly shows a girl holding a white board with a thought she feels strongly about, and basically, the whole campaign has mostly revolved around such an act, where a person holds a white board and expresses their thoughts about feminism. More to this activity, there were a small series of lectures organised where renowned people gave their thoughts on feminism and its importance.
For our society, I believe that such sort of activism does us no good, and I’m not debating on the merit of activism itself. I believe that activism has one goal and that is to create awareness, and ultimately convince people that what the campaign is about is a worthy cause to stand for. However, our society is simply not receptive to this method. There has been no measurable change, no impact at all. Or even it there was been impact, it has been very ineffective, as clearly indicated by the prevalent situation in our society when it comes to religion, feminism or any other pressing issue.
Now I’m not saying that I have a solution to this problem. But I do have an idea that could be more effective for the progression towards a tolerant society. We need to give space to such ideologies (feminism and the sort) in an academic environment. This might already be happening, but I am sure that it is not as common as it should be. Ideologies like this aren’t really facilitated in an academic environment, and that means that they have been confined to the activism sphere, where they are ineffective. What if we could remove all the bias and give explanations about why proponents of a certain ideology believed in it and how they came to believe it?
It is important to treat this as a science. Religious activism has many problems because people fail to asses religion objectively, and they are expected to already accept certain ideals that are deemed important by the majority, and this has created a lot of problems. Now the message in the photo in this post could be right, but it never tells us why it believes that things really need to change. Many people don’t understand what feminism is, and they misunderstand and confuse. The room for confusion is abundant in a religiously-charged community of Pakistan, so it is important to teach people objectively what a certain ideology is before thrusting down an opinion in their throats. People of Pakistan simply love to thrust down opinions they seem to associate with, and at the same time, detest the very act of doing so.
Perhaps one day we will learn to view activism in a different way. Today is not that day.