Seeing as how hi-tech advancements and the augmentation of new media has been an integral part of our lives in the last decade or so, it is seen that things have become relatively easier for the escalation of movements and activism to become a part of the everyday narrative and give a voice to the unheard segments of the modern society.
Now when we talk about one of the most controversial topics today, Feminism makes it on the top list and we should talk about the growth of feminism digital spaces. One well known journalist Sabahat Zakariya sat along with a few of the fiercest women that reside in our country from varying walks of life: Famed actor and model Eman Suleman, lawyer and internet activist Nighat Dad and researcher Sadaf Khan.
Now the esteemed personalities talked in depth on the discourse on gender owing to the space which is now easily consumed by women in spreading the counter-narrative towards society’s most toxic ideas.
Zakariya started of by talking about how digital spaces have now created secluded and safer communities for the women of any particular community as they can now express their everyday ordeals, such as domestic traumas, harassment in the workplace and how other women are able to reach out to them through a guarded platform where they can easily and without any hesitation talk about their fears and work along with people to find a solution to such problems.
Sadaf Khan later added to the narrative by telling people about how the discourse encircling gender had been limited in electronic and print media and in the modern generation that limit is gradually waving off.
“What digital has mostly done is to make this an interactive discourse and because of that a lot of notions regarding what feminism actually is. In Pakistan the understanding of feminism was already quite challenged,” added Khan.
She carried on by highlighting the note on how digital spaces challenge regressive mindsets present in populist cultures which are given space in literature and fiction. She stated that “If you look back at the internet seven to eight years back then you will find a very masculine internet and when I started working all technological things were mostly handed to men and that is why we saw a rise in the narrative of men. Even on televisions now we see more of male political analysts, even sports is entirely disassociated with women for some reason and if you’re in the media, most of the softer beats are handed over to women and this is what we saw in online spaces as well. The serious topics they are all being led by men but over the years we also saw that women are also contributing to these topics that are mostly considered masculine. Recently we have seen marches that are happening across Pakistan there is Aurat March, Student Solidarity March, Climate March so people are organizing online but also offline”
Eman Suleman, another social activist acknowledged the progress thus far however, she said that that there is a long way to go, keeping in mind issues and difficulties which are still to come in the way in the form of abuses: “There is progress but this is just the beginning. The problem that I have is that usually the feminist conversations are hijacked by really stupid arguments like ‘yeh yahoodi saazish hai’ or ‘feminism is cancer’. So I think even now there is a need to explain things to people, even now the labour of feminists is very tough.”
She further told us about how the digital spaces are only open to women who come from affluent backgrounds, while we often forget those who are affected by patriarchy they still have difficulty finding ways to share their story on the online world. “We need to move beyond this division. There is a lot of work to do in that regard.”
Moving on, on the subject of opinions expressed online, Suleman talked about how these ‘opinions’ help in building a community and those who are in need of help find allies they can believe and share their personal experience with she stated: “When I withdrew from the Lux Style Awards, a lot of other women also did that so when you do that people start to trust you, people want to talk to you. So after this a lot of people started messaging me asking for help. A girl messaged me and she told me that her qari sahib makes her strip and read the Quran and she doesn’t know what to do. So I reached out to see who could help her.”