Dear Shahid Afridi,
You've always been an enigma of sorts for the Pakistan team. Not one to follow orders; and more often than not, falling short on the expectations the populace has for you.
On some level, I agree that it is unfair how your pedestal gets more ups and downs than a see-saw. However, for everything you say to be mildly brushed aside like speckles of dandruff in your own Head and Shoulders Advertisement, comes across to me not only as sexist, but also somewhat, ignorant.
I am a woman; an educated and professional one at that, which puts me in the smallest of minorities in this country. To say that I am offended by your coincidental video leak would be giving you too much credit, but what really concerns me is the appeal you have over boy, girl, man and woman alike, all across Pakistan and beyond, and what your personal statements on international platforms can do to shape minds.
Mr. Afridi, women in Pakistan are not like the women of Saudia Arabia where they can't drive, or have to fight to be a part of society – women in Pakistan have the passion, the intelligence to do whatever they want to do. They are a part of this society and have fathers and brothers, who provide the support system for them to do exactly what they want to do. More so, they have courage.
Many people, like myself, suffer from such patriotism that our eyes well up when we see photographs of Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan's first female combat-ready fighter pilot. That's the Pakistan we want, where women can stand shoulder to shoulder with men and excel.
|Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan's first female combat-ready fighter pilot. —Photo by Reuters|
A lot of people stayed up all night to watch Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy win the Oscar for Pakistan. No man has proven their "might" to out-do her yet.
|Pakistan's first Oscar winner, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. —Photo by Bina Khan|
Asma Jahangir, who is not everyone's cup of tea, said something at the Karachi Literature Festival that struck me, she said that we would not watch our girls be walked over. And rightly so, a few thousand people cannot rule over 192 million heart and minds.
|Lawyer and Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir. —Photo by Sara Faruqi|
When the anchor asked you about the Under-19 Women's Cricket team formed in Peshawar, you said that 'our women have great taste in their hands,' implying they ought to stay in the kitchen, you, Mr Afridi, should really think before speaking out on public forums.
You are the former captain, current main squad for the national team, and further more someone whose face and hair sells Head and Shoulders, Pepsi with Sana Mir ironically and Fair and Lovely/Handsome, where you're selling fair skin by actually being born fair-skinned.
|“We are not the pioneers. We are just following in the footsteps of the strong women of Pakistan,” Sana Mir said on winning the Asian Games gold medal. —Photo by AFP|
And once you're done with making your trust funds with the brands, beyond that, you represent Pakistan. You represent us. Men and women.
I, hereby, refuse to buy a number 10 jersey ever again to support Pakistan, because any man who thinks women solely belong in the kitchen, no longer can have my allegiance. And if this was any other accountable society, you would have apologised by now because the media would have made your life hell.
Here's what I expect: I expect you as a national hero to understand the importance of your statements. You can be conservative, but your personal beliefs cannot push Pakistan back into the dark ages. In fact, being conservative has nothing to do with an equal status for women, however, being mysogynstic certainly does.
Pakistani women have struggled hard to be taken seriously, and have only recently been able to get to a place where barriers have begun to break.
I met Sana Mir in 2010 for a photo shoot, and the Pakistan women's national team had just come back from the Asian Games. The excitement, the passion and pure adrenalin of being able to make that accomplishment was quite extraordinary.
|Malala Yousafzai signs United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's guest books at the United Nations headquarters. —Photo by AP|
Mr Afridi, we know quite well that one can find lots of Malalas and Mukhtaras in this country, the question is, can we find men like Mukhtara's husband, who despite knowing about her brutal rape, married her and had a child with her? Can we find father's like Malala's, who despite allegations of being a CIA agent, pushed his daughter to take centre stage, to command respect, and change how girls education is viewed in Pakistan? Do you remember the standing ovation Malala got in the United Nations assembly hall? I don't think any Pakistani man has been able to do that.
I hear there are people praying all over Pakistan for a son for you, since you only have daughters. Mr Afridi, I hope these girls you have, do much more than any boy ever can.
So, don't be in such a hurry to push the daughters of the nation into the kitchen, that's not all we do, we can certainly cook well. And we surely have "zaiqa" in our hands too – but we can also do everything you, your boys in green, your boys in uniform, your boys in the corporate sector, and your boys in most fields can.
And sometime, just sometimes, even more.