Recently, the video of Shahid Afridi’s sexist remarks against the women cricket went viral on the internet, especially amongst the Pakistani ‘liberals.’ A keen observer like me could not let go of this opportunity to chip in my few cents about this issue. Now, I, myself became an Afridi fan, again, after his heroics in the Asia cup and the Afridi-mania went to its peak. One must appreciate the timing of the video going viral which questions an Afridi fanatic like me – Can I be an Afridi fan while calling myself a supporter of supreme women freedom and rights?
The answer to this question is subjective to many factors.which I will discuss later on but first it is necessary to analyze the statement given by Afridi:
When the interviewer expressed his delight over women cricket trial in Peshawar and enquired Afridi’s opinion about it, Afridi answered with a stereotype that Pakistani women are good cooks implying that their place is in kitchen rather than in office or cricket fields, for this matter.
The irony when Shahid Afridi appeared in the recent Pepsi T20 ad with the Pakistani women’s team captain, Sana Mir. The ad aired only few days after Afridi’s video went viral.
The saddest part about this matter is that Afridi, despite being followed by millions of women across the country and worldwide, showed the chauvinistic mentality that exists within our society from ages. Shahid Afridi has travelled across the world, met people from every sphere of life yet all this exposure could not break the shackles of misogynism in his mind. Moreover, the fact that he represents Pakistan on global arena puts more responsibility on him. After all, he doesn’t only represent the men of Pakistan but also the women that reside in this country.
Such events are not new to Pakistan, however, now globally known figures like Mukhtara Bibi and Malala Yousafzai are the result of continuous oppression against the women, especially in rural or north-northwestern areas. At times like these when we hear stories about acid attacks on women or young girls committing suicide after not finding justice over rape attack, celebrities like Shahid Khan Afridi, who are considered role models by millions, should give responsible statements.and refrain from expressing opinions which have no moral basis. Perhaps, these men should be reminded of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy who won an Oscar for Pakistan which no other man could do. Or maybe about Ayesha Farooq who has reached the skies by becoming Pakistan’s first female combat plane pilot. How about Samina Baig, someone from the sports community, who became the first Pakistani women to ever climb the mighty Mount-Everest.
Mr. Shahid Khan Afridi should be reminded that this is not Saudi-Arabia where women cannot even enjoy the right of driving, this is Pakistan where the women in our cities progress equally with men. They have the right to get quality education, get jobs and work in any sphere of life. The constitution of Pakistan ensures that. Our ex-Prime Minister was a woman, our ex-Governer State Bank was a woman so why can’t our women excel in sports too? The courage and passion of Pakistani women can be determined by the example of Maria Toorpakai Wazir, grew up in North-Waziristan and had to dress up like a boy to play squash. Now she is competing in international tours representing Pakistan.
Finally, the question that I raised in the beginning that after all the aforementioned concerns, is it okay to be a supporter of Shahid Afridi as a cricketer? In my opinion, the answer is yes. There is nothing which can undermine his might in cricket and he has reminded us of his greatness in cricketing world in the recent Asia cup. He has survived to lead one of the longest cricketing careers in Pakistan’s history and given his current form, he is most likely to stay, not only in the cricket team but in the hearts of the people. As far as his personal opinion goes, one must be sensible enough not to follow everything blindly that our ‘beloved’ celebrities say. I, for one, think highly of John Lennon’s music but I do not consume heroin just because he did. I admire Hitler’s leadership skills but I do not support mass murder or genocide. However, we can use this story as an opportunity to raise awareness amongst the masses and instigate a conversation about gender equality so that we can have more fathers like Shamsul Qayyum Wazir – father of Maria Toorpakai Wazir who supported her to follow her despite the death threats from the tribal locals. Or Ziaddun Yousafzai, who supported her daughter in every forefront, on every forum. In fact, I would like to end this discussion by the words of Mr. Yousafzai. When he was asked on a TEDx conference recently that how did he raise such an inspirational child, he replied with a small yet profound answer: “I didn’t clip her wings.”
The writer is currently pursuing his business degree from Lahore School of Economics and is a keen observer of current affairs.