Imran Khan seems to be controversy’s favourite child. Even as revelations of a personal and sexual kind about him in his ex-wife Reham Khan’s book have been making news lately, the cricketer-turned-politician has now sparked indignant outrage with his views on motherhood and feminism. Imran Khan vocalised his critique of ‘western’ feminism in an interview recently, and the backlash was sharp and swift. “A mother is the biggest influence in her child’s life,” Khan said in the interview. “I disagree with the Western concept of feminism, it has completely degraded the role of a mother.”
The twice-divorced cricketer turned politician gave no indication of the fact that he realises that he fits the stereotype of a man — one with multiple romantic affiliations in the past — who does not realise the privileged position he’s in, a position that exists purely because he’s a male of the South Asian diaspora. Sherry Rehman, leader of the Opposition in the Senate of Pakistan tweeted: “If feminism is against anything, it is against the double standards that exist in child-rearing. Feminism doesn’t degrade the role of mothers, it insists that fathers take responsibility for the life they helped create.” Many feminists participated in the same twitter thread, reminding Khan that the feminist movement was the reason why paid maternity leave came into being in many countries in Europe and all over the world.
Author Sreemoyee Kundu commented, “Feminism is a movement for equal rights to women irrespective of the looming gender divide. It has never degraded motherhood and in fact, one of the most potent struggles of feminism in its modern-day avatar is to ensure paid maternity leave and create a safety net with laws that encourage working mothers to resume their full-fledged careers.
Sadly, the cricketer turned politician seems to be espousing a misogynist version of feminism, reflecting a very myopic version of the feminist struggle.”
Many women have taken to educating Khan about what exactly feminism stands for and amidst this predominantly female rage, Anand Neelakantan, author of Asura: The Tale of the Vanquished, has broken the male silence on the issue.
“Woman was considered a mother and homemaker in all civilisations including the West. Motherhood also is an integral part of real feminism. However, conservative societies like India or Pakistan tend to glorify only one aspect of feminism, which is the motherhood and reject all other aspects of the same as a Western concept which is not true. An independently thinking woman is a threat to all conservative religions which tend to restrict freedom of women.” Neelakantan feels, Imran Khan, is a product of such a society and is only reflecting what has been instilled in him since childhood.
Most homemakers too don’t agree with his comments. Anju Talwar, who many would consider a ‘traditional Indian mother’, said, “I don’t agree with Imran Khan’s off the cuff statement. Feminism and a mother’s role are, to me, unrelated. One can be a feminist in thought, word and deed and yet be a responsible and caring mother. Feminism exists globally and is not confined to the West. One finds exemplary mothers and cohesive families in the West too, not withstanding mothers with feminist leanings. Mr Khan’s outlook may be guided by his disappointments with women in his personal life.”
But amid the outrage, some defenders of Khan have come forward with the view they hold of working, ambitious and career-oriented mothers. Mohsin Ali (@MohsinA20739417), a Twitter user, tweeted: “Feminism shoved women out of the door and put them in competition with men for kind of roles in society which are better suited for men. Men and women may be equal, they are certainly not the same.”
However, these views don’t take away from the fact that the main concept of feminism is centered around gender equality (not similarity) in opportunity and the subversion of exactly the kind of patriarchal and privileged ideals that even the men of Imran Khan’s stature continue to uphold....