By now, I am sure we are all tired of the deluge of comments, blogs, articles, statuses and tweets about Shahid Afridi, also fondly known as “lala” by his fans, and the so-called sexist comment he’d made about women’s “great cooking skills,” in an interview he’d given about five months ago. (If you haven’t seen that video yet or have but would like to watch it again, perhaps for the umpteenth time, you can access it here.) And while it strikes me as odd that this video, being five months old, has gone viral over every social media website, a part of me can’t help but wonder: why now? Why not all those months ago?
While I am sure there are a plethora of reasons as to why this video is so (un)popular now, I won’t bother delving further as this blog isn’t about that. As a matter of fact, though this blog will cover the details — or at least, my take on the issue — of the comment he made about women’s cricket, it will not solely be about that. Why? Because whatever that was needed to be said has already been said, countless times, by several people — mostly women — in numerous blogs and articles that are now plastered all over the World Wide Web. Hence, the last thing I’d like to do is sound like a broken record. And, while some are in support of him, asserting that his statement was his own personal opinion and that it is none of anyone’s business to judge his views no matter how “misogynistic” they may be, others, in a fit of rage, made no secret of their resentment towards him, going as far as renouncing their fan labels or “fanship,” as I’d like to call it, and further vowing to never cheer for him again. All this, of course, happened within a span of a week, shortly after Afridi’s incredible performance in the Asia Cup cricket match against India earlier this month.
Personally, I am not a fan of neither cricket nor Afridi. Heck, the last time I even watched a decent cricket game was probably back in 1996 — the time when I would actually be noted as a “cricket fan.” Having cleared that distinct fact about me so as not to appear partial, I must admit, when I first saw the interview with Afridi, I was a tad annoyed — no, not at the sole fact that Afridi said that women are great cooks, but at the fact that he blatantly purported that all women are great cooks, which is an overgeneralization because I, too, am a woman and I am not a great cook, decent maybe but not great; my husband, in fact, is a far more superior cook than me, and I am saying this out of fond envy. However, that is beside the point. My annoyance soon turned into intrigue as I tried to decipher Afridi’s intentions behind the distasteful comment.
While I could see why it would upset and disappoint many as his comment came off as overtly brash, affirming that a woman’s place is only inside the kitchen, hence being such “great cooks,” I clearly didn’t see the reason for all the unnecessary and overly emotional backlash against him. His comment was, for lack of a better word, quite vague. It’s not like he clearly stated that he despised the women’s cricket team and that they should quit while they were ahead, nor did he blatantly assert that they would be better in the kitchen than in the field/playground. He said no such thing that would make one assume his hatred or disapproval of women playing cricket/sports (or women, in general). So, to deliberately label him a “misogynist” is unwarranted, at least in my humble opinion.
Don’t believe everything you see/read in the media
As a matter of fact, one may soon have begun to wonder how exactly authentic his interview is and whether his response was even geared towards Pakistan’s women’s cricket team in the first place. That speculation, of course, was soon affirmed in an article that was released yesterday in which he, Shahid Afridi, stated that the video revealed only half of his original response, perhaps intentionally, in order to jeopardize his fame. He further went on to state that he’s always been a huge supporter of women’s cricket, and has even gone as far as advocating sponsorship opportunities for them. Whether he is telling the truth or only trying to salvage his reputation, we will perhaps never know.
Though, one thing is for certain: the media is notorious for defaming and slandering. And we really shouldn’t blindly believe everything we see or read in the media, especially when we aren’t sure ourselves whether what is being relayed to us is true or not. As a result of this, some of those same women who criticized and bashed Afridi for his comment, going as far as calling him names such as “sexist,” “misogynist,” “overly conservative,” etc. now rather ashamedly regretted attacking him so mercilessly, conceding that they judged him too soon. The media, which includes television, newspapers, internet (social networking sites, in particular), radio, etc., is undoubtedly a powerful tool in that it influences us in ways that are beyond our logical comprehension. While it can be quite informative, at times, it can also be quite destructive; especially pertaining to our acuity and the ways in which it enforces and conditions us to view people, societies, cultures, and the overall world around us.
Needless to say, I am in no way trying to defend Afridi; yet, at the same time, one needs to be very careful about what they choose to and not choose to believe in the media. It can be very tricky, yes; impossible even, perhaps, to tell who is lying and who is actually telling the truth. However, what I am trying to say is that we shouldn’t be too quick to jump the bandwagon and start assuming, labelling, name-calling, and belittling someone without knowing anything for sure. It only makes us look unintelligent and immature.
Afridi: From misogyny to racism?
While I ostensibly get why Afridi’s comment would be taken out of context and further exacerbated to assume that he’s a “sexist, good-for-nothing misogynist,” what I do not understand, however, is why was his race — his Pashtun ethnicity — brought into it? Why are some people assuming that because he is Pashtun he, by default, “hates” women because all Pashtuns are, oh I don’t know, “barbaric,” “backward” and “beastly,” whose only skill is to oppress and hide their women in shuttlecock burqas? I find it very ignorant to paint a whole ethnic race with one generic brush, especially when that hatred is stemmed from personal sentiments and conclusions towards a specific race/ethnicity.
Misogyny is not limited to race, culture, or any one specific given society; rather, it is a universal problem just like rape/sexual assault and so many other issues that both men and women face, on a daily basis, around the world. Thus, what started as “psuedo-feminism,” as I’d like to call it, where some women spoke against Afridi’s comment through overly heated, random accusations and unappealing labels, soon turned into something incredibly ugly: racism. The onus suddenly shifted from Afridi, as an individual man — as a human being — who was in the wrong, to his ethnic race where the justification for his supposedly “misogynist” comment lay. And while this was something I noticed over social media, it was further confirmed by a friend, Arshad Afridi, who was kind enough to share Facebook statuses and comments by certain individuals, blatantly displaying their hatred towards the Pashtun race. An example of the screenshots of those extremely despicable comments/statuses are provided below.
(DISCLAIMER: reader discretion is strongly advised as the screenshots below are full of extremely ignorant, offensive, and disgusting language against Pashtuns.)
It is quite evident from the screenshots that there are a group of people out there who are trying to find excuses — any excuse — to insult and belittle Pashtuns. And one can clearly see that it’s not even about Afridi anymore; rather he is used as a scapegoat, or perhaps even as a gambit, to single out one race and make it appear that he is the way he is because of his ethnic origin. Not only is this utterly demeaning and prejudiced, but it goes to show how rampant and how huge of a problem racism is among the Pakistani lot. Afridi may or may not have said something offensive, but it’s distressing to see that instead of he being blamed as a flawed individual, he is instead being blamed due to his inoperable race.
Besides, so what if we are a flawed race? We may have our own problems but that doesn’t give other people the right nor the audacity to deliberately degrade us in such a despicable way; that, too, on a public social networking website for the whole world to see. We need to understand that no one is perfect; no single race and/or culture is perfect; and no sole race or culture is superior than the other. One thing we further need to keep in mind is that blatant overgeneralizations, baseless assumptions, and showing hatred towards a particular race or culture won’t solve/rectify nor eradicate the surfeit of serious crimes against humanity that exist in the world. And, ideally, the only way we can actually aim to fight against these problems is through solidarity. However, whether and if that is even possible, we will have to wait and see.