The Aurat (literal meaning, “woman” in Hindi) March, first organized in Pakistan on International Women’s Day in 2018, fanned the fire of feminist struggle in Pakistan. Since its inception, Pakistan’s patriarchy has tried to supress rising feminist voices. Last year (2020), the effort to supress these voices reached an exceptional level. Feminists faced a storm of opposition in the form of counter-marches and counter-narratives which were motivated mainly by the patriarchal agency of the country. This situation provides the basis for a critical examination of the deeply rooted patriarchal mind set, with reference to the prevailing gender politics of Pakistan. However, this paper studies this recent development of Pakistani feminism by contextualizing it within Greenblatt’s constructs of power, subversion, and containment, with particular reference to Bina Shah’s novel Before She Sleeps. By contextualizing the selected novel within the recent feminist development, this paper unmasks the way patriarchy responds to it and tries to contain it. This paper relies on the New Historicist approach to examine the feminist voices in the selected novel. For this purpose, the novel has been read in the backdrop of the feminist narrative of The Aurat March as manifested in different slogans of the march. By doing so, the paper highlights the containment strategies that were employed by the patriarchal agency in Pakistan as well as its manifestation in the contemporary Pakistani Anglophone literature. However, the study finds that the patriarchal agency in Pakistan employs various containment strategies—in the form of narratives of honour and domesticity—to contain the subversion it faces in the form of The Aurat March, and Shah’s novel textualizes the situation with utmost clarity. And instead of surrendering to the normative patriarchal structure, it offers the possibility of negotiation and change.
Afzal, Malik Haroon; Pakri, Muhamad Rashidi Mohd; and Abdullah, Nurul Farhana Low
Is Women’s Empowerment a Thucydides’ Trap for Patriarchy in Pakistan? The Aurat (Woman) March-2020 and Bina Shah’s Before She Sleeps.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 22(9), 111-127.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol22/iss9/8