Mrs Khan Isn’t A Person, She Is An Entire System

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The year is 2019, and people like Mrs Khan, the infamous matchmaker whose screeching video about stereotypical norms is making rounds since last week, are given airtime each week in different shows.

Although I am yet to understand why we as a society feel that just because we stepped into the 21st century, our battles which we fight everyday will magically disappear. Because the year is 2019 and we haven’t done anything about urban flooding, the biggest democracy is blatantly oppressing and usurping rights and the list is endless. So many of us do need a reality check because problems lie in structures and not just individuals.

But because we like to observe ‘progress’ in years, then we must understand that the toxic ‘rishta culture’ isn’t new, rather to be specific in this case it was perhaps 2013 when I saw Mrs Khan on the TV for the first time when she appeared on a morning show. The show’s segment was about Khan’s experiences of going to different houses to find a woman for a man so they may get hitched. She narrated about how she went to a house in a ‘posh’ locality and the people were nice and warm but then her parameter for judging the family came up: she went to their restroom.

Upon going there, she realized that the loo wasn’t very clean rather there was a lot of sand on the tiles implying that the family had just returned from the beach. And of course, by now we should know that having sandy bathroom tiles can hijack all prospects of finding a suitor under Mrs Khan. Later that day, I dissected the segment on the dinner table with regards to the rishta culture, and belonging to a community where matchmaking isn’t done per se, I moved on, only to change the channel each time I saw someone listening to her.

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However last week, the matchmaker was making rounds on social media albeit this time commenting on abusive marriages and divorce, putting the entire blame on women for destroying relationships. She believes that women who cannot be silent and be subservient to their husbands must not get married at all and reinforces that a woman’s rightful place is in the kitchen and not because all knives are kept there but because she must serve ‘hot piping rotiyan’ to her partner when he returns from work.

The person who kept shouting on top of her lungs was preaching women to zip it. Safe to assume, the matchmaker who doesn’t even go with her own name and rather is known by her own marital affiliation received immense support from the cis-het men who were running around to proclaim her as a representative of MRAs. So much so, when an activist, Huda Bhurgri, decided to address the problem politely by making a video as opposed to Mrs Khan’s hollering, she had to remove it after she received backlash from the same men who were bowing before Mrs Khan. Huda, who vows to stand tall against patriarchy stressed that the response on her video should be a proof enough for all those who think it is easy to be a woman in this world.

Huda and many women who are speaking against the mindset which forces women to cower before men remind us of the patriarchal bargain which ensures that women like Mrs Khan stay relevant and get all the validation they need to survive in a world, nay market where she is able to trade off women into abusive households.

A woman recently told her son that the reason she would not agree to his choice in marriage was that she wanted someone who had ‘khuloos’, not realising that the trait of kindness cannot be bought from your local vendor for a certain price per kilos and the whole affair of marriage is very arbitrary despite being made to look like a checklist, which of course, is formulated by the likes of Khan.

Related: Is Being Single The Only Cause Of Depression Among Pakistani Women

But Mrs Khan isn’t a person, she is an entire system. If we look around closely we would realize that we are surrounded by Mrs Khans and the silence of our elders keeps giving shelter to such individuals. This is why it becomes extremely important to speak up and discuss this, in a language which doesn’t seem unfamiliar to our parents, aunts, uncles and most importantly our peers. Mrs Khan did not only promote sexism but she also had deeply classist overtones as she kept saying that women who are not inherently elitist must serve their husbands implying that women who belong to the privileged groups must only watch out for their language and not the warm food to save their marriage. She spoke about her house-help as to how the woman argued with her husband saying that it is the men who suffer while women galore, conveniently ignoring that there are countless women who are subjugated to physical, emotional and mental violence at the hands of their partners each day and night.

So, should we address the issues raised after Mrs Khan spoke her mind? Yes.

Should she be invited to the shows so a score can be set for who can scream the loudest? No, because chances are that the voices of those who may dare to challenge her views will be drowned in the din of shrills of patriarchy which is always holding such individuals by the neck to perform its work.

As a tweet said, women will no longer inherit the silence of their mothers and grandmothers, women must be taught that they have all the right to argue with their husbands, and that they are under no compulsion, to bow their forehead before the man they are betrothed to or any man whatsoever. People like Mrs Khan are tools to make sure that the institution of marriage and its harsh limitations are never questioned by those whose hands are always empty in this bargain.

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