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Feminism demands acceptance from all with patriarchal mindset: Pak author Sana Munir

Feminism is not a cult which seeks supremacy or privilege, it rather demands acceptance from people with a patriarchal mindset - be it men or women, says Pakistani author Sana Munir.

The Lahore-based writer, who has come up with her book "Unfettered Wings: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Women", believes one does not have to be a feminist to speak up.

"For speaking out against harassment, courage is often marred by lack of support from the immediate circle. In Pakistan, the re-emergence of feminism has taken some decades to happen," she told PTI in an interview.

Munir says that in the late 1940s to 1970s, educated women were prominent among political circles, the literati, the civil society and the education sector and at the spur of the 21st century, writers, politicians, non-governmental organisations and the civil society have all emerged with women in the top echelons.

"Feminism, to be clear, is not a cult of any kind. It does not look for supremacy or privilege. It demands acceptance from not just men, but also from women with a patriarchal mindset as well.

"Feminism is for respect, on a level-playing field for both genders. When a social equilibrium is maintained between the genders, there can be no room for injustice. That is not even utopian and would make us all feminists."

In the Rupa Publications' 213-page fiction, Munir captures vignettes of the everyday lives of Pakistani women, stretching from the barren dust bowl of Nushki, a small town in Balochistan, to the posh white marble bungalows and mansions of Lahore.

The 36-year-old, who is an active blogger and homemaker, shares that she is strongly averse to generalisations as they involve "very little objective information and too much subjective judgment" and the core word that she worked upon while compiling this book, was 'representation'.

"There are scores of women in Pakistan and India, who have a sound intellectual ground and they have earned respect for their intelligence. I have, through my stories, conveyed the fact, that women in their particular sociocultural set-up are strong individuals who can make the best of their situations. Knowing them is essential before making 'generalisations'," she says.

Munir stresses that if there are Pakistani women who stay veiled all their lives, there are also those who choose an independent life.

"Both contribute to the society. Both deserve acceptance, respect and justice. Both matter," she says.

Asked about patriarchy in Pakistan, she refers to the characters in her book to depict the picture as how "women with chauvinistic mindsets cause misogyny to grow in a society".

"When women don't support each other, it is useless to expect men to do so," says Munir.

She says it took her six months to pen the 10 stories in the book.

Asked how she maintains balance between work and family, Munir, a mother of three, says time management is the key.

"One needs to prioritise intelligently and keep aiming for the best performance. It has always worked for me."

"And dare I say, women are asked this question more than men," she quips.

On the stories in 'Unfettered Wings', she says the characters and their specific situations are fictional but the geographical settings are real and so are the issues discussed.

She says some stories have layers that deal with multiple demographical problems that a woman might face in her life, such as prejudice, harassment, divorce and/or honour killing.

"The very realistic representation of a woman character, sans glamour or sensation is what makes the reader connect with the fictional heroines.

"In addition, I feel, the human mind is a complex place where the conscious and subconscious compartments overlap each other," Munir says.

On what prompted her to pen these stories, she says, "In short, 'ethos'."

She quoted American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou to conclude, "I am a feminist. I have been a female for a long time now. It'd be stupid not to be on my own side.