"A mother has the biggest influence on children... I disagree with this western concept, this feminist movement, it has degraded the role of a mother. My mother had the greatest impact on my life."
These comments made by PTI chief Imran Khan during a televised interview have drawn ire on social media, with commentators saying he has misinterpreted feminism's take on motherhood.
Has he? Yep.
Since Imran Khan proved he knows nothing about feminism and motherhood, we decided to write him a cheat sheet with a few handy hints.
Here's what he needs to learn:
1) The most feminist country in the world also has the best laws protecting working mothers
Yep, we're talking about Iceland. We suspect Imran Khan, like many Pakistanis, equates 'the west' with the United States and Britain, and in doing so ignores more progressive countries that top global rankings for gender equality.
Like Iceland, which for many years has been number one on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index.
One of the ways Iceland has achieved this is by passing legislation that protects working mothers and grants new parents parental leave for up to 9 months. The government in Iceland covers parental leave for birth, adoption and foster care for all employees in Iceland, and each parent receives 80% of their salary while on leave.
Parents have the option to split the time of parental leave or however they see fit. This means that the burden of childcare is not placed solely on the mother; this leads to a healthier and more supportive child-rearing experience for both parents and children.
We wonder... if Imran Khan really wants to support mothers, is he ready to take a cue from one of the world's most feminist countries and pass federal legislation extending paid maternity leave?
2) Feminists have been at the forefront of the fight to have childcare recognised and respected as unpaid labour
Imran Khan has one thing right: being a mother is an incredibly important job.
It is also an incredibly challenging job, one where your boss (baby) expects you to always be on call, pull all-nighters, wake up early and sacrifice your sleep and social life to keep them happy. Expect for one tiny little factor: as a mother you're not expected to ask for compensation for this most difficult of responsibilities.
Modern feminists have been at the forefront of conversations that demand that women's labour at home ought to be taken as seriously as a man's day at the office. When feminists fight for better rights for mothers, they fight for better maternity leave policies in order to ensure that a new mother's labour is financially compensated, better government sponsored daycare, better psychological support for new mothers and more.
Since Imran Khan believes that motherhood is so important, we hope he will also recognise that most women in Pakistan perform this all-important task with little or no material or financial support from the government or from their workplaces. We hope he is ready to provide that support.
3) Feminists don't say motherhood is the wrong choice. They say it isn't the ONLY choice.
Oftentimes people who hold the views that Imran Khan holds also believe that feminism is a motherhood-hating monster that would rejoice if all women became barren.
This is not so.
Feminists are not at war with motherhood; however, they are at war with patriarchy's notion that motherhood is the ONLY viable life path for women.
When you put motherhood on a lofty pedestal and insist it is the highest honour a woman can achieve, you're participating in the devaluation of women who cannot have children or who simply choose not to have children -- and that is wrong.
Plenty of women who don't have children have lived great, memorable lives and achieved truly inspiring goals. We're thinking of Oprah, Helen Mirren, Angela Merkel, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem and more.
Also, plenty of men choose to not be fathers. In history and popular culture men who are childless are celebrated as 'rebels' or 'free spirits' or 'creative geniuses' whereas women who are childless are viewed as 'sad' or 'unlucky' or 'incomplete.' What gives?
And on that note...
4) Feminism asks that we not view mothers as the 'only' caretakers of children.
Take a closer look at Imran Khan's glorification of motherhood and you'll see that something appears to missing. What is it?
Glorifying motherhood is the most manipulative tool in patriarchy's arsenal; it justifies male disinterest in parenthood by lumping every responsibility on women and calling it an honour.
Most often invoked by men who have little daily interaction with their children or families, this glorification of motherhood is just another way of saying "I don't think caring for my children is the best use of my time."
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.