It’s a tale as old as time; a woman gives her opinion on something and there’s a sudden shift in the force of the universe.
All men in a 100-mile radius sense the disturbance. They flock to tell her that she’s wrong. Alas, balance is only restored when the last man exposed to her opinion has absolved himself of his civic duty to explain to her how very wrong she is.
Men have been doing this for so long and so frequently that we even had to create a word for it —Mansplaining.
It's when a man thinks that the sheer force of being a man trumps the expertise that the other gender might hold.
It’s when basic Basheer, who read one article on a sketchy website, thinks he knows more than a doctor who spent her life studying the very same thing Basheer tells her that she should read more about.
It’s when the men in your family tell you tales of your workplace, citing a WhatsApp message as their source, while completely disregarding your own expertise on that matter.
While this is an affliction that plagues men all year round, instances go up monumentally when women are in the limelight. The Aurat March saw an unprecedented rise in cases as men woke up from social media slumbers to tell women exactly which rights they need to fight for.
Let me just say how supported I felt when Ali from Karachi, who probably washed a single piece of utensil in his entire life, commented on my social media posts to tell me how inequality is a lie because he allowed his sister to become a doctor before carting her off to the nearest halal-approved bidder, who wanted a doctor wife so she could become a good teacher to his children.
After all, a seat at the big boy's table being occupied by a woman must have changed everything.
As more and more women are occupying these seats, men are becoming more vocal about their displeasure.
Of course, in order to be 'woke' in the streets and the tweets, they can't outright spew vitriol so they take to discrediting the efforts of these women.
We all were witness to one such case when Tania Aidrus took to Twitter to talk about the initiatives she could take in order to keep the public more informed about the novel coronavirus.
Aidrus, who left a very lucrative position at Google to return to Pakistan and be a part of Imran Khan’s “Digital Pakistan” initiative was trolled on social media by male journalists who thought they apparently know more than Aidrus, who spent 20 years of her career working in the digital stratosphere.
The men came out in droves to give their two cents.
Yet, countries all over the world are using artificial intelligence and technology to fight the virus.
AI is being used in Canada to analyse government documents, social media platforms and news reports in order to trace outbreaks.
Technology has made it possible for drones to deliver medication and supplies from one place to the other all the while minimising human contact and the risk of transmission.
AI algorithms are being used to find the proteins that make up the virus so that other people can benefit from this information in order to create cures.
Chatbots are being deployed all over the world so that the dissemination of information is more efficient and is the first defence against protecting yourself from the strain.
Tech giant AliBaba even built a new AI system that has a 96% accuracy in diagnosing and detecting coronavirus.
These are just some of the ways through which technology is playing its part in helping people deal with the corona pandemic.
Men have been doing this for so long and so frequently that we even had to create a word for it —Mansplaining. It's when a man thinks that the sheer force of being a man trumps the expertise that the other gender might hold.
But of course, if a couple of male journalists think that fighting this pandemic with "laptops and takeaways” is a joke, then it must be, right?
In the fight against a disease which requires minimal contact with other people, Tania got Sehat Kahani and Bima Mobile on board to provide free consultations to the millions of people stuck at home.
She even set up a chatbot where people could have all their queries answered. We live in an era where WhatsApp is the most widely believed source of information for the older generation, the demographic most threatened by this pandemic.
By making facts and figures readily available through these methods, Tania is helping combat the spread of misinformation.
As for all the trolling and hate against her on social media, maybe it’s all these men feeling threatened to see a woman in the limelight, or maybe the abuse is more of a side-effect of partisan grievances. Because fewer tongues were wagging when Umar Saif successfully used technology to help contain the spread of dengue in the country during Shehbaz Sharif’s era.
Whatever the case, Tania Aidrus is not the first woman to have her capabilities questioned.
And the sad part is, nor will she be the last.
Mansplaining is an everyday reality.
Celebrities do it. Friends and family do it. Even world leaders like Jeremy Corbyn and Tayyip Erdogan do it.
Turkish President Erdogan loves doling out wisdom on childbirth. Whether it’s overstepping his guest of honour duties at wedding functions by telling the newlyweds that they must have at least 4-5 children to telling women that they need equivalence of worth instead of equality, the president has done it all.
"Motherhood now is easy. You get a disposable diaper. Fold it, throw it away, get a new one and carry on. That's the situation now."
"These days you see they say one (child) is enough, or two is enough. Make at least three, look the conditions have gotten easier. The country needs this."
Granted that we live in a world where societal and cultural discrimination make a man’s voice powerful than a woman's but isn’t it time that men stop mansplaining women empowerment? Isn’t it time that men stop mansplaining altogether?
Ranbir Kapoor did it to Katrina Kaif by explaining her character to the host instead of letting Katrina talk about it herself when they were promoting their movie Jagga Jasoos.
Republican Dan Creshaw did it when he tried to explain security measures to Juliet Kayyem, a national security expert, a former employee at the Department of Homeland Security.
And if you want more examples, just take a look at the media you consume.
Recent Bollywood films which have inserted a male protagonist in the middle of women-centric issues to make sure that the movie is more palatable to their audiences who are used to seeing a man in the helm.
Mission Mangal was a story about how women in India orchestrated their first mission to Mars.
However, Akshay Kumar was put right in the middle to be the driving force that encourages and helps these women achieve their goal. So the focus was more on this man who acted as their cheerleader than the actual brilliant woman who actually made sh*t happen.
India’s badminton champion PV Sindhu is all set to get a biopic of her own very soon in which Akshay Kumar gets to play the coach. So instead of seeing how this woman battled odds to come out on the top, we will probably see how her coach suffered and worked hard to bring her to the top.
I worked in an office full of men. I politely nodded when they explained the wrong tax brackets to me. I looked interested when they told me how to use Oracle when I had been using it for two years straight.
I put up a smile on my face when they told me how important it is for a woman to wear dupatta at all times.
I even agreed as enthusiastically as I could when they tried to explain to me, their boss, how I could be better at my job.
My point is, I was dumb. Don’t be me.
In case anyone’s interested, I eventually grew a spine and started talking back and suddenly went from “Best Boss Ever” to “aggressive”, “mean”, “overtly bossy” and all those other objectives they call women when they start being assertive.
After all, a seat at the big boy's table being occupied by a woman must have changed everything. As more and more women are occupying these seats, men are becoming more vocal about their displeasure.
Granted that we live in a world where societal and cultural discrimination make a man’s voice powerful than a woman’s but isn’t it time that men stop mansplaining women empowerment? Isn’t it time that men stop mansplaining altogether?
Stop trying to explain to Tania Aidrus how she can get technology tips from you.
Stop commenting underneath Sania Mirza’s playing shots and telling her that her swing is off.
In the grand scheme of things where women are moving mountains by themselves, a man's unsolicited and frankly irrelevant opinion is probably not even a blip on their radars.
So Basheer, if you’re reading this, give it a rest already.
And in case you can’t, here’s a handy guide to consult in case boht zor se mansplaining arahy ho tou.