Are you a 'good guy’? Here are some questions to ask yourself

Use these tips to be a better ally to the women around you!
Updated 27 Jul, 2021

Hello, dear (male) reader.

I have a question for you. Do you think of yourself as a ‘good guy’? Without the quotation marks? Somebody who respects women, believes in women’s rights, and is appalled by sexual violence? Yes? If so, then this letter is for you. Yes, you. I have so much to say to you. And yet, you don’t seem to have much to say back.

A couple of months ago, I started noticing a pattern. Whenever news broke of the latest sexual abuse, the women around me were shocked. Outraged. Terrified. And from the men? Radio silence.

In September, the horrific motorway rape took place. Once again, the women I know came out in droves. Shocked. Horrified. Furious. Fearful. A wave of heartbreak shared amongst female comrades. A mutual sense of solidarity and support. And from the men (with very few exceptions)? Radio silence.

A couple of half-hearted calls to ‘hang the rapist’. A lazy ‘like’ or two on social media. For the most part, you carried on posting about your daily activities — at the gym, watching football games, going on late-night drives, hanging out at dhabas with the ‘bros’. Flaunting the kind of freedom, ease, and privilege that Pakistani women can only dream of. Were you doing everything under the sun except showing up to a protest or advocating for women’s safety?

We live in a constant state of fear and trauma. And yet, the lack of support from men is shocking. I’m not even talking about the men who openly abuse and attack women and who have no remorse for their actions. I’m talking about men like you.

Comment sections on social media (e.g. for newspapers like Dawn, Facebook groups like Halaat Updates, and even just regular Twitter/Instagram/Facebook interactions) can contain the most horrible things said to women.

Harassment, abuse, unsolicited sexual messages and even downright threats of violence. In August, Pakistan’s female journalists launched a campaign called #AttacksWontSilenceUs in light of the numerous vulgar messages, harassment, and rape/death threats that they regularly receive on social media.

Are you contributing by speaking up?

When you see something unjust around you, do you say something? Stand up? Speak out? Make it clear to fellow men that this behaviour is not okay and will not be tolerated? Do you check on the women in your life? Ask them how they're doing? Help them feel seen, heard and understood?

Make no mistake about it: what you allow will continue. A man harassing a woman will likely NOT back off if the woman tells him to stop, but WILL back off if a fellow man intervenes.

Are you checking on the women in your life?

Do you ask if there are concrete ways that you can make their lives easier? If there is any way you can help? With the fear, the grief, the restricted mobility? Do you help with transport? With finding them a reliable handyman if they need odd jobs done around the house but are too scared of letting an unknown man enter it? Do you use your wide network in helping them find resources? Funding their start-ups?

It’s no secret that women, whether personally or professionally, are often not taken as seriously as men — even when they’re experts in a particular field.

Do you give credibility to women’s voices?

How many of the opinions that you follow on social media come from women? How many of the real-life role models that you look up to are women? Scroll through the list of people you follow, the things you share and repost. Can you name 5 of your favourite female political analysts?

How about female artists like Isma Gul Hasan? Activists like Nighat Dad? Writers like Aisha Hamid? Athletes like Maria Toorpakai Wazir? Community trailblazers like Kanwal Ahmed? Entrepreneurs like Khalida Brohi?

Start by noticing how male-centric your list of role models is and then diversify it. Value women’s insight. Share women’s content. Support female-owned businesses. Amplify women’s voices and promote their platforms. Remember, the unequal treatment of women often starts at home and extends into the public sphere.

Do you actively participate in putting an end to the wrongful treatment of women in your community?

At school:

During P.E. class in the school grounds, do you notice who takes up most of the space. Most of the time, male students are encouraged to run around freely and play sports like cricket and football, while female students are confined to a tiny area to play a ‘dainty’ sport like badminton, or left alone to do nothing at all.

If you see a disparity (which you probably will), speak up. Boys and girls deserve equal opportunities at school, and this includes the opportunity to develop their athletic skills.

At the workplace:

Do you notice who takes up most of the space in conversations? Who is promoted and given control of important projects? Who is uncomfortable in the presence of some ‘overly friendly’ colleagues? Studies have found that men interrupt women 33% more often than they interrupt other men.

If you see a disparity (which you probably will), speak up. Advocate for workplace anti-harassment training. Draw attention to the pay gap between men and women who are equally talented and doing equal amounts of work but are compensated differently. In the case of imbalanced team meetings, politely yield the conversation back to an interrupted female colleague and remind your disruptive male peers to wait their turn.

In your family:

Do you notice how the men in your family treat the women? Pay special attention to how women often go silent when ‘the man of the house’ is angry? Take a look at your everyday life. Do you stay silent when they loudly praise sons and husbands for doing a single chore around the house (washing the dishes/ changing a diaper)?

Globally, about 30% of women who have been in a relationship have experienced intimate partner violence. The number is likely much higher considering the shame attached with reporting.

In your community:

Do you advocate if women are pressured to get married at a much earlier age than men? When they are expected to abandon their education? Repress their dreams and career goals? Obey every whim and fancy of their in-laws? Labelled as ‘bad’, ‘characterless’ and ‘out’ if they don’t comply?

If you see a disparity (which you probably will), speak up. For example, if your family expects a large dowry from their bahu, make it clear that this is unacceptable (and also illegal!). Remind yourself and those around you that men who do their share of household work are not ‘helping’ women. This kind of language implies that household work is solely a woman’s responsibility to begin with.

Similarly, fathers who take care of their child for a couple of hours while the mother goes out, are not ‘babysitting’ or ‘doing their wife a favour’. It’s not ‘babysitting’ if it’s your own child. It’s called parenting. It’s called fatherhood. Normalise it. Don't idolise it.

Have you made sure you understand consent?

And I mean REALLY understand consent? Made sure your friends understand it too? Know that only an enthusiastic yes means yes? Silence does not mean yes? Hesitation does not mean yes? An exhausted, coerced yes does not mean yes? ‘I don’t know’ does not mean yes — AND you don't take it as a challenge to turn it into a yes?

Being in a relationship does not automatically mean consent. Past consent does not automatically guarantee future consent. If somebody is unsure, do not plead with them to change their mind. Do not wear them down with constant begging. Do not put them in a difficult position by emotionally manipulating them (e.g. by saying things like ‘you would do this if you really loved me’). No more ‘haseena maan jaye gi’. No more ‘yeh uss ka style hoyein ga, honton pe na dil mein haan hoyein ga’.

In 2017, it was found that 93% of Pakistani women had faced some form of sexual violation. Meanwhile, the conviction rate of rape in Pakistan is under 3%. This means that well over 90% of rapists walk free — and this is just for the reported cases.

When a woman tells you she’s been sexually violated (harassed, coerced, abused, assaulted) do you think she’s lying?

Exaggerating? Especially if the man accused is your friend — or even you yourself? Do you secretly think it was her own fault? That it’s a woman’s job to ‘protect’ herself instead of a man’s job to control himself?

Contrary to (misguided) popular belief, women do not gain anything from revealing their traumatic experiences. In fact, they actually risk severe victim-blaming, disbelief, humiliation and abuse. Kate Manne, a philosopher who teaches at Cornell University, defines ‘himpathy’ as ‘the excessive or inappropriate sympathy extended to a male agent or wrongdoer over his female victim’.

A study done amongst college students in the U.S. found that only 8-10% of them reported their rape to the police. This meant that at the very least, 90% of rapes went unreported. Among the 10% that were reported, only 5% were found to be false. What do these statistics mean? That if you decided to believe the victim in 1000 cases of rape, you would be right in 995 of those cases. Those are staggering odds. Pick your side wisely.

When the men you know treat women badly, do you make excuses for them?

When your friend's partner is upset because he verbally abused her, do you say ‘yes what he did was wrong but he’s just been going through a hard time’? Or ‘yes he messed up but he just didn’t know any better’? Or ‘yes he really hurt you but I promise he’s actually a really nice guy’? Or even 'what did you do to provoke him?’

All of these statements are dismissive of the pain of women. Know that nothing justifies abuse.

If you’ve had a difficult childhood/experienced trauma in the past, do you take the abuse out on the women in your life?

Do you keep hurting women due to your own unresolved issues (which you make no effort to heal), while expecting them to simultaneously bear the mistreatment and also ‘fix’ you? Do you acknowledge your issues and seek therapy and support? Do you feel your feelings and cry when you need to?

Experiencing trauma does not give you a free pass to take the abuse out on someone else. We are not responsible for what happened to us, but we are responsible for making sure we don’t pass our pain on to others. Replace toxic masculinity with kind, supportive, wholesome masculinity. The whole world benefits from emotionally healthy men (yes, including you!).

When you mess up (say or do something sexist or abusive), do you ACTUALLY do anything to improve your behaviour?

Did you harass a woman in the past and are now disgusted by what you did? In addition to sincerely apologising to her (IF appropriate, and UNLESS she wants you to stay away from her), try creating a domino effect by teaching your younger male cousins and nephews about consent and respect? Ensure that they don’t grow up causing the same harm you did?

Show your repentance by giving good back into the world.

If a woman doesn’t accept your ‘apology’ and is still hurt by what you did, do you get mad at her?

Do you call her unreasonable? Crazy? Hormonal? Or do you tell her you understand if she's not ready to forgive you? Do you ask what you can do to make up for what you did?

Recognise that women do not owe you forgiveness. It is inconsiderate and unjust to pressure a woman into forgiving a man who has hurt her, especially under the guise of ‘being the bigger person’. Forgiveness cannot be coerced.

If you’re raising your eyebrows at this piece and muttering that ‘feminists have gone too far’, please self-reflect and notice: how are you reacting when women (like me) call you out? Are you acknowledging our pain?

Do not invalidate it by getting angry back at us. Do not get defensive. Do not yell, call us names, or tell us we’re crazy. Do not dismiss our anger, tell us to calm down, or command us to ‘fix our tone’. Most of all, do not ignore us and go about your day like nothing ever happened.

Why, you ask? Do you know how it feels to never be safe in this society and to realize that even the ‘good’ men around you don’t find your cause worth fighting for? Do you know what it’s like to be made to feel worthless? That your right to feel safe and happy is worth less than a ‘good’ man’s reluctance to confront those of his own gender?

It's easy to say you support women, much harder to live up to it. While patriarchy is enforced, conditioned, and learned, it can also be deconstructed, dismantled, and unlearned. Start with yourself. We’ve been waiting long enough.


An exhausted Pakistani woman


HQ Nov 19, 2020 04:13pm
While fully understand the reason behind the article . However on international men’s day the topic of discussion should not really be women’s issues . Only on this day let us discuss other topics. Men’s health issues, mental health and education are also important topics
Bilal Nov 19, 2020 04:19pm
Is it all about women to be a good man?
Solomon The king Nov 19, 2020 04:20pm
just one day for men, and who are rest for?
Toni Nov 19, 2020 04:28pm
This is really stupid as I am a man everyday, and I know it, I don't need to shout and tell, same is for women, we should just believe in who we are and respect
Talha Nov 19, 2020 04:36pm
Good article, self accountability and behavioral improvement is a continous process and should be encouraged irrespective gender
Nationalist Nov 19, 2020 04:43pm
So International Mens day is about women..
anonymous Nov 19, 2020 04:56pm
Imagine such a piece was published on women's day. Imagine, instead of talking about women's rights, an 'exhausted' guy published a 'checklist' for women to see if they're 'good women' on women's day.
ali Nov 19, 2020 05:05pm
So much about women on men's day. Why don't you write about the good men around you on this auspicious day of Men.
Adil Nov 19, 2020 05:39pm
I have always said n thought that I'm a feminist but now I can surely say that no, I'm not, 'cz I have never thought or read like this before! Thanks for writing such a wonderful peace! And from now I will try best to be a good men
Adil Nov 19, 2020 05:39pm
I have always said n thought that I'm a feminist but now I can surely say that no, I'm not, 'cz I have never thought or read like this before! Thanks for writing such a wonderful peace! And from now I will try best to be a good men
ANS Nov 19, 2020 06:09pm
Men do not need a day for their own as patriarchy has had its day since centuries which has resulted in the current inequalities.
Enlightened One Nov 19, 2020 06:27pm
As a man, I really had no idea what a woman has to endure in her life. This article has truly highlighted many issues that a man needs to understand in hus interactions with eomen. However, sometimes such a big list just makes a man avoid interacting with women altogether, though maybe that is what you are aiming for!
Syed Chishti Nov 19, 2020 06:28pm
People have nothing better in life to do??
DEVKANT SOMANI Nov 19, 2020 06:35pm
I guess all men are guilty of the above things at some point in their lives.
Alexa Nov 19, 2020 07:12pm
Great piece of writing. I am whatsapping it to every mail of my family.
TZaman Nov 19, 2020 07:44pm
Nice. But it was too long. I consider myself to be good man.
Javed Asghar Nov 19, 2020 07:50pm
I agree with the points raised in this post 100%.
Ehsan Nov 19, 2020 08:04pm
This article is less about men’s day and more about anti women men. Btw why almost every clip had to be borrowed from across the border.
Shyam Babu Nov 19, 2020 08:25pm
Well written article. However, to be a good man every qualifier doesn't need to revolve around a woman - a man can do things like taking responsibility if children at home in shaping their future. A good man is the one who takes responsibility of parents in their old age!
Jibran Nov 19, 2020 08:28pm
This international men's day, lets not make it about women or the dominant men that are visible to women. Lets acknowledge the hardworking men who work themselves to an early grave never to be appreciated. Lets stop asking honest men to work harder and earn as much as your friend's husband, who just happens to be availing illegal perks. Lets appreciate the sacrifices of men who risk their lives to travel abroad and spend their best years in inhuman conditions so their families can enjoy a better life. For one day of the year, maybe give the infinite complaining some rest.
sameer Nov 19, 2020 08:39pm
lol, I thought It was International men's Day, but this article made it all about women !
KALEIDOSCOPE Nov 19, 2020 08:41pm
Wonder what the reaction would be the if title was addressing the female gender.
Inam Nov 19, 2020 09:12pm
Odd how an International Woman's Day can talk about women's issues, and an International Men's Day can.. Well, the same!
Azeem Nov 19, 2020 09:30pm
Finally found a article about mens day. And its focussed around women and how to make them happy.. bravo
Sourabh Nov 19, 2020 10:23pm
I am from India and we have same situation here. I was very angry and sad when I first learnt that women constantly live in fear. I will do my best to ensure that women around me feel safe and comfortable. Your article is really well written. Thank you for writing it.
Raj Nov 20, 2020 02:59am
@HQ said it the best. International Mens Day is about highlighting mens issues. Encourage men to talk about their issues. Typically men horde up stress, eat unhealthy food and drink alcohol to escape stress. Mental issues left untreated become physical ailments and they die an early death.
Moon Nov 20, 2020 10:03am
Very pessimist about the man.
Chengiz khan Nov 20, 2020 10:03am
Seriously? through a feminist lens, is the ONLY way to validate a "good guy" - absurd!
Shahzeb Azhar Nov 20, 2020 10:26am
This is the first time I cried while reading an article.
Chris Roberts Nov 20, 2020 11:27am
This is a very moving and thought-provoking article with plenty of points to ponder. Not a bad idea for men to do some introspection on men's day, particularly in the light of all the things being discussed here. Whilst some of the comments above are not favourable to this article - as no attention is given to the good and meaningful things many men do, as well as the many sacrifices many men make for their spouses and children - the degree of hurt, anger, frustation, pain, humiliation and abuse so many women have to deal with on a daily basis far exceeds what most men will ever experience, as men are the ones who are continuously dishing it out. What would it take for such men to sit up and take stock?? As the saying goes: 'only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.'
Anon Nov 20, 2020 01:42pm
We live with it every single second every single day. It feels really suffocating, trust me. Try living like a woman for a single day, you wouldn't be able to. Simply put, that's how hard it is being a woman.
Ahmar Qureshi Nov 20, 2020 04:15pm
Being a Good Man - We ought to be! :-) I have following females to deal with every day - with Utmost Respect! <3 1. My Wife 2. My Daughter 3. Elderly Mother in Law (My Mom passed away) 4. My fellow colleague, we sit at work place next to each other. 5. Enroute to the office & back - the women I get to see on roads & in cars. 6. Female clients. 7. Responding to a wrong number (especially when I hear a female voice) with humble tone I say "thank you for calling but you've mistakenly dialed some one else's number :-) 8. When I see some properly decked up women - I look above the sky & say O' Lord! Your nature & beauty! :-) 9. When I am dealing with female entrepreneur. 10. - & When I am commenting at the article written by a female. :-)
Syed Nov 20, 2020 05:17pm
Following is a strategy women most often use to exploit men and make men spend their hard-earned money on things which otherwise would be of no interest:
Qasim khan Nov 20, 2020 05:24pm
A must checklist for every man. Bravo for such an incredible writing.
Asad Nov 20, 2020 06:47pm
And why is the same not applicable to women. Do they not feel mad when their apology is not accepted.
Hania Nov 20, 2020 11:15pm
Love each and every word of this!
aftab khan Nov 20, 2020 11:45pm
Timing is not right but point fully noted . Article appreciated . Try to pick some points and implement in my life..starting with attitude change to ladies of my family.
Sohaib Nov 20, 2020 11:52pm
Thank you for this! Didn't realize how much I have yet to learn. Speaking up and bringing change with actions is the responsibility of every sane man. I hope we can make this world a safer place for women
Fatemeh Nov 21, 2020 12:18am
Absolutely spot on! We all need to collectively do more. Men must use their privilege for the benefit of the masses!! Love the article. Easy to read and comprehensive
AW Nov 21, 2020 12:23am
Men and women both need to be respected and should respect each other and support each other. Female and male relationship is complimentary. Men should not be singled out as the sole culprits and labeled as insensitive because there are many women who physically and emotionally abuse men.
immanuel Nov 21, 2020 09:06am
Its international mens day. Its about men, not about you. We shoild be talking about men's mental health, etc.
Showkat Nov 21, 2020 12:14pm
Untill i read this... i felt like i am a really good man.... i now realise i am sort of good,,,man i will try my level best to be a Good man Blessings sister
MalikA Nov 21, 2020 08:41pm
Excellent and informative article. All the comments on this post from insecure men are dumb. This is brilliant and thank you for writing it.
Izza Nov 21, 2020 09:27pm
An incredibly well-written and though provoking article. To have an issue with this piece is synonymous to having an issue with advocating for women, not completely believing in the power of consent and believing you have the right to enforce patriarchy. Not all men sure, but enough men to have the need to pen down this article.
Qurratulain Raza Nov 22, 2020 01:31am
Well written and argued . Also, the points collectively voices every woman's perspective- the article takes many. All these things need to be said to the men who claim to be good. There is more to be done to win that title. Good work
Afrah Nov 22, 2020 10:56pm
An extremely well written article and super straight forward. This is a must read!!!
Afrah Nov 22, 2020 10:57pm
An extremely well written article. This is a must read!!
Sana Nov 23, 2020 09:10am
Why are all the men here so offended that this article was posted on men’s day? It’s literally an article that is educating you, telling you how to be a good man, and asking you to check yourselves - why is that such a bad thing?