Gender & Identity, Life

I never realized how much women were held back in Pakistan

My 6-year-old cousin looked at the TV screen in awe, and then turned to me, exclaiming, “These are girls playing cricket!”

Desis belong to a close-knit community, and extended family visits are an absolute must. Your cousins stay at your place for at least a few days, if not vice-versa. My family is no different, and my cousins were staying over for the weekend when a fascinating incident happened.

My uncle was switching channels on TV and he stopped at TenSports, which was showing a women’s cricket match: Pakistan vs. England. My 6-year-old cousin looked at the TV screen in awe, and then turned to me exclaiming, “These are girls playing cricket!”

"DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 19: The Pakistan team celebrates victory on the Duckworth Lewis method during the Women's ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 match between India and Pakistan at Feroz Shah Kotla Ground on March 19, 2016 in Delhi, India. (Photo by Jan Kruger-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)"
“DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 19: The Pakistan team celebrates victory on the Duckworth Lewis method during the Women’s ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 match between India and Pakistan at Feroz Shah Kotla Ground on March 19, 2016 in Delhi, India. (Photo by Jan Kruger-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)”

I could understand his surprise because he has only seen men play the game; therefore, he automatically assumed that women did not play cricket. I laughed at his reaction, “Yes, these are girls playing cricket. And they play pretty well too.”

 His next question was immediate, “Aap kiun, nhi, kheltiin?” (Why don’t you play cricket?)
I laughed again, “Because I don’t know how to.”
“It’s okay, I’ll teach you!” His response was almost immediate, as he excitedly got up to “teach” me how to bowl and bat. 

My family loves cricket, almost to the point of fanaticism. There’s not a single cricket match that’s missed at home. In fact, our TV lounge is almost like a home-version of a cricket stadium. Everyone gathers around and is either cheering, booing, or having an equivalent reaction, alongside minute-by-minute commentary and everyone’s personal analysis.

There’s always going to be a Misbah vs. Afridi debate, or endless arguments about which players should have been selected for the matches/series. Naturally, I’ve grown up with a love of the game too.

But I’ve always watched men playing cricket. When I was a kid, it was unfathomable to even think of a girl playing cricket, a Pakistani female cricketer was just of the question! As I grew older, I became increasingly cynical about society’s predefined gender roles, and about what women were “allowed” to do. 

Thanks to the recent achievements of the Pakistani women’s cricket team, the idea of women playing cricket is not absurd anymore. Their accomplishments are real, and they are unknowingly impacting families and children whose existence they’re undoubtedly unaware of.

It’s because of their representation that my 6-year-old cousin easily accepted the idea of women playing cricket, a sport that has been male-dominated, for ages now. He will grow up in an environment that will hopefully be more reflective of gender equality and a lack of sexism. 

I want to thank women who had the courage to take the first steps and pave the way for others. It couldn’t have been easy, especially considering how TV channels and show anchors target women who step outside the norms. But these women overcame these challenges, and crossed the hurdles they encountered.

That is why I salute them, and hope that female representation and participation becomes stronger in the future. Because this is how ripples are created, and how change is wrought. It’s how we change mindsets, and make acceptance inevitable.