The Aurat March happened last Friday, with marches in different cities in Pakistan and across the world. For the uninitiated, the Aurat March coincides with International Women’s Day, but also echoes the first Women’s March, which was held in 2017 in America, against the Trump government’s regressive ideologies. Since then it has been held each year, and gains momentum every time. Of course, the march also echoes the original protest that led to there being a Women’s Day—a socialist protest by garment factory workers in the US, who went on strike against their abysmal working conditions in 1909. The day, and rallies associated with it, have since been used to protest all kinds of injustice—for peace, during the first world war, for activism about women’s right to hold office, against discrimination and more recently, as a platform to support the rights of minorities and the LGBTQ community. The idea of a Women’s March has always been rooted in a desire to create change for the better, to work in mutual support and understanding towards a more tolerant, more equitable and safer society for everyone. This year’s Aurat March manifesto included, amongst many other issues, protection of women and minorities in the workplace, for emergency measures to be taken for safe air, animal welfare, enforced disappearances and the rights of the differently-abled. The marches themselves were wonderful, with hundreds of people chanting together in a peaceful rally, many of which culminated in performances in a public park space. It was a day of cooperation, solidarity and hope.

Then came the aftermath.

No Aurat March in Pakistan is complete without the subsequent sob-fest of the men and women of the patriarchy. You’d think that out of the 365 days of the year where the patriarchy and its foot-soldiers run amok, they would be able to let the resistance have one day unblemished by cascades of male tears and faux-concerned commentary, but no. It isn’t surprising any longer, one supposes. The fact that a march happens every year, and that the feminist movement is stronger than ever, is in itself testament to the unending onslaught of male privilege one has to keep fighting against. The backlash following the March is the epitome of irony: men and women moaning about “but what is the need for this” in the choicest of terms is the proof of the need. Many of the posters carried by the people who march at rallies like these are well-known for their wit and tongue-in-cheek commentary—“I’ll warm up my own food”, or “this is the time to ovary-react”. Some are more explicit. All of them have driven a dagger into the hearts of many, who have clutched their pearls in horror. What a potty mouth! How dreadful, that a poster should say “please keep unwanted photos of your genitals to yourself”! Haw! To those who are lucky enough to not be in the know, it is customary these days for men to take photos of their unmentionables and send them to women online. The idea might be that the victim of this disgusting sight will immediately fall madly in love with the owner of the property—who knows how the male mind works? But the fact remains that these photos are revolting and filthy, and men send them to intimidate and sicken women. A poster bringing it up at a march for women’s rights is well within every bound of decency and logic because it’s a real issue. But the Army of Tears doesn’t see that. To them, the problem is not that there are perverts under every online stone who harass women at every opportunity, but that a woman spoke up about it. There’s no outrage for the forced marriages, the dowry burnings, the crossed-out khula on nikahnamas, the unwanted pregnancies borne by unwilling mothers—because that would mean actually caring about the fabric of society. That would mean standing up for justice, and that takes courage that the average griping, carping troll just doesn’t have.

What about poverty, many bleat. What about working women, where was the poster for X or Y, why did elite women march, they aren’t ‘real’ women. The list of complaints goes on and on, as men and women both pretend to be adding depth to the conversation while really just sharpening their nails on the whetstone of ignorance and stupidity. Another irony—all of the issues they think they’re highlighting were already being discussed and protested. You didn’t even have had to be there; if anyone had just done a little research online they would have known that. You would have, perhaps, read the manifesto, seen the women in wheelchairs, the factory workers, the house help, the trans women, the queer men, the children. But why would you try to find out more? When the patriarchy has addled your brain so efficiently, you think everything you say is true just because you said it! Hurrah!

Privilege is so magnificent; no wonder nobody ever wants to share it. But here’s a trick—it takes nothing from you to be kind. It takes very little from your already overwhelming mountain of privilege to be supportive, even if you don’t understand. And if nothing else, like our grannies used to say—if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Nobody needs your mansplaining, especially on Women’s Day.