The singularly most tedious thing to be told, other than “we don’t have this in your size”, is “chill out”. The phrase is never offered when you actually need it, or accompanied by an enormous ice-cream cone, but, without fail, when one is riled up about something. In spite of all the self-deprecating jokes, one knows how to gracefully accept that certain things aren’t meant to be. For those, chilling out is appropriate—you missed the last ticket to see Sienna Miller in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, well ok, chill out. Someone ate the last samosa, bad luck, chill out. You studied like you’d be sent to a gulag if you failed but still missed an A by two marks? You did your best, chill out. But “chill out” is never used to commiserate and calm situations of similarly tepid nature. “Chill out” is suggested as a means to calm one’s outrage about blackface, about Qandeel Baloch’s death anniversary and other “less important” things.

We operate on an all or nothing scale—either you cure cancer and broker world peace, or go home. It’s also a scale that applies to women, because men can run amok all they like and still be championed proudly. You can be an utter pig and become the President of the USA, you can be a nitwit and run companies, you can be a man and head a women’s empowerment committee. But it’s not enough for Malala Yousafzai to survive being shot in the head and win the Nobel Prize, she needs to also come home, educate every single girl in KPK, get married, have two girls and two boys, roll perfectly round roties and become Prime Minister of the Milky Way for us to grudgingly acknowledge that she just might be talented, or brave, or determined. Qandeel Baloch is dismissed in death as she was in life as a waste of time, someone stupid who brought her death upon herself. She was asking for ‘it’, so if she got ‘it’ then hey, there’s worse things than some guy murdering his sister. There’s the utter sacrilege of being a sexy, outspoken girl who was ambitious and greedy for success, fame and money in the same way anyone on our cricket team is, the way Amir Liaquat is, or Taher Shah. There are countless men making utter fools of themselves on the internet all the time, including the chumps who send unsolicited photos of their privates to girls who then shame them online (bravo, girls). None of their siblings are rushing about, outraged, out to avenge the honour of their family by drugging and then suffocating them to death.

That’s the problem with perpetually minimising everything. You shut down a conversation because it’s impossible to broach. It will mean unpacking so much misogyny, ignorance and socialisation that it is terrifying. So instead of even trying to talk or understand, shut it down. Why are you mourning a brazen woman when the orphans are dying, the brick kilns are enslaving families for generations, etcetera. Of course those things are important. But this is too. Qandeel wasn’t just an internet star. She was the Meera Jee of her generation—confident, brash, impossible to control. She didn’t give a hoot what people thought of her, and that is the biggest nose-thumbing of them all. Shaming someone only works if they care what you think, and for a woman to not care—and unabashedly revel in that power—is the ultimate rebellion. That’s why in death she resonates with so many women, because we’ve been socialised to care, deeply, about this external opinion. It’s a conditioning that permeates class and economics. Log kya kahengey has achieved meme status, but it’s still one of the primary reasons anyone does (or doesn’t do) anything.

But we’re supposed to “chill”, for some reason. A recent blackface photo-shoot done by a fashion photographer is also being dismissed as ‘innovation’ when it’s actually just plain racist. Blackface—the deliberate blackening of a lighter skinned person to resemble a black person—has roots in a deeply racist form of entertainment that lampooned black people. It’s akin to putting on a dhoti and pretending to be a “villager”, only worse because while you can change your levels of urban sophistication, you can’t change the colour of your skin. If you really want to start a conversation about how beauty standards are always skewered towards fairness, then use actual models of colour—real brown women, not fair ones with bronzer on. We’re a society where you can’t even print the phrase “dark-skinned” because it’s an insult, so we go with euphemisms like “dusky”. How on earth can we pretend that colour is something we never think about, use as a marker of worth or aspire to? It’s ignorance at worst, naiveté at best, to suggest we “chill out” about blackface.

Women are told to “relax” all the time, to remind them to speak softly and stay in their place. But when everyone is being told to shut up and sit down, all the time, we have an even bigger problem. Because where you draw the line between important and less important is not up to other people, it’s up to you. Other people don’t get to denigrate your grief or outrage by calling it irrelevant, because their primary problem is with dissent. Throughout the ages anger is suppressed because outrage leads to dissent, and ‘No’ means trouble. Malala said no, Qandeel said no, Salmaan Taseer said no. Paraphrasing Camus, it only takes one man or woman to stand up and say no for rebellion to really happen. Perhaps that’s why everyone is so terrified.