The recent fracas about Shahid Afridi, ageing cricket star, has been informative. For the uninformed, in his recently launched memoir, Afridi wrote about his decision to not let any of his four daughters play any outdoor sports, for ‘cultural and religious’ reasons. This was quite obviously a lame play for attention, as it came on the heels of Afridi’s previous admission that he hasn’t read his own book- he co-wrote it with a journalist, but we all know who really wrote the entire thing.

What has been most revealing about all of this is people’s response to it. Afridi ran the gamut—he made a clearly inflammatory statement and pompously added that he didn’t care what ‘feminists’ thought about it, people had many thoughts, Afridi plaintively tweeted about people minding their own business, people had more thoughts. The thoughts, unsurprisingly, consisted of many people nodding their virtual heads so hard they got dizzy, because as the father of these children, Afridi is perfectly within his paternal rights to make decisions about them.

Maybe if one were at a desk job with no interest in sports one could be forgiven for thinking sports were useless and certainly not worth letting one’s daughters out in the fresh air for. But for a man who has built his entire career on playing sports to say that his girls are only allowed to play in a strictly controlled environment is disappointing and painfully regressive. What sports are played indoors? Table tennis, basketball if you have an inside court, squash…swimming, again if you have access to an indoor pool. The implication of ‘inside sports’ is that ‘outside’ ones are public. That people—well, men—will be able to see your daughters running, jumping, throwing. What does that imply? That you know full well what kind of men are involved in the sporting scene and you don’t trust them? Does that mean you’re also part of the reason why it’s hard for women to make it as professional sportspeople? Or is it that you don’t think it’s important for your daughters to pursue sports in a serious way; that just that like everything else, girls are ‘allowed’ to do things, but only within a certain limit?

The most successful ODI spin-bowler in the world right now is Sana Mir, the captain of the Pakistani women’s cricket team. She learned to play with her brothers, on the street. Naseem Hameed is South Asia’s fastest female athlete, smashing records at the SAF games in 2010. Squash champ Maria Toorpakai Wazir pretended to be a boy when she played with her brothers, also on the streets. Twinkle Sohail won a gold in the 2015 Asian Bench Press Championship. Sisters Amina and Ifrah Wali bagged skiing gold and silver medals in the 2011 South Asian Winter Games. None of these fantastic, inspiring and talented women made it this far without a great deal of daring, determination and family support. If you’ve climbed seven of the world’s highest mountains by the age of twenty-five, like Samina Baig did, you can bet anything it’s because your parents didn’t tell you you could only climb things inside.

It’s not just about sports, quite honestly. It’s about the vicious cycle that tries to keep girls and young women invisible. The loudest, most smug upholders of ‘culture and religion’ are also the biggest misogynists, and it’s not a coincidence. Who decided that the integrity of our culture and religion only hinge upon the movement of the female body? Why is it always a matter of cultural and religious urgency that the freedom of women be curtailed as effectively as possible? And how on earth does it become ‘good parenting’ that should be ‘respected’ when what you’re really doing is clipping your daughter’s wings? It is a false liberality to say that you support your daughters in what they do if you only ‘allow’ them freedom to the level you deem sufficient. Of course, my girls can play sports—only if it’s inside, if you’re wearing long, baggy trousers, playing with women, with female coaches and a female audience. Of course, you can study—as long as it’s something like art or English, you are in the same city and can live at home, you don’t have to go to class after two p.m and are free on weekends. In a way, I’m quite pleased Afridi outed himself as the new, faux-permissive desi parent that exists today. It’s the kind of parent or prospective in-law that will brag about their educated women, with the subtext carefully edited—oh yes, she’s got a Master’s (in the subject we approved), she has a job (a part-time one that pays nothing), she knows how to drive (but isn’t allowed to have her own car). Hopefully, more of us are getting better at hearing the parentheses, and saying ‘no more of that’.