The Guilty Conscience Of A Pakistani Man
As a kid, I always wondered as to why I have to accompany my mother or sister to the market. On my inquiry, I was told by the people, who at that time I thought possessed some wisdom, that since I am a man, I am required to protect the women of the family.
At that time, it used to make me feel awful because if it was protection that was required of me, I was not only incompetent but also fragile. And because of my incompetency at it, I always used to wonder whether it was actually protection that is the purpose. Or is the society restricting the movement of women, making them dependent on men for mobility and taking the public space away from them? But, on the repeated insistence of the ‘people with experience and wisdom’ I kept close to any women of the household that would go out in public. It was also instilled in me that a man’s job is to protect the woman and on such frequent repetition of the lesson, I started to believe in it.
As I started pacing in age, and as soon as I overcame my fragile body and thought that maybe I can actually protect them, my sense of incompetency at the job still kept lurking inside me.
I was told by the media, by my friends and family that I am the strongest being that there is, I am a MAN, and I started believing in it. And as soon as it formed into a dogma, anything that came close to shattering it, I either tried to destroy it or avoid such happenings overall.
I was required to protect the power that was given to me. But now that I had such sense of power, going to the market with women brought me shame. Each time I would go out, I would see people, may that be of any gender, closing down the space around me with their stares and comments, which normally would not happen when I travelled with men. My power was challenged each time I went out, I felt weak and my incompetency reflected on me due to the false belief that I had developed to ‘protect the women’.
Initially, on any such occasion, where the women of the house had to go out, I asked them to wear burqa or cover themselves up, wrap themselves up such that people can only see shadows moving, why? Because I wanted to protect another false belief of power inside me.
But even that didn’t work.
People would still find existence within these shadows and with that the sense of powerlessness would again hit me. But this time, I would protect that by completely barring the women from going out at all. I will present it to them as a privilege that they don’t have to do this hideous work of going to the market. That they are too special. Their pride and honor is too precious, so let me do it for them. And as soon as they would agree, with a little forceful insistence, my sense of power will come back. Finally I have avoided the truth. Finally I have given them protection. Finally, my power will not be challenged. Finally, I have taken any sense of public life away from them, alienated them, and made them dependent on myself, so I can protect my false sense of power.
Finally, I have labelled them as private being, moving about from one household to another. Finally I have constructed the idea that market is a heinous place, a place not for women. And to maintain this belief, I will narrate stories about it, stare at those women who would go out in public until they and the men with them feel insecure and finally harass one or two, so that their household takes up our constructed belief as well.
Even with such precautions, my insecurities will not end. Within the household, I am insecure. I am insecure that I will one day have a daughter of my own. I will have to send her to another household, and through my daughter, another household will control me, can possibly shame me and attack my power dogma.
My desire for a baby boy will increase and I will take my second step towards alienating women. Though I would only recognize women from their roles and place in the household, I will even try to alienate them from the household. I will instill the thought of no belonging in them. As soon as a girl is born, I’ll keep on repeating that how she doesn’t belong in the household. How she has to represent my masculinity in another house, where she will no longer be a ‘daughter’ but a ‘mother’, the prescribed purpose of her life. And even when she becomes a mother, I will not let her have the children she bares. I will take her name away from not only her but also from her children. They will be my kids, will have my name and I will be the one who will decide how they will live, whether they will bring shame to my masculinity or not. To the son, I will teach how to restrict women, how they are a threat to his masculinity, how they are to be kept as creatures of the household, how to maintain the fear of the market and how to alienate them from their house, family, children and finally from their self. And to the daughter, I will teach how she was unwanted, how she has no identity of her own, how she needs to borrow identity from the men around her, how she is a private being, how she will be alienated from her family, children, house and finally herself.
Hence the cycle will continue, with every guilty conscience challenged whenever the women will come out and question our dogma. I will call them man-hater. I will call them vulgar. I will call them ‘against humanity’. I will feel offended.
I will feel threatened that my rights are taken away from me. I will reach to the law to punish them. But I will never change. I will never accept that I am not that powerful. I will never accept that they are beings too, like me. I will never let any of this happen.