It’s Normal To Be A Misogynist In Pakistan. You Are The Odd One Out If You’re Not One
“With the emerging feminist movements in the post-industrial stage of the economy across the globe, male hegemony is certainly under threat, as the modern society doesn’t assign political, economic, social and cultural roles on the basis of gender”, Farrukh Javed argues.
While sitting in the luxurious café of a posh area in Islamabad with a female friend of mine as she smoked cigarette after cigarette, I happened to eavesdrop on the two guys sitting right behind us who were calling my friend ‘whore’ and ‘characterless’ because of her smoking habit. I looked directly at them. They seemed to be well-educated. I wondered if the lungs of women were called ‘character’. For, that was the only logical explanation I could think of for calling women who smoke as characterless.
Misogyny is considered a normal in our society. Even our elected representatives are not immune to this ill. Sheikh Rasheed and Imran Khan referring to Bilawal Bhutto as a female, and Talal Chaudhary making lewd remarks about Firdous Ashiq Awan, are but only two of the recent examples that lay bare our shallow understanding of the societal consequences of our misogynist ‘jokes’.
Dig deeper and you’d realise that it’s not just about the political class. This thinking lies at the core of the deeply embedded patriarchy in the socio-political discourse of Pakistan. In fact this sexism knows no bounds. From Rahul Gandhi advising Narendra Modi to ‘be a man’, slurs like ‘Iron my shirt’ hurled at Hilary Clinton during the US election campaign and New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden being advised to forfeit premiership after getting pregnant to General Musharaf, Khawaja Asif, Imran Khan, Talal Chaudhary and others constantly using sexist slurs against their opponents, clearly demonstrates that these populist demagogues are genuinely concerned about the diminishing dominance of men in the society.
With the emerging feminist movements in the post-industrial stage of the economy across the globe, male hegemony is certainly under threat, as the modern society doesn’t assign political, economic, social and cultural roles on the basis of gender. British sociologist John MacInnes puts it quite aptly in these lines:
“Masculinity has always been in one crisis or another due to fundamental incompatibility between the core principle of modernity that all human beings are essentially equal and the core tenet of patriarchy that men are naturally superior to women and thus destined to rule over them”
Men see women from the lens of patriarchy and classify them into two types: the good women who need to be protected and the bad women from whom the good women need to be protected. To them, a woman does not only serve the purpose of reproduction but also the purpose of the projection of their culture. This projection has been reinforced throughout the history by male-dominated institutions and patriarchal societies.
With the constant assertion of this notion, it becomes hard for women to pursue their social and political rights. The new social order demands people to reimagine themselves in the sphere of the modern society. It demands social acceptance of “bad” women, even if it disturbs the fragile egos of these misogynists believing in ‘saving good women from the bad ones’.
Lastly, people calling out political leader for sexist slurs on social media and using exactly the same misogynistic ‘jokes’ in real life is the evidence of the bigoted and prejudiced understanding of the gravity of the issue of misogyny and unwillingness to accept the responsibility for the social consequences of our own deeds. If these people were a character, they would resemble the one described by Alexander Pope in his Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot:
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike:
Alike reserved to blame, or to commend,
A timorous for, and a suspicious friend…
So well-bred Spaniels civilly delight.
In a mumbling of the game, they dare not bite.