Hang The Patriarchy
Dear Pakistani Men,
I get it. You’re scared. For years, despite being weighed down by expectations of society and Patriarchy with respect to your ‘masculinity’, you have still enjoyed a kind of privilege that you now see being taken away from you. It happens, no one wants to lose power even if it is gained through unfair, unjust, and ignorant means. Slave owners back in the day felt the exact same way, but slavery is wrong, and so is misogyny, so get with the program – this is going to happen, why delay the inevitable?
After the PM’s infamous ‘HBO interview’, men – and many women – have come out in support of his statement, claiming that he is correct in his estimation:
1. Given the sensitivities of our culture – having no nightclubs/discos etc. – men have nowhere to go (to let out their frustration) and when they see a woman showing skin, they are incapable of self-control because, “they are not robots”. That is one so-called “logical” proposition. Then,
2. Women who wear ‘few clothes’ are enticing them. These people have shared the video urging everyone to ‘watch it in full’ and get the ‘context’ of his comments.
Those who defended the PM’s remarks also shared videos of social media experiments of how men stare, harass, and cat-call uncovered women even in the West. They propagated the general essentialist belief that men are naturally enslaved by their testosterone and cannot be blamed to act violently when ‘provoked’ by a woman in ‘few clothes’.
It is hard to grasp such nonsensical proposition.
Men act with impunity because they’re socialised to – it is a taught behavior conditioned by an archaic understanding of sex and gender. When we were growing up we were told that ‘Men don’t cry’, many of our transgressions were dismissed with a casual ‘boys will be boys’, the ‘nerds’, the ‘geeks’, the ‘sensitive’ ones, the artists were ridiculed for being ‘soft’ or ‘gay’. The bullying was accompanied with phrases like ‘ladki hai kya?’, ‘kya chooriyan pehni hoi hain tum ne?’ (A general way of mocking by saying, “Are you a girl?”) This is toxic, this is systemic, this is Patriarchy. But what did most of us do? We internalised it, of course, we had no other choice lest we wanted to be the ‘sissy’, ‘chakka’, the ‘meetha’, ‘and ‘hijra’ or ‘khusra’ (meaning transgender).
So many ways to invalidate someone, so many ways of hammering ‘masculinity’ into someone. No, we were men. We were supposed to play sports, get dirty, show no pain, suppress emotions, pursue money, status and expensive cars, build muscles, and court girls as trophies – that is what it is to be a Man, or so we were told.
And then we grew up. We lived our lives as men ought to – pursue money and show it off (the ‘true’ measure of masculinity), live without any ‘gender based’ restrictions, and date women without any fear of social ostracism. We grew up seeing mothers and sisters cooking and serving food while we didn’t even learn how to cook and clean up after ourselves and become failures as human adults. We watched ourselves police the movements of our sisters while we dated someone else’s – we were afraid of our sisters meeting the same fate at as our girlfriends at the hands of a man just like us. Such a hypocrisy, so deeply ingrained!
Our honour, our respect, our self esteem was all wrapped up in ‘our’ women, not women we care for but ‘our’ women, human beings we have ownership of. As if we are some sort of benevolent dictators but of course in a patronising, infantalising, Patriarchal kind of way.
Because we have been told that we are ‘stronger’ than women, hence we are their ‘protectors’, and it is a dangerous world for these poor weak and fragile beings, so we have authority over ‘our’ women – thinking it is for their own good as they don’t know any better.
But this is the 21st Century, and such obsolete banalities should be thrown in the trash can of bad ideas that were temporary, ad hoc solutions at some time in the distant past. In the modern world, human ‘strength’ matters little – if human strength mattered, then the leader of every country would have been the physically strongest person of that country. That obviously isn’t the case. Intellect matters, and despite the erroneous and essentialist historical belief – (like propagated by early Greek philosophers’ description of woman as “half-man”, or “incomplete man”) – that ‘women are intellectually inferior due to their ‘naturally emotional nature’ so they are not cut out for academic and intellectual work’. Although we have time and again seen women excel in all fields putting this fallacy to rest.
Men, we have adapted though, haven’t we? We have ‘allowed’ ‘our’ women to work. Well, I mean lets be honest, many of us don’t really like it do we? Who wants to be constantly plagued by the agonies of our masculinity writhing with spiraling questions: ‘What if she makes more money than me?’, ‘Who all is she interacting with at work?’, ‘Are there any male colleagues?’, ‘What if she becomes financially independent?’ and so on. To be fair, the world has changed too and economically speaking, we are now more dependent on two incomes than one. Women have increasingly become career-oriented, and they are more aware of their rights thanks to the groundwork of the Suffragettes, and the Four Waves of Feminism so far. But all of this means less Power for us doesn’t it? It means more equality and accountability, it means we can’t just date girls for pleasure and then send mum shopping for a virgin to marry, it means we’re not the special ‘ladla’ Princes our mothers told us we were.
So you see my fellow men, we certainly are beasts, but it is not in our ‘nature’, we are not biologically horrible, we have been taught to be – and it works for us, ironically at our own expense. The truth is that human beings get attracted to whatever they consider beautiful, but when men harass, cat-call, abuse, and are sexually violent towards women, it’s because they have been conditioned to believe that they are stronger than women. That they are entitled to do as they please with them, that a woman without a ‘protector’ and ‘maintainer’ is fair game. A woman ‘acting like a man’ by being independent and wearing what she pleases is violating sacred gender roles and ‘asking for it’, that an emancipated woman is not only an attack on our masculinity – something which our whole identity rests on – but is also an affront to ‘cultural’ and ‘religious’ values which are set in stone (Spoiler Alert: they’re not, read: How Dogma Adapts to Modernity).
So yes dear apologists, I have watched that infamous interview in full, obviously, and have understood the PM’s argument in it, but guess what? He’s wrong. He is wrong because of his essentialism of men and women, he is wrong because he wants to correct the behaviour of potential victims by policing their choices instead of correcting the behaviour of potential rapists by uprooting systemic misogyny and Patriarchy which is protected under the guise of religion, culture, and tradition. People often say that the government should hang rapists publicly for some much need mass catharsis and retribution, but hanging a rapist can only go so far in solving this epidemic of toxic masculinity, what we need to do really is hang the Patriarchy instead.
Your ‘Bro’, a Pakistani Man