Misogyny is no longer a descriptive word to explain the inhuman way women and girls across Pakistan are addressed and treated. From having their dreams curtailed because ‘Khawand naraz hojayega’, to the tried-and-tested tools of ‘sharam’ and ‘haya’ to policing behavious, to straight up ‘honour’ killing, to using the filthiest language – misogyny is our mindset.
To see a former prime minister stoop down to utilising slurs against a party leader as a bid for political gain makes one wonder, exactly how effective is the fight for female emancipation on the ground when our supposed role models, leaders, uphold such misogyny? Is gender such a powerful element that a former prime minister feels threatened by a female member of the opposition, Maryam Nawaz, who has held no formal political office?
The very idea of a woman standing her ground and achieving brings forth waves of insecurity and jealousy especially by those who crave validation. This is the product of a system that has never favoured merit nor has it held those responsible for misogynistic behaviour to account for their words and actions. A system of enablement that not even our education system has been able to tackle.
A lot of it has to do with public office bearers legitimising it. There is a sense of responsibility that comes with holding public office and if that is not honoured, who can hold the average person on the street to account? Pop culture too has a role to play from Lollywood’s heroes to televised dramas , there is a severe culture of misogyny in the art being created and the creators of art. The fact that art is being consumed is another indicator of how much misogyny is accepted. No one questions it. It is, because we are.
Of course one doesn’t hold any illusions that this mindset can be changed. After all, Heer only dared to love, to assert herself over her own body and mind only to end up in the grave. Hailing from the same soil as Heer it is natural for one to count one’s blessings but also want to protect what ground has been gained. Yet, decades later we see the same patterns being repeated in different contexts. While the world spins towards progress, who knew in Pakistan Malala would become a litmus test?
Benazir Bhutto. Shireen Mazari. Justice Nasira Iqbal. Maryam Nawaz. Nida Kirmani. Nighat Dad. Dr. Yasmeen Rashid.
Why do we hate public female figures? Actually, no. Why do we hate females as a whole group?
For any male politician, especially those who have a poor record of delivering and upholding regressive policies, where does the entitlement to comment on the world’s first female leader, Pakistan’s first and only female Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto come from? It does not even amount to the weakest form of criticism as the comments are generally about her gender instead of her professional work. This isn’t even confidence. It’s downright uncouth, uncivilised, indecent and unwelcome behaviour stemming from jealousy and envy, adjectives associated with the patriarchy.
Instead of improving oneself, the swipes against her and today her son – especially those referring to the similarities between mother and son – are a reminder that a woman can make history on the planet but a loser will refuse to learn and remain a loser.
And who can forget the sneers and name calling directed at Shireen Mazari? One can disagree with her policies as well, but to comment on her simply on the basis of her gender only proves the hollowness of our commentators who clearly have nothing else to offer in terms of language.
Similarly, to reduce Maryam Nawaz’s role to a woman, accusing her of suffering from lust and policing her on the basis of what her husband will think is reflective of the person claiming such things. And really, it is nothing to be proud of especially when the ideal of a holy land is promised.
Nida Kirmani, one of the bravest voices on social media, is another person who fights against patriarchy and misogyny on a daily basis. She stands as a force that demands answers to issues that have piled up where there are no more rugs to sweep under. At best, a means of countering her is to pour scorn on her on the basis of her gender. What being a female has to do with speaking the truth is a question unconsidered but again, indicates that misogyny is not a personality characteristic but it is very much a mindset, it is part of the cultural makeup of society.
Nighat Dad is no stranger to hardship and the realities of being a woman in Pakistan. Having built herself from scratch to becoming a global name, creating an entity that is consistently working for digital space and digital rights, striving for safe online activities to encourage inclusivity, apparently none of that matters. Because at the end of the day, she’s a woman. And heaven forbid a woman do all this and achieve so much. Comparatively the same scorn and hatred isn’t exactly poured on the likes of the gentlemen who have also worked in the tech and are in fact, lauded as heroes.
The above are just a few of who face misogyny on a daily basis. Who can forget the countless, countless, faceless, nameless thousands across the country numbed either by death or by cruelty brought about by misogyny? Forget walking down the street, women aren’t even safe in their own homes. Again , nothing new there but the anti-female behaviour patterns are intensifying across the country.
Not that Justice Nasira could not handle anything thrown her way given she is one of the first five women to be appointed to the Lahore High Court. But to break down the gate to her home and attempt to breach the privacy of her home, this is not politics.
For example, the attack on Justice Nasira Iqbal’s home which is beyond unacceptable. A home is a place of sanctity. It is where a woman lives safe in the knowledge it is where she is protected from the dangers out in the street. Not that Justice Nasira could not handle anything thrown her way given she is one of the first five women to be appointed to the Lahore High Court. But to break down the gate to her home and attempt to breach the privacy of her home, this is not politics. This is a very carefully crafted strategy to impose a man’s will on a woman who remains an icon, a reminder of what a woman is capable of and more.
It is tiresome to say Pakistan needs to change its attitude towards women. From a female artisan who holds the country’s heritage in her hands to those fighting for progress on the streets and especially those who clutch at some form of dignity behind closed doors, enough is enough. The fight for emancipation is far from over but it isn’t ending anytime soon.
As for the men who are reduced by themselves to passing filthy swipes at successful women, you are no heroes.