What is it about a woman that makes her jeer worthy? I wonder because the Chief Justice of Pakistan decided to open his speech last week with a statement that compared the length of an ideal speech to that of a woman’s skirt length. Winston Churchill did it too. That makes it even more inexcusable, instead of excusable. I wonder why it is so intrinsic about a woman that immediately lightens a mood in an august gathering? What’s so easily dismissive about women that can invoke such laughter?
It is misogyny. Make no mistake about it. It is violence. It is the hollering back of advances that women have made, particularly in the field of law, that it is a holler back to the medieval ages. A statement that seems to say – women must stay in the bedrooms and the kitchen and keep us interested with the length of your skirt but not interested enough that it becomes offensive to our parochial sensitivities. In any event, a man does the calling out of morality, and the instructions are to be obeyed by a woman.
I am glad that the Women Lawyers’ Association (WLA) protested calling for the Chief Justice to choose his words better. I’m glad many mainstream newspapers editorialized against it. I am glad that someone went and whispered to the Chief Justice that the feminists are up in arms, because frankly we are, as any 21st century society should be when its apex body that out to look out for the underdog stabs it in the eye.
I wonder also if the Chief Justice’s apology is one of those where men are uncomfortable at having egged on patriarchy a bit too much. Or is it sincerely an apology for hurting the sensibilities of any woman who has been hurt, jeered, sneered, exploited, leered or worst of all ignored. I doubt it.
The #MeToo campaign going around globally where women are telling their stories and identifying sexist culprits should actually be called #ThemAll campaign in Pakistan because it’s not just that every woman has been cat called and asked to get the coffee and has been made to do disproportionate housework or even honor killed, but that every man has done it here. Every man. Looking from the powerful chest thumping language the intellectual elite of this country use against women – the Chief Justice included – is telling of how pervasive it is in the non-educated layers of society. The flag bearers of equality and the self-professed woke feminists are rising up on the expense of women’s rights. This is not on.
Sexism is sexism, even when it’s casual sexism.
This will serve only to embolden other men to do the same. In what is an unfortunate turn of events, Fasih Ahmed, the Newsweek Pakistan editor and a board member of the revered Lahore Literature Festival went on a rampage on his Twitter defining child rape as a possible source of great art. Later defending it as satire and mere commentary on armchair activism, Fasih, unfortunately, dug himself a deeper hole when he seemed to imply that rape by say, Tom Cruise would be cause for a celebration unlike, by Obama.
I wonder again why perpetrating rape culture, suggesting there are times it can be of value, is ok. Why is it that even something as universally ghastly as child rape is cannon fodder for anything satirical or borderline comic? Perhaps because the female generally in our country is dismissible, easy to put aside and cart away as powerless. What are they going to do, hurt us?
Anyone who has suffered sexism, even the mothers and sisters and daughters of these men who laugh out loud on the graveyard of sexism, will attest to the fact that it is not fun. Neither is it funny. In fact, it is very painful and excruciating. Sometimes even over a lifetime.
The psychological impact of trivializing sexism has long-term repercussions. Our young women shrink themselves and most importantly they shrink their opinions. This is why even when both these men have issued a statement retreating, they and men like them must know that most of the time, they get away with it, but sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes women want their space back.
If there is anything worth celebrating here in Pakistan is that there is a growing civil society movement that speaks truth to power, even amidst disappearances and harassment of journalists. Even when about a thousand women are honor killed each year. Even when child rape as common as autumn leaves. Even when we are thrust on the margins of the mainstream.
Now we want to be mainstream and we are as ready as ever to take down those who come on the way.