If I had a magic wand, I would wave it over the hard working women of Pakistan so they walk the earth with the confidence of the mediocre Pakistani man. It’s endemic: women’s constant addiction to underselling themselves. Women at a performance of 99% will declare and ask to be judged on her one percent shortfall. Alternatively, a Pakistani man will ask for rewards for his one percent effort. This of course leads to huge issues when you work with them. The issue being that men will have their way purely on the force of their entitlement. What’s worse is that women will not even protest because no one they know ever has. Women who protest, get fewer work opportunities. They are damned to professional hell.
If Dr. Fauzia Saeed’s telling research in this area is to go by, Pakistani woman are almost always going to face sexual harassment at the workplace. We know theoretically that what constitutes harassment is unwanted sexual attention from a person from the opposite sex who is in a greater power position. Let us analyse the the kinds of men, mostly mediocre that prowl the Pakistani professional landscape.
- The good statistician
This man knows that the math will always work for him and so he hits on all woman with the eye of blind justice – knowing that a minuscule percentage of women will respond out of a wretched sense of obligation or psychosis. He usually has a passable education but possesses an ugly external reflection of his evil designs which he walks around being oblivious about. You would think that they would focus on a shot gun strategy rather than a machine gun one, but they fire rounds of propositions like they are God’s gift to this country’s work ecosystem.
- The Zero EQ guy
If you weren’t raised in a barn, it natural to know that a frown, a slight away tilt of the head, a tightening of the lips, the crossing of arms or the deliberate distance all signal an aversion. The zero EQ guy does not register signals of women being grossed out, and in extreme cases proceeds to launch a tirade of what makes him a good suitor in the face of a woman who is emptying her guts out in revulsion. This guy yawns when you’re talking about a crisis and gives you the sexy look when you’re in the middle of a business analysis. Everything about his emotional radar is off. Coupled with a great sense of self-belief this is deeply dangerous and borderline criminal.
- The old man
Let’s face it. Just like the statistician, this guy has numbers working of him too. One foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, this person wants to score because frankly there is nothing to lose from aggressively trying. He also has this precarious thing called respect going for him. He has earned his way up to the board or the lead position and is widely sought after, and therefore makes it all the more easier to sneak in some pressing interest under the garb of grandfatherliness to his young secretaries and those who seem to need something from the organizational machinery behind him. What makes it doubly hard for women to come forward against this man is the fact that his libido is visibly missing to the world. You’ll be left being thought of making tall claims.
- The young subordinate
It’s a myth to think that all harassment comes from power positions above you. Many women I know have been asked to have a good time by young guys who report to them. Presenting a pickle, this is a situation where the guy has never been taught to respect a women in authority, so he develops an obsession over her. Here’s the problem: this kind of entitlement is the worst, because it is young, obsessive, volatile and explosive. Fire him and you have a stalker, keep him with a mild admonition and you have a chronic problem on your hands.
- The Toucher
Despite the fact that research points to the fact no one likes strangers to touch them anywhere except perhaps their hands – and that too with the limit of the handshake – the toucher launches his physical breach of the woman’s comfort zone. Almost always without permission or warning. Perhaps as a result of a lot of Bond movies consumed, the toucher relies heavily on the shock and awe capacity of his pushing the envelope. Ultimately this is not just creepy, it is all wrong. All wrong. No woman wants to lose the claim to the temple her body is. They may not have got the memo, but women’s bodies are not deers at a petting zoo just because she has a laptop.
- The smooth talker
Staged as a feminist sweetheart this guy turns into the devil the moment you think he can have a conversation about fiscal deficit, the hyper construction around the city or the need to save endangered species. Much like the possessed, a fistful of projectile green vomit makes its way to your face once he leaps to what would make for a good pair bond. But wait, what? Weren’t we just talking? What made you think I want to discuss your personal life and desires?
Harassers are on a spectrum. Almost all of them are acutely aware of the fact that women are blindfolded in the workplace feeling their way in an uncharted terrain where they are trying to progress. Men weaponize this blindness against women. This power excites them. Just as it excites rapists and serial murderers.
There are many men in Pakistan who have never crossed the line. They respect women, promote them, support them and protect them. I have been blessed to know several. For the sake of those men, these bad eggs need to be called out.
Someday women will have more than just an ombudsman for sexual harassment. They will have a culture that does not shame them for coming forward and reporting harassment. Till then, the least we can do is categorize them.