“We respect ‘our’ women.”
“They are treated like Queens.”
“We take care of them.”
I keep coming across sentences like these from men and women alike claiming that we Pakistanis are the torchbearers when it comes to the dignity and respect of a woman.
Any woman. Now, if I had a dime for every time I heard this…
How true is this statement in reality? I am not talking about domestic violence, or the people who make excuses for it. Or stats where women have actually been physically attacked by mad men.Or women honor killed for merely using a cellphone. That’s a different topic entirely. I am talking about the day-to-day seemingly sane general people who repeatedly declare, “We respect our women like no other!”
Do we? Really?
A girl called Meenah Tariq recently took to social media to vent her frustration after being harassed in Khunjrab. She said some young men kept following her, and taking her pictures even though she kept trying to get away. When she said ‘No’ time and time again, they said, “le le aik tasweer, acha feel karay gi. She can’t do anything!” (Take one photo, you will feel good!)
I don’t know about you, but a young woman being followed by strange men laughing at her, surrounding her, taking her pictures and bullying her is quite scary.
Now these guys I can easily say were the bad eggs of our society and do not represent everyone. But there were 600 other people around her who did nothing to help. Why didn’t anyone step up, raise a voice, a hand, walk closer to her, take her away, do anything? Aren’t we the nation that claims to respect ‘our’ women and protect them?
I can understand no one stepping up from a group of 10 people or even 20, but there were 600 people there. SIX HUNDRED!
Where were the torchbearers who flaunt their pride on Facebook all the time?
It does not even end there. Meenah, while venting had to also assure people that she had been fully covered and “had not been asking for it.” Because we know our “respecters”usually like to see what a woman is wearing before deciding whether she is worth it or not. In this case, that didn’t matter much in the end, did it?
Her story moved many people; enough for them to say “kill them, hang them” the usual lazy response given to literally every given situation in Pakistan. And of course the conventional irrelevant advice, “you should keep yourself covered.” Something she had already mentioned, but you know people just like to point out every chance they get, how it could be the woman’s fault just in case she was thinking it was not.
What was truly disturbing however, were the number of people calling her an outright liar, an attention seeker or a person with a political grudge.
I ask those very people, had your mother or sister said to you they had been harassed this way, would you have called them liars and attention seekers too? Would you have had the same doubt?
So is this respect for women extended JUST to family members then?
Alright, let’s forget this example and go on to another one.
Remember the PIA air-hostess who was ridiculed and mocked by two women on social media? Again, they may have merely started it but how many continued it? How many men and women made fun of her age and an unflattering pic? The irony is that the same people who don’t post their pictures without 20 filters were belittling her.
Well here, PIA had the last laugh when they posted a picture of the lovely Air-hostess smiling.
In yer face, haters!
Then we come to the police officer Arsala Saleem who mistakenly saluted Maryam Nawaz as she arrived to appear before the JIT.
Criticism is absolutely fine. Telling her she did something wrong is okay, but to degrade her, insult her, bully her, demeanher and even going as far as to serving her a legal notice is completely another. Ignoring her past services or achievements just to settle scores or to say, “this is why women should not work outside” is also a very clear indicator of how much we respect “our” women. Even her picking up a pen, something we are taught to do as basic etiquette was dissected like a pinned frog!
Of course at this point, some will drag in the word feminism proving they are completely missing the point. So save it, don’t.
From what I can understand is that, one’s “izzat” starts and ends where one’s own mother and sister are concerned. They are separate entities… and the rules are different when other unrelated women are concerned.
I say this because these very people drag in others’ mothers and sisters in idiotic arguments as well to settle personal vendettas using verbal or physical abuses. Let’s not forget, in certain areas, if a man does something wrong, it is his sister or wife who has to pay for it.
I know that not everyone is the same, but I think it is time we got off our high horses and accepted the reality so that we can take a step back, realize and actually try to be the people we say and pretend to be. That we actually step up and help a woman being harassed and not be the reason for it! It is time that we create a safe environment for women and put that ‘respect’ into action.