It’s an insidious idea, one built into power structures all over the world, nearly all of which have toxic levels of implicit and explicit misogyny. The recent comments by the Prime Minister which imply that women are responsible for their rapes is a twisted but logical extension of the way we teach human relations to our children in Pakistan. Am I surprised that he believes this? No. Jemima Khan may be a liberal, independent woman, but she is an ex-wife, not his current one. To feign surprise at Khan’s repulsive opinion is to not notice that his current wife is covered head to toe, itself a commentary not simply on religious tenets, but of much more.
Semantics is probably the easiest way to explain what I mean. Pakistanis commonly maintain that women should cover up to guard their modesty. We rarely say from whom
The veil became a fulcrum of conversation in the post-9/11 discourse of women rights. On the one hand, many Muslim women argued that Western countries forcing them not to wear a head covering violated their own choice. While on the other, people pointed out that the very basis of the veil was a way to protect women from men, and its that facet that interests me, because it is a direct cousin to the opinion of Imran Khan and millions of his bearded (and non-bearded) supporters. The truth is most people in Pakistan believe women and men are equal only in the same vague, tangential way they claim to not be racist. Most of it is fiction, but the danger is when those of us who are not misogynists start believing most other people aren’t misogynist too.
Misogyny is everywhere in Pakistan. It may be most obvious in the ways we treat our daughters, but also in the way we don’t treat our sons. It’s built into the court system, the medical system, the justice system, financial systems, schools, colleges, work places, the streets, public transport, literally everywhere. And the reason is because we keep teaching it.
Rape is a particularly male crime, but nearly all our language actively and deliberately distances men from that crime and puts the burden of its prevention and recovery solely on women
Semantics is probably the easiest way to explain what I mean. Pakistanis commonly maintain that women should cover up to guard their modesty. We rarely say from whom. The truth is assaults don’t just happen. It’s not like a woman is walking down the road and an errant penis comes flying out of the brambles. No, if a woman has been assaulted, the flip side of that is usually that someone - usually a man, statistically one she knows - assaulted her. Have you ever stopped to consider why it is that we use the them ‘violence against women’ but never ‘male violence’? Rape is a particularly male crime, but nearly all our language actively and delibvertly distances men from that crime and puts the burden of its prevention and recovery solely on women. The problem here is not that women are too beautiful to be let alone. Instead, the problem is a backward, neanderthalic attitude to gender in which Pakistani are encouraged to find it quite acceptable that a man can’t control his urges, because men are just that much of a sexy force of nature.
Most Pakistani uncles look like potatoes. And while I’m sure it pleases them to think of themselves as these virile creatures from which maidens need be protected, to pander to that ridiculous delusion means we condone violence against women. What is irritating in this is not simply what Khan said, but that nobody is more outraged that most men and male-dominated structures in Pakistan (and some of the nastier mothers) actually think he’s completely right.
If you want to change how things work, target the men who rape, not the women who were attacked. The problem is not their bodies, it never has been. The problem is a collective fragile male ego that’s still aspires to live in perpetuity in 14th-century morality because they are too uneducated or bigoted to be better.
You think that the 14th century was that good? I dare you to go to a historically accurate doctor for your next surgery or infection.
Yeah, didn’t think so.
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