First published at Viewpoint Online.
Posting the unedited version here:
Often things become such a commonality in countries that their implications and meanings, no matter what they hold, are simply reduced to being nugatory. Such is the case in Pakistan; questionable sayings, practices and customs that should usually arouse attention have become so imbedded in our society through repetition that they’ve developed into being a component of the declining environment.
Just a few months back, when the Parliament deplorably resounded with boorish bellows of ‘protest’ and other actions by the Opposition (that evidently consigned and littered all democratic and parliamentary norms, ethics and etiquettes to the trash bin) till the session’s end as Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh presented the annual budget – PML (N) MNA Tehmina Daultana came storming and flung her bangles at him in an entirely misogynist vein.
This, for some, might plainly have been a sign of rightful ‘condemnation’ or just another entertaining event in the history of parliamentary donnybrooks of Pakistan. But what it was an indication of, was left absolutely unheeded.
‘Hum nay choorian nahi pheni hui!’ (We are not wearing bangles) has assumed form of a very popular phrase amongst the tub-thumping and empty rhetoric of the demagogues in Pakistan.
This expression clearly and solely suggests masculine pride and male bravado along with an endorsement of the opinion (and a much-denoted one to the mores and beliefs of the Arabia of the Age of Ignorance) that women were universally inferior creatures in comparison to men.
By roaring that one does not wear bangles, he intends to put the message across that he is neither weak, a simpleton nor woundable or anything perceived to be of the other sex through the lens of condescension; thus completely depreciating womanhood and making it the subject of derogation.
And this is ignored and even met by cheers from throngs listening to speeches that contain the sentence.
But in the United Kingdom in April, Prime Minister David Cameron was entangled in a controversy while resisting demands for apology after he told a female shadow cabinet minister to “Calm down, dear” during an argument over proposed reforms in the House of Commons. Cameron had mimicked a famous car insurance advert starring popular chauvinist Michael Winner.
Cath Elliot of Guardian wrote:
“Calm down, dear” is neither humorous nor edgy; it is instead a classic sexist put-down, designed to shut women up and put them back “in their place”.
“Calm down, dear” is what women hear when we’re allegedly being “hysterical” or “overemotional”. It’s that tired old gender stereotyping, the sort that implies that if we can’t even keep our emotions in check, then we obviously aren’t cut out for the more serious male world of politics and debate.’’
While Cameron did not apologise and his aides downplayed the whole affair, it may be rationale to deem that in view of all the media scrutiny and obloquy it drew out, he will be measuring his words and their significance in the future.
Harriet Stowe once said; Women are the real architects of society. How, one might ask.
Women, by divine nature have been bestowed upon with this sole authority and capacity. It is a woman, who nutures a child in her womb and then brings him up, instills values in him while grooming him that directly affect his behaviour, ethos and mentality.
Future doctors, politicans, leaders, journalists etcetra – all constitute a people and are indispensable to the system of the society and world, and each one of them owes his existence to a woman.
The role of a woman is instrumental in everything. Even a female who is neither schooled, not married nor a mother, naturally yeilds strength and inspires admiration leave alone one that is given her right to education, choice, freedom, equality and life itself . To remind one of Fatima Jinnah’s role in Quaid-e-Azam’s life would suffice here also.
Thus a woman is the real architect, an irreplaceable pillar of the society.
It was not only to highlight sexism but to illuminate the difference in the wider picture, the juxtaposition of the two incidents in Pakistan’s Parliament and the UK’s House of Commons in this article. What distinguishes the separate countries of the two events from one another, was culture. A culture and society that shuns torpor, prompts introspection and welcomes a discourse; something we are clearly devoid of and replace by impassivity, disinterest about such little things, denialism and nothingness.
It is of paramount importance for Pakistani to realize that it is not a revolution they need but a collective, national socio-cultural evolution.
This verbal male chauvinism, pellucid in the aforementioned Urdu remark, is part of the labyrinth of a mindset and culture in Pakistan that eventually translates and actualizes into the web of repugnant traditions of Vani, Sawara, Karo-Kari etcetra. It is all inter-connected and must be clipped from the roots that are strengthened by how each individual in Pakistan waters them; through silence at the and by ignoring the smallest of its elements (phrases such as the aforementioned).
With the backing and espousing of generations of people of different thoughts and time, cultures flourish and characterize traditons and norms that later all of new eras dare not abandon even if logic dismisses them (traditions). Traditions and beliefs such as, assigning women a position in the community of a lowly figure with not much purpose in life and even little ability. (Due to which’s perception, such sayings and disgusting activities are born)
It is about time as Pakistan totters from crossroads to the brink of a now-or-never stage, that we cultivate a new culture – for which each indvidual must cast his efforts; question doubtful and wrongly established practises, convention and mores. Adopt better ones, encourage others to.
As individuals come together to become a people, people make a society bound by a culture constructed by them, that society is the base of a nation and nations form countries thus it is dervied that if the people change, the country will inevitably similarly.
To redefine Pakistan in front of the world, Pakistanis must refine themselves and their institutions; the culture and society.
- Hafsa Khawaja