By Faizan Afzal
It’s a man job to respect women, but it’s a woman job to give him something to respect. This line sums up entire aura of female existence in Pakistan’s cyberspace. Our society is epitome of double standards between men and women. What considered normal for one gender is deemed immoral and pathetic for other. The same scenario came in limelight when Sharmin Obaid Chinoy voiced against a doctor for alleged harassing behavior towards her sister by sending her a friend request on facebook. Not getting into the debate, whether sending a friend request on social media is harassment or not, the whole case once again demonstrated our predisposed attitude towards women. I wonder how our society would react if Hamza Ali Abbasi or Shahid Afridi posts something similar on their facebook.
Girls and women like Malala and Sharmin has always been a center of controversy in Pakistan. Their achievements and accomplishments are recognized globally but not at home. Our society is always divided and polarized when a woman achieve something. After the Sharmin tweet controversy went viral, scores of her pictures with men were all over Facebook, people started discussing her marriage and affairs. Same thing happened with Qandeel Baloch, Mahira Khan, Mehr Bukhari and many other successful women. But no one discuss marriages, divorces, and affairs of their male colleagues. Why the fixation is confined to women’s private life only? Because they are easy target? Or because public scrutiny of women is very different from standards used to measure men?
And surprisingly there are females among the assaulters too because in our society misogyny is one thing that truly is gender neutral. And above all in our society, women are expected to stay quiet and not to protest, because to do so is apparently dent their own character or they will be perceived as playing victim card. And if woman stands up to speak, she’s called whiny and slut, Gulalai is a glaring example of that. Men run the show. Pretty much every one care more about a man’s reputation, even women, than a woman’s injury — one is defended with wholehearted fury, the other with weary resignation and formal support at best. Why should getting redress be so hard for the person whose selfhood was attacked, whose trust was betrayed?
If we instead focused on adapting to the fact that people inherently deserve respectful treatment and that female liberty to speak out is quite normal, it would positively bring about change in our cyber space and make more places and interactions safer and better for women all around. Slut shaming and cyber harassment need to be actively discouraged from our behaviours, only then will we start perceiving women as humans with agency and the right to exercise free will. I’m tired of exchanging the objectification coin as our social currency, aren’t you?
Faizan Afzal is a freelance journalist and a development professional. Tweet him at @Faizan_Afzal1