Misogynistic abuse is an attempt to silence women. Traditionally, men have been the ones who influence the direction of society: I think there is still a sense that it’s not women’s place to be involved in politics.Eleanor O’Hagan
Yesterday, we were to witness three abject trends using shocking language against women in politics (Maryam Nawaz) or outside politics (Bushra Bibi). It all began with the opposition’s temerity to engage in confrontational politics in times when COVID-19 has not been showing any let-up. Besides, two major political parties, PMLN and PPP, 9 other parties have formed a coalition to oust Imran Khan’s government what in their opinion came into power because of a rigged election. PTI couldn’t stomach and came out no-holds-barred in its criticism. Here, the point of this debate is not to talk about the politics of either side but to point out an ingrained misogynistic attitude in our politics.
“Misogyny” could be a new term for our generation, its entrenched roots, however, could be traced back to our recent and the distant past. From Rattanbai Jinnah being attacked for her clothes, to Fatima Jinnah being viciously defamed for her political views to Begum Rana Liaqat Ali, another victim of censure for her husband’s policies to slur against Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani politics has remained the hub of dirt and mudslinging, especially for its women. Maryam Nawaz, however, is the new target of misogyny. Ten of the 11 parties are being led by men, only one party, PMLN is under a woman, yet the barrage of abuse continues attacking her to be an exclusive potshot of sexism, reflecting a hideous facet of our social and political life where an ambitious, neither a common woman, has any place.
Misogyny” could be a new term for our generation, its entrenched roots, however, could be traced back to our recent and the distant past. From Rattanbai Jinnah to Fatima Jinnah to Begum Rana Liaqat Ali, to slur against Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani politics has remained the hub of dirt and mudslinging, especially for its women.
The fact that for centuries, they have seen women confined to the kitchen, generously exercising “The cult of domesticity” and staying immune to the outside world, men had developed a monopoly over politics. They had never imagined women daring to claim the place that has been dominated by them for centuries, so when they (women) did, it hit them badly. Today even after 100 years, women are not approved to seek interest or enter the world of politics. If they do, they are made to face the worst consequences. No, it’s not just limited to Pakistan, Sexism in politics is a global phenomenon. Whether it’s the USA, where Trump takes a jibe at the woman leader, or Australia where a minister calls women stupid and unworthy to get equal pay or Newzealand where a prime minister is asked very personal questions what otherwise would not have been asked from a male politician, systemic sexism has it embedded germs all over the world.
From peeli taxi to tractor trolley to jadugarni, Pakistani politics has ceased to alarm us. Nevertheless, the recent surge in online gender trolling is going all-encompassing, passing over every degree of profanity. Hate towards a woman leader was not so invisible but a brazen slur has always been circumvented to keep the frail-dignity of the politics. Today, even that subtlety has become the tale of the past. Yesterday, a fandom of one leader started a base trend to disgrace Maryam Nawaz provoking an equal response from the opponent towards Bushra Bibi, the first lady of Pakistan -Regrettably, she doesn’t have any association to Pakistani politics yet to attack Imran Khan, his opponents target her; backing up the sexist foundations, where to degrade man, his woman is thrown dirt on. Despite being so egregious, there was no condemnation from either side whatsoever.
Hate towards a woman leader was not so invisible but a brazen slur has always been circumvented to keep the frail-dignity of the politics. Today, even that subtlety has become the tale of the past.
The thing that I regret the most is the myopia of our respected leaders who don’t stop denouncing west for its moral-degradation while commending East for its higher moral values but their followers never miss a chance of throwing affront at a woman leader initiating a cycle of abuse. We fail to see our own want, right? Although, every system has its flaws, pointing fingers at others while overlooking your own faultlines is a major sign of being an ostrich burying head in the sand. We have quota for women in our political system yet a very few women muster the courage and enter it, why? Reasons are strikingly evident. Unless, our leaders take a high road, not just condemning the outrageous behaviour of their followers but also penalising them to prevent the occurrence of such behaviour in the future, we can not expect any refinement in our politics for years to come. We can not expect our women entering politics making even more difficult for the public to recognize their importance. We will have to eliminate the barriers that are making it tough for women to have a room in politics.