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Hearing my so-called ‘liberal’ family yell a volley of curses at the Tiktoker in the Minar-e Pakistan incident brought back memories of a twelve-year-old me, lost in the same park amidst a sea of men. Whilst some leered, others seemingly undressed me under the watch of their lust-filled gazes, and a few bolder ones came closer. The panic and anxiety of that moment soon moulded into something akin to rage and disgust. Disgust so intense that the mere recollection of those few seconds makes me want to shed my skin off. The thought of countless women going through various forms of harassment every single day is horrifying. Not a day goes by in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan—lovingly/incorrectly referred to as Riyasat-e-Madina—without a case of harassment being reported. Whilst a new day usually starts with positive thoughts, the Pakistani society prefers to start it off with a pinch of misogynistic remarks mixed in a cup full of violation of bodily autonomy.
On a fundamental level, misogyny is a form of sexism designed to control women and grant them a lower societal status in order to uphold patriarchy. Having been practiced worldwide for decades, misogyny is reflected in art, literature, events, and in some aspects, even religions. Religion, specifically, is often manipulated for one’s own convenience wherein people either interpret teachings\verses incorrectly or they simply morph them into something that they are not. It is more than often used as a facade to mask misogyny or to execute the desire to exert power over women.
After all, women having to beg for their basic rights is ‘unIslamic’, but violence against them falls under societal norms. And why shouldn’t it? After all, women were meant to stay within the ‘chaar diwari’ of their house and any step outside is a sin they must be held accountable for. Be it a man’s outrage over a peaceful protest like the Aurat March or a murder, the society has never failed to protect their golden boys but has more than often (read: always) placed the blame on women. Victim blaming, another toxic practice derived from misogyny works towards holding women accountable for the violence committed against them. “She was asking for it” is an example of one of the numerous household phrases that are made use of to rid men of all accountability.
Be it women shot over cold food or murdered over a petty breakup, misogyny is interlaced within every aspect of our society. Honour killing is a term that the society is uncomfortably too familiar with—what was once an alien concept has become a norm. Whilst many cases go unreported, one that did manage to capture the attention of the masses was the case of Qandeel Baloch. A rising albeit controversial star murdered by her own brother in the guise of honour. Her only crime being: living her life the way she wanted to. This case serves as a reminder of, firstly, the entitlement misogyny grants men—for her brother continued to roam around unashamed for hours after the murder—and secondly, the ingrained misogyny that people can’t seem to rid themselves of, for whilst the funeral took place, thousands of Pakistanis grouped together to praise the brother for what he had done. The idea of simply wanting to eliminate women who do not stay within the narrow confines that society has created for them stems from a deep-rooted hate for women. Misogyny has the ability to take on dangerous forms and honour killing is just one of them.
Whilst misogyny, also known as hatred or contempt for women, is not restricted to Pakistan, its effect is intensified in patriarchal societies such as ours, where women are viewed as mere objects. For decades, this society has bred a generation of men enabled and privileged enough to assert their control over women and although breaking this practice of misogyny is a laborious task to undertake, it is not entirely impossible.
It will take decades to dampen the effect of misogyny, but a society must begin somewhere.