I’m not a big fan of watching televised journalistic ventures in our country – never have been. They almost always seem agenda-driven or riddled with bias, and honestly, if I wanted to watch adults scream at each other for no real reason while coming to no conclusion with regards to the original debate, I’d watch my homegirl Pooja break jhaaroos while her behavior is questioned as a consequence.
Alas, in today’s episode of journalists-who-done-effed-up, it’s the renowned anchor, Kashif Abbasi, who’s proven to be problematic.
To provide some context, let me share how Abbasi is, without putting in much thought, trivializing harassment:
Kashif Abbasi’s response to Shazia Murree’s point that NAB chairman’s video could show harassment:
“Aap auratoN ke liye bohot aasaan hai shor daalna..harassment! harassment! harassment!”
Unfortunate to see a senior anchor trivialise a serious issue, mock complainants like this pic.twitter.com/4SXV3b9O6P
— Reema Omer (@reema_omer) May 27, 2019
While I did start this post on a lighter note – forgive me, but I cannot possibly keep the tone consistent. See, when it comes to harassment, the bottom line that must be ingrained in our minds is that it is, by no means, a joke.
I find it hard to appreciate a public figure like him, who fails to understand the magnitude of his platform and goes out of his way to utilize it to reinforce a negative message around something as massive as harassment. If you use your platform to trivialize something that is a source of trauma for countless women, men and all other genders under the sun alike, you are in the wrong and must be told the same. I will now direct this to Mr. Abbasi himself.
Mr. Abbasi, let me ask you this – how many times in your life have you walked in a market place and had your 10-year-old rear groped by a 45-year-old burly man, only for him to smirk as you turn around in abject confusion?
How many times have you had a teacher place his hand on your shoulder while he’s explaining an equation, only for him to start rubbing his hand slowly down your back? Have you ever been at a family gathering, where that one uncle you wish to stay away from because he always reeks of booze, holds you close a bit too long and kisses you on the mouth, even when you try to squirm away?
How many times, Mr. Abbasi, have you had to smell your soft drink at parties, eyeing it suspiciously, fearing that it may be spiked? When was the last time you had to push back a man who didn’t understand what “no” meant? How old were you when you were first objectified, with men staring at you from head to toe, either whistling or catcalling you as you passed by, or yelling obscenities, regardless of what you were wearing? When was the last time you woke up in cold sweat, thinking about the time when your ‘no’ wasn’t heard and when your body was seen as nothing more than a tool to satisfy someone else’s perverse desires?
How many times, Mr. Abbasi, have you had to think, perhaps years later: if I speak up now, how will I prove any of it?
How many times have you pressed backspace on the phrase, Me Too, on your keyboard, out of fear of being labeled an attention seeking whore? How many times have you swallowed your emotions that rise up like vomit in your throat, pushed back down, leaving behind a nauseating aftertaste?
Mr. Abbasi – the behavior that you have displayed, and perhaps even helped foster, is a microcosm for the larger deep-rooted culture that prevents victims from coming forward and voicing their stories. It pushes us back with a vehement force, making us realize time and again that this is a man’s – nay, a patriarchy-fueled, misogynistic man’s world – and we, the victims, exist to be picked apart by individuals who share similar, if not worse schools of thought as you – who will either never understand the trauma due to a severe lack of empathy, or simply because understanding our pain doesn’t pay your bills.
Let me break down exactly what happens when a woman comes forward with harassment claims, in case you’re unaware, or have not watched prominent events unfold around you:
- She is asked for proof, because our culture would rather have us be prepared at all times to record proof, than do away with harassment altogether.
- She is victim-blamed. Somehow, the narrative shifts to how the woman must have brought it upon herself. If you don’t believe me, just look at how a child’s rape was dismissed due to her mother’s – not even her own – past actions.
- Her character is torn apart. You need not look further for an example around this. This narrative has been afloat for almost a year now, where the female party in a major harassment case has been severely attacked on all fronts, while the other party sings religious hymns and walks freely in broad daylight.
When you claim, Mr. Abbasi, that it is easy for a woman to claim harassment, you, of course, show your hand as being the farthest thing from an ally, but you also show that perhaps your journalistic and research skills are not as refined as you’d have us believe – and that is quite piteous, isn’t it? I, a 23-year-old Media Science student, will not preach journalistic ethics to you from a platform that propagates opinion pieces. However, even with my limited knowledge of journalism and the one-page handout that I have read regarding ethical guidelines, I am aware that you are wrong on numerous fronts. But it’s not my job to give you a lesson in journalism. I’ll leave it up to you to brush up your skills.
Coming forward with a narrative that revolves around trauma of any kind is one of the hardest things a woman (or anyone else) can and will do.
This is simply because the outcome and aftermath is crystal clear, even before she makes that claim. When we think about voicing our stories, we already know that we will be negated, questioned and ripped apart by people who think like you – a staggeringly large majority – because none of you will ever understand our trauma, or what it takes to finally speak up, either by virtue of conditioned apathy or willful ignorance.
I won’t ask much of you, Mr. Abbasi. I will request the following, though:
The next time you use your platform to trivialize something this massive, think of the 10-year-old still revolting from an older man’s touch in the market place, watching you on screen as her father increases the volume, and she hears you mock harassment as a concept altogether. Think of how you, at that moment, make her push down the trauma, compartmentalizing it in a part of her psyche that will inevitably cause unthinkable damage for years to come.
We do not live in a Utopian wonderland, Mr. Abbasi, and we definitely don’t live in the bubble in which you so comfortably exist. Perhaps, it’s time to burst it.
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Cover image via Kashif Abbasi – Off The Record / Facebook and na.gov.pk