We hold our women on a high moral pedestal because the idea of shame and honor is attached to them. From a very early age, women are focused upon more in terms of their mannerisms. From the kind of clothes they can wear to how they should respond, everything is already decided.
Women are held to such a high moral standard because on their shoulders we put the responsibility of keeping the family’s “honor” intact
They are told how they are supposed to feel and act in different situations – which is mostly not being the one who complains and always the one who compromises.
While many succeed in complying with these expectations – there are also those who choose not to. These are, what the society calls, the characterless women
Some of you at this point might be imagining women parading around naked chanting “kill all men” but no, these are your ordinary women too. They may be rebellious in their own ways: from choosing to interact with the opposite gender to marrying of their own accord. They may join professions considered “unhonourable” for women like acting or journalism. Some may even try their hand at politics despite the popular belief that women cannot lead a country and face character assassination in return. Many are also very blunt in their stance and because women are only ever accepted as feeble and timid, they are not accepted and are thought to bring shame to their family members and the country.
The label of “characterless” that we so freely distribute prevents people from seeing these women in any other light and then the society even overlooks their accomplishments
The entire focus is on how they did not conform and are setting bad precedents despite the mountains they conquer.
So most of them are on their own. If ever, they encounter a problem, they are blamed for it
The society’s insistence on producing the same kind of women and snubbing individuality and diversity leads to the isolation of women who want to change the norms.
We have the likes of Khadija Siddiqui who recently revealed that she had cordial ties with her attacker before the gruesome incident. Since that is a measure of piety in the society, this automatically made her a characterless woman. And that for many justifies the attack on her. This is how we indulge in victim blaming because we are too blinded by the moral high ground we want to take in cases of women. This allows the perpetuation of rape culture and prevents any sort of accountability for men.
Meesha Shafi is a member of entertainment industry and women who join the media industry are assumed to have slept their way ahead. While the industry is assumed to be all clean and pious for men, women who join it are not good women and will do anything for work – this is the common assumption. Now when such a woman opens up about harassment; our judgment is clouded by what she wears, whom she hugs, and her support for feminism.
Similarly, when Ayesha Gulalai came forward with claims of receiving salacious messages from Imran Khan, all heads turned towards her younger sister Maria Toorpakai. Her choice of outfit for playing squash became the measure of how “ghairatmand” the family is. And everyone decided to not support “her” because her sister wore shorts.
We all remember Qandeel Baloch, of course. She defied all norms set by the society. She was promiscuous and managed to make the masses cringe with her explicit content. But no matter how many disagreements people had over what she was doing and whether or not she should do it – she had every right to live. She deserved the space to be whoever she wanted to be without her life being taken away.
These are just a few women who are in the limelight and may somehow even be able to protect themselves but there are many more out there who are a victim of this unjust setup and no one raises a voice for them because they think “characterless” women deserve whatever treatment they get based on society’s scale of piety and compliance.
Dear characterless women, we are sorry! But you see, we do not care for our women at all, even those who choose to abide by the rules and follow the pattern provided to them
We parade a 10-year-old girl naked through the streets because we have been granted the liberty to. We rape women as a punishment for crimes committed by men and fail to punish the criminals too. Mukhtaran Mai’s case should be imprinted on our memories by now.
We’re sadly a nation that kills women for something as trivial as serving cold food, we unlawfully marry our daughters and sisters to the Quran to ensure that our property remains within the family, we ask the women in our lives to remain silent about years of abuse and we bury our infant daughters alive because we do not want to deal with the shame they will inadvertently bring to our name.
We torture, violate and kill women over matters of dowry because society and our crippling justice system gives us the space to do so.
We kill them for choosing to marry of their own accord and we also kill them for refusing marriage proposals, because one way or another someone else is controlling everything about them and their life choices, and any agency that they ever dare to exercise is a menace to society and that revolting action must be nipped in the bud. And if they do not like how they act, they get to take their life away.
So, my dear characterless women, we are still fighting for the rights of women who conform
We are labeled as angry feminists and anti-Pakistan agents when we try to bring up these problems. They think we make up these stories and ask us to leave the country for trying to say that Pakistan is not a safe society for women.
It will still take years before women are not considered subhuman before those slitting their wrists and throats realize that they are human too. And it will take even more years for them to see you, who have managed to break free!
cover image via news18.com