Featured Illustration: Shehzil Malik
In the 21st century, you’d expect that we would have advanced further than adding three cameras to the latest iPhone. Sadly, while technology is advancing, the mindset of society continues to deteriorate. Since the beginning of time, sexism or gender discrimination have been taboo topics that have globally affected our society. “Sexism” refers to the retrogressive acts of discriminating against people based on their gender. Typically, women face sexism the most due to presumptions and are often compared to men. Women are not paid the same, given the same opportunities, and are questioned for making certain choices in their personal life. But ultimately, who has decided that men are the example to be compared to? Equality for men and women isn’t based on physical strength, but a more cerebral opportunity. Using physical strength as an excuse to determine superiority shouldn’t be an excuse. Remember that women were given the gift of bringing life into this world without the consideration of their physical strength. Although often misconceived, it has not been proven that the male gender is biologically superior to females.
Who is really to blame for this idea? As children, we are told that girls are sensitive and fragile. Girls are raped because men are unable to control themselves, so naturally, the girl should’ve been careful. If a man is fed the idea that he is made in a way where he has no control over his reflexes, he will automatically become that way. Another common remark is that women must have a family and produce offspring. Rather than promoting education and independence, we are confined to these obligations. Most sexist remarks, therefore, come from an idea which has been fed to a person since childhood — though it may not be their intention to offend, the outcome is, in fact, offensive.
“Indo-Pak” Community vs. Sexism
Countries such as India and Pakistan inherit the idea that a man is superior. The most common notion represented is that women are meant to be housewives, while men are made for work or greater opportunities. More examples: An unmarried man surpassing his 30s is a hunk or a bachelor, while an unmarried woman of the same age is a reject or unworthy. A married couple without offspring must be because of the woman’s fertility issues. A woman without a son is frowned upon and belittled. As if the presence of a son would increase her value of life.
To date, in many areas of India and Pakistan, a child is aborted solely for their gender. Women are forced by their partners and families to provide a male offspring, which would mean getting pregnant and giving birth until they have a male child. Many women have died during childbirth due to complications. A woman’s body can only endure a certain amount of pregnancies before it poses a health risk.
Women, since childhood, are taught that they must never oppose or speak up for what they want, but they absolutely must be beautiful and have other homemaking qualities. For young boys and men, simply being powerful and dominant is enough.
On a personal note, currently living in a country where women face sexism on the daily, I, too, was taunted for not having a brother or a male figure in my life. I witnessed my mother being questioned on why she chose to stop having kids when she doesn’t have a son. Fortunately for me, my mother and father have never discriminated against nor presented us with the idea that women are inferior, but in fact, the opposite, and I take pride in this. However, this is not the case in every family. To this day, women are told to cover up, lower their gaze, learn housework, and adhere to strict gender roles.
In order to grow as a community, in this day and age, this should not be the mindset. Education should be prioritized and women of all ages should be encouraged to become independent.
Honour Killing Does Not Apply to the Male Gender
“Honour killing” is a concept commonly used in rural areas and societies of Pakistan and India to kill women in the name of honour. This, however, does not apply to men. The idea of honour killing comes from a deep-rooted tradition — if a woman commits an unholy act or simply wants to make decisions for herself, she is killed in the name of preserving the family’s honour. The killers justify their actions by claiming that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family. This tradition is only applied to women. If a woman wants to be educated or work, she is killed for not following the norms. If a woman is raped, she is killed because she is no longer holy. However, the man who commits this crime is protected. If a woman chooses to stay unmarried, she is pressured or killed for opposing the family.
Honour culture enforces a strict code of traditional gender roles that “dictates precedence and toughness for males, [while] norms for females stress modesty, shame, and the avoidance of behaviour that might threaten the good name of the family (e.g., adultery or sexual immodesty).” Women are “viewed as weaker than, and owned and protected by men and restricted by male-dominated rules.”
In 2014, a pregnant woman was bludgeoned to death by her father and ex-fiancé for getting married without their consent. This sparked outrage, however, the question is — what if it had been a man marrying his choice? Would the consequences have been the same? The answer is no. To this date, no man has been killed in the name of honour, in fact, no such thing exists. So, gender equality has no meaning in a society where such injustices take place.
While there’s no significant movement or policy regarding this issue, many people on various occasions have spoken about sexism and feminism. However, it is still our job to stop or correct a person when a sexist remark resurfaces. We must educate ourselves and those around us because we are what makes a society.
A woman does not “belong” in the kitchen. A woman can have a successful career while also raising a family. A woman is not an object made for your desires or someone you can oppress. If we choose to ignore this issue, we are supporting sexism. We must end the unrealistic and baseless expectations and ideologies our society has set for women. Speak up — there is power in speaking.
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