Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quote Of The Day

Well, Goc and your kin, if you thought AKS' post on not hiring women except as receptionists and secretaries was misogynistic, I've got something for you. Here's a British legal expert on honor killings, quoting a man he knew on why social mores concerning sexuality are more constraining against women than men in Pakistan (and why that's ok):
A man is like a piece of gold and woman a piece of silk. If you drop gold into the mud you can polish it clean, but if you drop silk into mud, it's stained forever.

The following things should be noted:

1. Exploring ones sexuality is the equivalent of being dropped in mud. A completely healthy and normal activity is posed as the equivalent of being dirty or filthy (please, frat-boy types, don't make the obvious joke here).

2. Men decide who is like gold and who is like silk. You see, that's just the way it is. But, just for a second, imagine if women had this decision-making power. "What?! You dirtied your silk by taking advantage of the family goat? Be banished from my presence forever! You don't get to touch me or my gold."

3. Men simply don't come up with the laws of human nature (men=gold, women=silk) but are key in enforcing them. If a woman ever thinks of straying from the path prescribed by social norms, men will try to ensure she doesn't succeed - and if she does succeed, men will ensure that she is punished. Put differently, it is up to the man to make sure the precious and clearly-lacking-agency half of humanity lives in accordance with "their" values, because if they won't do so, who will?

4. Finally, make sure to note the emphasis on the word "forever" in the quote. This reveals a great deal about the hallowed status of virginity (for women anyway; men can do whatever they want) in conservative societies. If you would like another manifestation, please read this article in the NYT from a couple months ago which details a Muslim man in France leaving his wife on the night of their wedding because he "discovered" that she wasn't a virgin (of course ignoring that a woman's hymen can be separated for any number of reasons other than intercourse). Moreover, he ran out on her while their guests were still present and "delivered" (the NYT's words, not mine) the bride to her parents home the very same night.

4 comments:

changinguppakistan said...

The quote is sad but very telling of how women are viewed in our society or other societies like ours where the culture of honor is pervasive and prominent today.

One of the major organizations my company works with is a women's aid organization in Pakistan that helps women in prison (specifically at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi). I remember attending one trial of a woman who was raped by her brother-in-law but was thrown in jail when she went to the authorities because her father-in-law said she had committed adultery. Because women are at such a severe disadvantage within that system, she was sentenced to stoning to death in the lower courts (the higher courts did clear her of the sentence).

What I think is so sad about her case and the cases of many others sitting in these prisons is HOW difficult it is to change these perceptions of gender within the boundaries of honor culture, (since honor and religion have become intertwined and reinforce each other). I thought the case of Mukhtar Mai was telling because of the international attention she received, but I am not sure how much it altered these entrenched perceptions in Pakistan.

Ultimately, the question I ask myself is - how do we go about changing this thinking? Do we change it within the boundaries of this culture, since obviously superimposing more western values of feminism and gender equality will not speak to this society? These are questions I grapple with a lot, not as a crazy feminist but as a human being that wants to see progress.

Ahsan said...

"Ultimately, the question I ask myself is - how do we go about changing this thinking? Do we change it within the boundaries of this culture, since obviously superimposing more western values of feminism and gender equality will not speak to this society? These are questions I grapple with a lot, not as a crazy feminist but as a human being that wants to see progress."

Exactly my thoughts. I think some combination of education, economic opportunity, targeted judicial and legal help (the type you and the WaPo talk about), and greater civic and political empowerment of women in rural areas especially can help.

goc said...

hmmm ... isnt silk haraam for men?

Really don't know what else to say to shit like this. But I felt I should comment since I got a shoutout in the post.

Tazeen said...

and we have legislators who do it regularly and with impunity. here is the link (http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com/2008/08/buried-alive-for-they-have-sinned.html) about what happened to the nieces of the parliamentary leader of PPP in Balochistan assembly, who after committing and corroborating this heinous crime was awarded with Rs 6 billion grants by zardari sahab to start develop work in his area. I am sure no money would be spent on education of female child and hospitals as they serve women.