Double Standards

Today my professor talked about how we should react in a terrorist attack. Yeah, it’s come to that; our teachers are now making it their responsibility to inform students and staff alike of precautions, because our educational institutes are severely lacking in the “take care of your damn students” department.

And while I understood the reason for it, all I could think about was how, in my first year at university, a large number of girls were harassed and videoed by a group of boys at our Spring Festival. Many of them reported the issue to higher authorities, and you know what the reaction was?

A seminar. For girls. On how we (yes, I was amongst those harassed) deserved it for not wearing a scarf over our heads, for daring to think we could go to a festival and actually, you know, have fun without having random boys form a circle around us, call us sluts, make a video of our embarrassment and near-tears and put them up on the Internet.

We knew the names of those boys, remembered their faces, could even rattle off the names of their girlfriends (oh the irony) and yet they faced no disciplinary action. Which was basically a message to every boy in the entire university: hey, you can be a misogynistic pig to any girl you want; the university won’t do a damn thing about it! Because you, by virtue of being a boy, are obviously a much better investment (despite showing that you do not respect basic human dignity) than girls! Because all girls are good for! Is housework and sex!

So many of the girls who spoke out about the harassment – many of them first years, like myself at the time – withdrew their complaints after being informed that we basically brought unwarranted harassment on ourselves for daring to exist where men did. They stopped walking alone; they went the long way to avoid the departments with more than 50% boys (which is all of them except ours); they dropped their friendships with the boys in their class. The girl who was with me at the time went from being a close friend to an acquaintance, because she feared that someone might see us both together and link us to the video.

I don’t recall any proposals for teaching girls self-defence, or giving us the contact numbers for the authorities, or encouraging giving women access to arms, or telling us to attack our harassers, or 50-minute lengthy and nuanced discussions on prevention and detection of cat-callers and misogynists.

Funny how some forms of terror are so easily accepted. But who cares, right? We’re just women, after all.

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On Being Alone

I’m not quite sure if it’s because I’m just not a likeable person (selfish asshole that I am), or if, the older I get, the less I refuse to take people’s shit (which also ties into the whole “selfish asshole” descriptor), or if I’m just busy with university (again, “selfish asshole” doesn’t even begin to cover it) but recently I’ve been…rather alone.

All my interactions are now either short or face-to-face; no more texts blowing up my phone – though I never had much texts in the first place lmao, being the miserable loner that I am. But recently, it’s been even less; no more late-night conversations; no more constant exchange of pictures and news; no more talking just for the sake of talking, for the sake of getting human interaction with the people in your life.

When I am home, I am completely shut off from the world. Texting, which I once enjoyed as it was the only form of communication I, a shy weirdo, was comfortable with, is now always work-related, and always short. Explaining myself over text, which was once my defining feature, is now a hassle which I do not want to go through anymore.

But the strange thing is, I’m not lonely. I do not know when this transformation happened; when I went from craving attention 24/7 to being content with myself and my thoughts. I have finally freed myself from the paradoxical situation where I both wanted to feel loved and have friends while at the same time found them tiring; the latter still exists, but the former feeling has vanished, and I am finally at peace.

Anyway, this has been a post. This has been a day.

I don’t understand…

…folks here* who hear that I’m “good at English” and so want me to join them in mocking everyone else’s English abilities.

Like, okay, let’s pretend that I believe the colonial, Western notion that English proficiency determines one’s intelligence, and that I also believe that people should only be treated well if they are intelligent or innovative or whatever and not, you know, because they’re humans and thus deserving of basic human dignity.**

Let’s pretend that I actually adhere to the same values as you, fine. But what makes you think that once I start mocking others, you’ll be safe?

I have native level proficiency in English. When I hear a sentence, I can identify exactly how it’s wrong and give you 10 ways to correct it. I don’t know grammar rules, I breathe them; they are a part of me. I write in English, I think in English (and translate into Urdu, not the other way around as you do), I dream in English, I sleeptalk in English. I went from bearing the stigma of being an ESL student to reading college-level books within the same year, at 9, leaving my haters behind. English belongs to me, though I, obviously Muslim and Pakistani as I am, never can belong to it.

How arrogant do you have to be to believe that you, who learned English as a subject or a hobby, can achieve the same level of proficiency as me, who learned English as a survival tactic? For you, English is a status symbol; for me, it was always the double-edged sword I wielded.

So yes, let’s pretend that even though English forced itself down my throat at gunpoint and I chose to swallow, I still believe those who speak English “well” to be worthy. In that case, neither your SAT score nor your online articles nor internships at English newspapers and magazines nor your grades will matter.

Your English, my friend, and thus you, would not be worthy.

 

*by “here”, I mean at my university, in my city, in my country, etc. Choose your scale as you wish; it’s all the same in the end.

**DISCLAIMER: I don’t believe that.

Capitalism and Silence

The very nature of a capitalist society, is to create and function on a dichotomy – in which one state is desirable and the other undesirable: rich and poor, man and woman.

Our rituals, our language, our culture, our upbringing; it all hinges on upholding the dominant paradigm: as those who benefit from it wish to keep it that way, and those who suffer are made to believe that they and “their kind” either deserve that suffering or can opt out by inducing that suffering on others (rather like how the playground bully has an entourage of children similar to the ones being bullied – those children choose to become bullies in order to avoid being bullied).

As such, any dissent is considered as blasphemous, and victims are silenced through fear, derision, humiliation and – oddly – reverence. When people are reduced to caricatures, they are stripped of their humanity, and go from being complex beings to “begger”, “gold-digger”, “modest”, “slut”; either “an inspiration” or “an abomination”.

Those who pretend they are not aware of these power structures – especially while benefiting from them – will uphold them; through their actions and their behaviours. Be very wary.

Just because he’s good to you…

…doesn’t make him a good person.

Of course, this phenomenon isn’t limited to men – or well, not just to men as partners. Any time you have people in positions of power over others, you see that power being abused; that’s how we get cruel bosses and police and government officials and directors and judges and teachers. That’s why laws against abuse and discrimination exist.

Research, however, has shown a recurring trend: most abusers are men, and most of the abused are women. In the event when abusers are women, they are more likely to abuse other women than men. Most victims were described as “compassionate and kind,” “cooperative,” and “agreeable” – traits considered as feminine. And that’s not even going into the racial aspects.

So why are most abusers “masculine” and most of the abused “feminine”? The short answer: patriarchy, in which men and masculine traits are upheld as superior to women and feminine traits.

And what happens when the things you like, the way you talk, the ideas you present, the life you live is considered as “inferior”? When someone likes you as a person, they do not believe that it is because of the qualities that define “your kind”, but despite them. And so they will jump through mental hoops trying to ascribe “superior” qualities to you, as they go all their life being told that they and their way of thinking is the only correct one.

What does that mean for you though? In their eyes, you are basically separate from others of “your kind”; to them, you are not a woman, but a “better woman” or “one of the guys”. And so you have been elevated to the status of being treated as “worthy”.

For all intents and purposes, it appears as if they see you as their equal. But the ground you stand on is shaky, as your worth only comes from removing you from the experiences you gained as part of your identity – the experiences you gained as a woman.

They don’t want to hear about how much fun you had shopping, or what happened in that romcom, or how much your period sucks, or the time you got assaulted. Because those are distinctly “feminine” events, which clashes with their image of you – remember, you’re not a woman, but a pseudo-woman, as they have stripped you of your womanhood in order to “make you a better person” in their eyes.

Your worth is not measured by your own actions and behaviour, but on the importance they hold to him. There will come a time when you stop being worthy, and suddenly all of your qualities that he liked before will become the very reasons for his hate.

You don’t “take care of yourself”, you’re “vain” and “self-absorbed”; you’re not “opinionated”, you’re “loud” and “harping”; you aren’t “friendly”, you’re “a flirt”; all your abilities will now be presented back to you in as negative and, if you’ll notice, as gendered a way as possible.

Congratulations! You’re once again a woman, and thus, once again, worthy of his sexist beliefs.

A good person wouldn’t be kind only when it benefits them.

 

Art Waart

The level of disconnect that the middle and upper class, especially in Karachi, have with regards to art is astounding. They want the best food, the best clothes, the best jewellery, the best music, the best novels and poetry and movies and theatre – but they’re not happy paying for it, and they’re especially not happy when their own children wish to make it their career.

The elite class is, perhaps, a bit more tolerant, as they can afford to keep their children fed and clothed while they “make art.”

But the middle class? The very thought of their child having to live in poverty, and thus becoming “one of the (maila) awaam,” is incomprehensible, and so they push their children into careers they do not want, or have no talent for, simply because it will provide them ” a better (read as: more monetary / stable / respectable) future.”

Art as a hobby? It’s cute and fun and interesting, as long as it’s a hobby. Art as a career? Are you crazy?

In a society where status is inherently linked to money, and success is measured by how much you earn, any deviation from the path to money is considered a grave sin. That’s capitalism for you.

A major portion of this mentality is brought about by our lack of education of the arts. Despite the UN Declaration of Human Rights stating – in 1948! – that the right to enjoy the arts and participate in the culture of their community is inherent to every human being, art is taught as a throw-away subject.

Parents have no interest in the arts, and so neither do their children, and thus the community at large, leading to an overall devaluation of art and artists, resulting in less people being able to make a career of it. It’s a vicious cycle.