Why Pakistani men need to learn the art of ‘keeping it in their pants’
I came across a Facebook post recently which made me question the way this society thinks and functions, and raises multiple red flags about the way we live. A man in Lahore can masturbate openly in the streets while looking at a school bus full of teenage girls, and there is no mention of it anywhere. However, when a Facebook post in response to it tries to highlight the problem at hand, the fragile male egos of Pakistani men are immediately threatened.
There were several problematic comments on the post, but the one that took the cake was,
“Mera jism, meri marzi.”
(My body, my choice.)
This is a clear reference to the Aurat March held at Frere Hall on International Women’s Day to mark all the struggles Pakistani women go through.
This comment was supposed to “protect” the man’s “right” to his body. According to multiple people on that post, they should be allowed this right, just as “desi liberals” and “fake feminists” want bodily rights for themselves.
Well, let me break it to you. A man doing such an act anywhere is unacceptable. It is not the protection of some right to allow anyone to behave this way. By making women uncomfortable and making them feel public spaces are only for men, such people are not only trying to find shameful and disgusting ways of reiterating patriarchy, but are also trying to instil fear into the minds of women.
Another comment on the Facebook post, a comment with thousands of likes, said,
“Next the feminists will say ‘we will also do this to show you equality’.”
Why do people feel the need to shame women? While the post and picture at hand were condemning such shameful acts in public spaces, people grabbed it as an opportunity to oppress women further. They take the man’s offence lightly and all but run to uphold their masculinity. This idea that masculinity needs to be reiterated and reminded constantly is toxic for the country.
While “mera jism, meri marzi” was an Aurat March slogan, aimed at protecting women’s rights and protest against oppression, it is now being used casually as a tool to mock women on online forums, as if to say these incidents are the ‘result’ of such freedom. And these men with their inflated egos, how would they behave had a woman of their family been subjected to such a sight? Would the comedy, mockery and profanity still have been acceptable? Would the comments have been appropriate then?
What upsets me the most is that I have to draw the aforementioned analogy in order to instil the intensity of such events in men. Is the “what if it was your mother or sister” argument absolutely necessary to awaken humanity and respect inside such men? Perhaps it is true that Pakistani men only understand atrocities when thinking of them with their mothers or sisters in mind.
Why can this not be counted as understood rights and wrongs? No matter what the argument or the context, some things are inherently wrong, and this is one of them. A man masturbating in broad daylight in one of the biggest cities in the country is not acceptable. Never. Not here, not anywhere.
Unfortunately, this incident isn’t the only one. A rickshaw driver in Lahore was filmed doing the same thing while looking at two girls at the front gate of Punjab University. Imagine, walking out of your university and experiencing this, would it not traumatise anyone? How do you think these women felt? Or how traumatised they were?
It is hypocritical how a man can go around flashing his private parts but a woman has to be covered from head to toe. How is it that women are never to discuss their monthly menstrual cycle, never to reveal their bra strap, and are always to stay concealed to stay protected?
Such acts are also forms of structural violence, where men abuse their status and use it to oppress and scare women. It is an offence of the law, and simultaneously, is also a show of power by highlighting that the very streets women walk on are not safe for them. It is only safe for men, who have the ability to ride motorbikes or rickshaws and stop them mid-road to flash their private parts at a bunch of girls, without any fear of accountability. The very fear driving women to cover their head, their chest and their legs is wildly absent in men.
A woman in Pakistan has zero autonomy over her body. She has to behave a certain way, dress a certain way and appear a certain way, while men are free from such chains. Why are these acts only associated with women? Men roam these streets free of blame and when confronted with a problem, rather than accepting inherent flaws in society, they defend such acts. A Pakistani man can enjoy privileges few women can even touch. The gender gap in the country has led to women being pushed further down the spiral of oppression, and while events such as these violate multiple rights of the girls involved, no voices are raised for them.
To all the men who just need an excuse to make a point to the ‘feminists’ they hate with a passion, this is not a battle between feminists and others, and even if it is, both sides should not sway from the main point, that women need to be respected and they need to be treated like equal citizens.
These issues are so stigmatised in the society that merely discussing it raises eyebrows. Women aren’t allowed to discuss this openly, for fear of backlash. These issues need to be addressed before they make way into our daily lives. If a rickshaw driver and a man on a bike on the street can masturbate openly, who is to say one of us won’t walk out of work or university and find ourselves as the next victim too?
While women cover sanitary napkins in brown paper bags even in the darkest of nights, men can carry their body around with pride and take their genitals out freely; this streak of imbalance needs to change for women to actually reclaim public spaces and basic rights.
Or who knows, we may have to rewind back to the Suffrage Movement.