This is “Ripley’s believe it or not”, the Pakistani version. A woman once physically attacked a man in a restaurant because he intruded her personal space. She had tried to make him back down but there was still a sense of injustice that spurred this violence because she wanted to drive home the fact that she has the same claim to her personal space as he does to his — both in public and private domains. She, too, is a human being and her claim to her space remains valid regardless of her gender. It turns out that the concept of being human is elusive, almost faded beyond recognition because the idea of gender classification is too deep-rooted.
The person in the above narrative is me. I am a woman and if for some reason I happen to be treated like a respected human, I am expected to react in surprised gratitude. Because, really, if I walk into a coffee shop after midnight with a man who is a friend, I don’t fit the cookie cutter template of being someone’s wife or sister. But then, we are progressive now, so even if the man accompanying me is my boyfriend, I will not be questioned.
However, since he was neither and I was the only woman in the room, I was beyond being labelled. Hence, I was up for grabs — in this situation, quite literally so.
I am used to both men and women turning when I walk into a space. It’s flattering mostly, and in all honesty, if no one turned, I would be offended. They turn and stare, but then they stop. This time, however, one man turned around and refused to go back to what he was doing. He kept staring and I gave him time, until it started to bother me.
I did, however, finish my coffee and dessert — a much-needed intervention after a long work day. As I started to walk out, the same man brushed against me.
I reacted in a very unladylike fashion, verbally at first. I asked him if he was missing his mother. I said this because I wanted him to realise that I, too, am a woman. As sacred as his mother’s would have been, my honour is equal.
He was taken aback and lashed out with a choice insult involving my anatomy. That’s when I physically attacked him. And I didn’t back down, even after the initial shock of those around me faded and they tried to stop me.
It was not fair — that’s what my premise was.
Eventually, I had to be dragged out. One of his friends followed and asked me to calm down since I was like “his sister”. At this point, my temper soared again and I told him that I refuse to be associated as anyone’s sister, mother or wife because I am none of those — I carry my own dignity.
When I narrate this incident, most people find it either an exaggeration or they start to lecture me against doing something of this sort again. I probably will do it again, however, because there is a strong sense of injustice here punctuated by the fact that my honour is defined by that of the man accompanying me; both of these realities are things I will never agree with.
That evening, I walked out with some bruises but my pride was intact. He probably went home confused though, with whatever scars I had inflicted.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.
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