Sorry Bilawal, Pakistan’s misogyny will always confuse sensitivity with femininity

Published: October 31, 2016

Bilawal is someone whom many of the urban middle class hate and their way of showing their hatred is by associating him with females and hence with the transgender community and gays. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

“Aur tu aur Billo Rani bheebol rahi hai. Asif Zardari sahib, itna haram kamaia aap ne, thora sa Bilawal per lagain aur us ka technical masla theek karain.”

(Now even Billo Rani is speaking. Asif Zardari, please devote some of your illegal wealth towards rectifying Bilawal’s technical problem).

“Mein ne siyasat mein naheen aana, kyon ke Sheikh Rashid mujhe har roz gandy gandy messages karta hai.”

(I don’t want to come into politics because Sheikh Rashid sends me dirty texts every day.

The first of the above is an excerpt from Sheikh Rasheed’s speech in 2014, and the latter is one of the Facebook memes I have seen in the past few days which refer to Bilawal and mock his supposed lack of masculinity after he recently visited the Quetta massacre victims and cried.

I can also cite many dubbing videos which convey the same message that he is not masculine and therefore not fit to lead our “macho” nation.

Bilawal is someone whom many of the urban middle class hate and their way of showing their hatred is by associating him with females and hence with the transgender community and gays. I don’t know whether it humiliates him but it surely does reveal our society’s collective misogyny and homophobia.

In our culture, misogyny is deeply rooted and at times expresses itself in seemingly ‘humorous’ forms. For example, when we want to put a guy to shame, we doubt his masculinity and try to equate him to a female or simply call him a transgender.

Masculinity has become associated with bravery, intelligence, and some kind of superiority and thus when we want to appreciate some individual due to these perceived qualities, we call him a real man. In fact this kind of mind-set has become so common that at times when we want to appreciate bravery of a woman, we try equating her to a man. For example, many a time, I have heard people saying that a particular woman has more ‘balls’ than everyone else. This statement, though apparently appreciative of the woman in question, nevertheless is an outcome of the culture which equates so called better qualities like valour with masculine physical attributes.

Likewise, when we want to ridicule a man, the ‘best’ way to do so is to call him a ‘sissy’ or effeminate. Thus feminising becomes a way to insult a man because at a collective level, misogyny reigns supreme. And this misogyny is also expressed at a political level.

Right now, this is what I am observing with respect to Bilawal Bhutto. Many, particularly from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), are making fun of him and calling him a lady boy, a transgender, and a homosexual because of the alleged effeminacy. It shows problem at two interrelated levels. Firstly, it is somehow or the other considered degrading for a male to resemble a woman even remotely; secondly, if he resembles one, then he is a homosexual, which again is in some form or the other considered disgusting in our collective mind-set. Misogyny blends with homophobic behaviour to show acute contempt for the individual whom we dislike.