In Pakistan, does #MeToo come with a desi tarka?
The #MeToo campaign was initiated by activist Tarana Burke, after she had a conversation with a 13-year-old girl who opened up to her about sexual abuse.
The victim: A 13-year-old girl.
The purpose: To give her a voice.
The concept was to create awareness, and give a platform to the victims when their vulnerability had been taken advantage of. This was sexual assault, a highly sensitive matter.
The international movement was bound to come home one day, and of course, in a country where the Chinese don’t recognise their own Manchurian and where pizza has seekh kebab layered over it, we gave the #MeToo movement a desi “tarka”.
Belonging to the social media generaion, I see manipulation of every kind on a daily basis. The internet audience is lazy, easily blinded by emotional fury, and devoid of any sense of justice. As I scroll through the recent and ongoing controversy circling the web – Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar – I can’t help but wonder if this cultural shift and our crafty nature has created a “ready, fire, aim” mentality.
It is a basic axiom of our culture that women must always be believed, and that they never make false accusations. This is classic totalitarianism, which is a favourite amongst many radical feminists. Using the armed AK-47 that is social media, the greatest perk this movement offers is unaccountability.
Men are guilty without being given a chance to respond or defend themselves. The moment an upload is complete and the first “like” is hit, they are put in the exact same category as “sex offenders”. This has become a dogpile where anybody can insert a hashtag, name a person they don’t like for whatever reason, and shame them publicly. The accused remains guilty, until proven to be guiltier.
I am a woman.
Especially when it suits us.
Rape is a crime, and so is sexual harassment. But what started as a cause for the supressed has now become a weapon for the manipulative.
Zainab Ansari was a victim – she was powerless. But if educated, successful women like Shafi don’t know what to do if somebody touches them without their consent, and have to wait for an “appropriate time” to come out with their allegations, then there is no hope for those women who are less powerful or lack agency.
If we believe we will never suffer backlash, then sadly we are mistaken. Ambitious women scare men. Period. Men have always needed a reason to ensure women are never equally successful. And now, we are giving them a motive. We are making men afraid to interact with women in an office environment, to give them a compliment at the workplace, or to even be caught alone in an elevator.
The gender discrimination in turn will be unprecedented. The tapes of time will be rewound to the middle ages in terms of patriarchal dominance. This will result in a domino effect, disastrously decreasing the already depleting career opportunities for women.
We think we can play dirty and win. We cannot.
Sooner or later, we will all sit down at a banquet of consequences cooked by a few nearsighted, opportunistic women. And it won’t be a tasty meal for any of us.
The #MeToo movement should have been about giving women the courage to be their best selves and to compete, interact and associate with men on an equal footing – not to embed ourselves in their subconscious as a time bomb, waiting to explode.
We – the internet jury, judge and executioners – need to remember: The villain doesn’t always wear a suit.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.