Mindspeak

Words against slut-shaming

Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree | Published: 00:00, Jul 15,2018

 
 
MIndspeak

Living in a patriarchal society, women of Bangladesh face a gamut of suppression and repression. Deliberately diminishing women’s character, verbally, on the streets or on social media, by complete strangers without any viable reasons, are nothing uncommon but regular scenarios in our reality. Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree endeavours to scale back to this abominable practice’s root and finds uncomfortable answers.    

When one knows logic shall definitely fail to prove a point, the fragile one – incapable of making substantial argument, shows a tendency to lash back on the opponent. This is the most common form of practice in Bangladesh when the ever powerful males take it to be their responsibility to publicly slut shame women who raise their voices, for whatever reason that may be! We have witnessed political figures, enabled by politics and patriarchal power, to make open rape threats at the female students who took part in the recent quota reformation protest. Lucky Akter, an activist, was shamed on social media by men who vividly imagined her having coitus with a junior of her university whom she had given shelter at her place. The shocking fact is, we remained reactionless. Bengali people, who take pride in having morals and values, seem apparently non-reactive to such public defamation, but the same people took sides of a political figure who threatened girls to remain at home, saying that otherwise no one would be liable if the news of them being raped got published the next day.

We live in a country where, starting from an unprivileged teenage boy growing up on the streets to the most powerful men, can say and do anything to women as they wish, which is mostly verbally abusing them by addressing them as sex objects, or worse, acting on the things they say. The shame of it is that, it’s not an overstatement but a normalised mere reality. The other day, I went grocery shopping to Palashi Bazaar, a market place where students and residents of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and even from University of Dhaka come to do their daily shopping. One would say this must be a secure area for girls because it is surrounded by respectable educational institutes. But no, as I was walking out, I literally got catcalled, one of the shop owners shouted at another saying ‘ei maal maal maal’, maal is a euphuism for sexually attractive women. I looked back to see who it was, I saw angels sitting there not having a clue if anyone made any sound in the past hour at all!

But not all of them pretend, there are some, who take much pride in being a half centurion in rape and make a public statement along with a very direct threat about it. If needed, they will get down to action, and do what they do best. Don’t get me wrong, it is not politics or power that makes them say and do such things,  but it is the very nature of these men, embedded in their upbringing, not necessarily entirely by the their family but mostly by this society. Politics and power merely act as the enablers. What is going wrong with the treatment of women in this country?

Women, according to how it fits in a patriarchal society, may be placed in a rather high and respectable position that of a goddess, or placed at as low and demeaning position that of a prostitute. The place of a goddess doesn’t always imply absolute power, more often than not it is quite patronising, while men enjoy stripping women of their respect by calling them names, anytime they think the women are crossing their ‘limit’. The limit being timid, docile and subservient in nature that entitles them coming second to men. Second to their male counterparts, that is the ideally highest position they may reach, anything higher is audacity. Now what happens when a girl, a woman, a female, decides to show that audacity?

The gentlest response to women having voices is expressing an unfathomable wonder of how they could do or say this and that ‘being a woman’! The general response, however, stands to be an unrestrained show of hatred and public shaming of women. The sole purpose being, using socially demeaning swears words with a particular aim at character assassination. We have recently witnessed how female students active in the quota reformation movement were publicly called prostitutes, harlots with graphic descriptions of how they should be raped, or physically tortured that involved punishing them by inserting different things into their genitals.

It sure sounds gross, horrifying to read, but what terrifies me the most is the underlying psychology behind this. Bangladesh is a patriarchal country and the male domination would always find its way here. But patriarchy is not the sole antagonist here. We have grown an environment of collectively enabling of the offenders. When a woman is catcalled in the roads, it is not even a crime for the public, if the girl protested, public would come to the rescue of the offender instead and tell the woman to keep their voice low, or not to make a big issue out of such ‘silly’ matters. One or two from the audience would go out of line and say the woman was only protesting as she wanted attention.

This is a malpractice rooting back to our families. The weaker one seems, the more supressed they must be, the sibling dynamic at least works that way. For this very reason, a boy is allowed to be abrupt in their activities, adamant in their desire. However though, the same does not apply for the girl of the family. The children are used to seeing their father taking the decisions, making low comments about their mother in front of the other members of the family, and the mother obliging to him. The familial structure is changing and this is not always the case, but for most of them, it is the very truth.

Added to this, the superficial value attached to women having to be chaste, otherwise cast as an outcast, men take the advantage. So whenever a situation arises where women are out of their given subservient post, and they are making their voices, our men – backed by patriarchy and power, go for the easy way to depress their spirit, publicly assassinating their characters.

How it appears to me is that, naturally considering themselves to have the upper hand in the social dynamic, men do not feel it necessary to come with a logical or justifiable encounter to women’s activities (whether these are right or wrong is another discussion).

It is quite shameful for a country like Bangladesh which has a female prime minister and an opposition leader, a country which is recognised for its continuous endeavours at female empowerment that it should fail so miserably to shape its men’s psyche.

Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree is a member of the New Age Youth team.

 

 

 

More about:

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email

Advertisement

images

 

Advertisement

images