By Aamer Mostaque Ahmed
May 21 2017 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)
Misogyny is not a new phenomenon in our country. It is an age-old trait that has somehow become a part of our national psyche. I knew that though; I have known that for a long time now. But what I failed to recognise was the extent of it. I never for once realised how deeply enrooted this trait had become in our country; it is the dark side of our culture.
Can a culture possibly have a dark side? The short answer is, yes. Deeply ingrained social behaviours and norms, born out of hatred, malice and arrogance, can lead to the creation of a darker side of culture. And unfortunately, or rather tragically, misogyny has become such a part.
“She is a woman and thus she should be subjugated.” “She is a woman. Why would she need a promotion?” “She is a woman. So, how can she be this successful?” “How can ‘SHE’ achieve such glory?” And lastly, “She was raped? She must have done something wrong. She must have done something to deserve this!”
These utterances, mentioned above (because most the people in our country utter these lines in their minds) have taken the lead among all opinions. Rational thoughts and legitimate claims have taken a back seat. Rights, equality and even social justice are fading into the background.
The realisation about the deeply entrenched misogyny hit me hard very recently as I got embroiled in arguments regarding rape victims. I was astonished to find many people pointing the finger at the victims rather than the rapists. In most of those arguments, I was the sole voice, one against many, arguing for something for which there should not have been any argument in the first place. I felt cornered. I felt alone. I felt enraged. Don’t they understand what a heinous crime rape is? Don’t they realise that rape in our society means condemning the victim to a living death?
This country of ours was born through the sacrifices of many. Hundreds of thousands of women suffered at the hand of the invading army. They raped the women. They maimed them. They killed them. Some of those stories are so horrifying that it defies reality. With such horrible experiences, we as a nation should have had a united front against such an atrocious crime. Yet somehow that is sadly not the case. People here still try to find faults with the rape victim and not with the actual culprit. A sick standard has been developed over the years for women in our country, and the majority of the people in this country still measure women with that same sick standard. It is being used to measure the “character flaws” of the rape victims even today in order to shift the blame on them. One would have thought that things should have improved with the current reach of education in our society, yet it feels like things have got worse somehow.
What went wrong then? Does it mean that our families are failing to instil good values and a sense of ethics in the minds of the next generation? That does not seem to be the case – most of the people I have argued against have a good sense of ethics and good values instilled in them and many of them practice those values and norms in their lives. But it is this one thing where they cross the limit and enter the chasm of despicable thinking, and they do not even realise what thoughts they are putting forward. That women have rights (to mobility or professional success for example) and deserve respect never had a place in our brand of “values and ethics” in the first place. Our edition of “values and norms” has encouraged misogyny through its complete aloofness to these ideas. The prevalent norm was always about the subjugation of women. Sadly, the trend never changed and has led to the birth of a sordid and convoluted thought process which fails to make a distinction between a rape victim and the rapist. Misogyny has always gone unchecked in our country and now it has grown into a monstrous predicament.
There are also those who find pleasure in subjugating a woman. They find pleasure in disrespecting a woman. Those are vile creatures and many of their stooges have found voice through the spread of information technology. Many of those, whose dirty thoughts once prowled in their own minds only, are now finding comrades whose thoughts are equally vile. They are becoming a united front and the presence of misogyny in society is providing fuel to their agendas.
Something somewhere went terribly wrong along the way in our society and we have started to pay a high price for that. We cannot ensure that women in this country and this society will enjoy safety, security, equality and equal opportunity. There are very few people who believe in those ideas, and unfortunately, it is people with the opposite views that rule.
But, what went wrong can always be amended. A new beginning can always be initiated. Now the question is, are we ready to bring about changes? Are we ready to welcome a new dawn?
The writer works in a Financial Institution and has co-authored the Elza Octavella comics series.
This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh