TW: male privilege, sexism, gender roles, gender inequality, toxic masculinity
“Auraton ke bhi bohat privileges hain yar!” thinks a desi man every time he sees women being allowed to cut the queue at a shop; every time he witnesses a man pay the bills or notices them working in dangerous fields; every time he hears that a woman has been granted custody of her child after getting a divorce, or when he ‘protects’ women at his home by accompanying them wherever they go. What this man fails to understand is that privilege is related to power, hence, female privilege cannot exist as men enjoy power in the society.
The above circumstances assumed to be advantages are, in reality, strengthening the stereotypical roles of women and, thus, cannot be considered privileges but rather a form of sexism.
Sexism can be categorized as hostile and benevolent. The dictionary definitions of both are as follows. For hostile sexism: “a form of sexism in which people, especially women, who do not conform to traditional gender roles are viewed in a negative manner.”, for benevolent sexism: “a form of sexism in which people, especially women, who conform to traditional gender roles are viewed in a positive manner.”While the former involves blatantly hating women, the latter idealizes traditional gender roles and apparently holds women to higher standards than men.
“Iss mein kya ghalat hai?” inquires the desi man.
The problem is, traditionally, women are thought to be kind, nurturing, delicate and emotional. Keeping these attributes in mind, society dictates what a woman can and cannot do. This explains why men feel the need to assist women, why they are given jobs that require them to be caretakers, why they are deemed unfit for leadership roles and why they are praised for giving into societal norms and values. Boundaries are drawn, fences are put up to follow “traditional values”.
What makes benevolent sexism more harmful is the fact that it pits women against each other by creating competition and making certain kinds of women feel superior to the other, this is something that the female community of Pakistan does not need. Along with being discriminated against, benevolent sexism creates division within the female community while we need unity to tackle any sort of discrimintation. Moreover, it also creates a toxic environment for men, failing to meet certain expectations would make them “less of a man” in the eyes of society which also leads to another stereotype that men face later in their life, one which they then teach their children and a vicious cycle is created.
“Phir kya kiya jaye?” One last question pops up in the mind of the desi man.
We must start to identify and rectify issues in the current system. It is important to understand that oppression can come in several forms and it can sometimes appear to be friendly and harmless. Women need to stop buying into benevolent sexism even if it temporarily benefits them (while it ends up affecting them adversely) and men should focus on becoming better allies by actively using their privilege to help women voice their concerns and fight back against sexism.