Imagine you’re a person with an opinion who one day voices it online or in print. Now imagine waking up to an inbox full of threats, of details on how you should be raped and degraded sexually simply for having an opinion. This doesn’t just sound horrific, it actually is. And worse still, this is quite common.

Just about every woman who has ever expressed an opinion that goes against the grain will have faced this scenario. Just about all of us who write are subjected to vicious online assaults and when we choose to speak up, we’re accused of whining unnecessarily. The freedom to offend is a dear one and should be protected. The right to free speech demands it.

However, what this ignores are some ethical aspects of this issue. In a pervasive rape culture, trivialising violence against women has severe repercussions. ‘Rape culture’ allows for the degradation of women, which, in turn, manifests itself through the actual practice of violence against women. And the acceptability of this kind of rape culture in the media allows victim blaming to flourish, which prevents women from speaking up or seek justice.

Those who say rape culture doesn’t exist only need to take a look at statistics as well as the attitude within the police force, which is supposed to be protecting rape victims. We live in a culture where women hesitate to report any violence done to them because of the traditional view that a ‘good’ woman would not be raped and if she is, will never go public with the fact or speak up against it. In essence, their trauma is heightened.

Years ago, when I was an intern at an NGO that was conducting a training session with the heads of jails across Pakistan, I experienced just how prevalent such a culture was. One of them argued that if I was raped on the street, it would be my fault for I would be “asking for it” by wearing short sleeves and baring my arms.

These attitudes are common globally and are strengthened through pop culture. Rap songs are especially notorious for promoting misogyny. TV shows also strengthen stereotypes where the ‘bad woman’ is blamed for her suffering and the ‘good woman’ is one who endures abuse and embraces it. Misogyny in pop culture reduces women to mere objects worthy of violence.

Take the example of Honey Singh, a rapper whose lyrics have caused an uproar in India. A song attributed to him from 2006, which he denies writing, glorifies rape and romanticises male power over women. In the song, a man dreams of raping and beating a woman. Should we seriously turn a blind eye to this and pretend that he has no impact on young men and even women who may think violence against them is normal and acceptable?

Some say Honey Singh is being targeted in a world where rap culture finds misogyny acceptable. It is, after all, a product of the industry. Some argue that the fact that he didn’t write the lyrics means he shouldn’t be held accountable. But even if Honey Singh didn’t write these lyrics, the fact that he sang them seems like an endorsement of such violence. Unless we want to turn a blind eye to rape apologists, we need to start somewhere.

Perhaps it’s just Singh’s bad luck that his work has caused uproar but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start this desperately needed conversation now. In fact, let’s embrace this and continue talking in the hope that we can change the world by actively fighting against the forces that oppress us. And yes, that includes music, which humans connect with emotionally.

Published in The News.


Lock up the lazy bloggers?

A few months ago, our social conscience, the greatest most ethical journalists in the world, Cafe Pyala, blatantly lied about me and even after being informed they were incorrect, they didn’t correct their error. I didn’t want it removed at all because I want the world to see just how easily people lie about bipolar people (by assuming the worst in us) simply because we are bipolar. I want this to remain up there forever so that I can convince any manic bipolar person not to come out to the public. Many think writing an article like I did will be a wonderful idea. It’s not. Truth be told, I regret coming out because society isn’t ready. And even those who claim they are sensitive to my disability really aren’t and end up assuming all sorts of things about me based on stereotypes. For example, if I rant or make an angry statement, people end up assuming I’m manic or having some severe rage. I can no longer just be annoyed or amused. Everyone will assume an extreme.

But back to Pyala who can’t even spell my name correctly (it’s Shaikh with an A). Seems rather lazy not to check how I spell it but anyway… Pyala claims I invaded a journalist’s privacy when I did no such thing. The journalist in question had all these details up on line. But in order to mock a bipolar woman, I guess it’s ok to define reading something that’s publicly available to all as “invasion of privacy”. Secondly, no summer plans could possibly get ruined because the profile is very old. Unless Pyala thinks I have a time machine, I cannot possibly ruin someone’s plans that have already occurred.

But that’s not my point. My main point here is that any of us can selectively use tweets to defame anyone. And here are some of Pyala’s tweets to analyze:

Cretin, a word so loaded, so abusive is easily used by Pyala. It mocks the weak, the infirm.

Apparently the very intellectual team is unaware that words like lunatic aren’t ok to use. They are actually unaware that words like lunatic are extremely demeaning to those of us with mental health issues. Yeah, I buy that.

Pyala’s tweets aren’t free of misogyny either.

Ah yes, if a woman’s a presenter, then her appearance is fair game. And if her haircut is bad, it’s because her husband cut it at home because men can’t cut hair and women MUST look good.

I have many more but I’m saving them for a workshop. Moving on to ad hominems:

Maybe because they’re in good company?

And here’s Mr XYZ making a personal attack on another author on facebook. Don’t worry, I’ve protected his identity. I know who the team members are and unlike most Pakistanis, the last thing I want is to get back at them by telling the world who they are (most people already know anyway). Logical deconstruction and the fallacies they constantly provide me are the best revenge.

The Pyala team, just like the rest of us, loves to preach but not act. I’m getting tired of being someone who is always ready to point out flaws but never reflect. I’m tired of Pakistanis being so unhappy in life that the only satisfaction we get is by being nasty and then basking in our own intellectual glory. I want no part of it. And I do, indeed, deeply fear the massive backlash I will face because of this.