Gender as jalaibi
One of the very few discriminations absent in Pakistani workplace is gender-based. Every gender discriminates freely against others on the suspicion that others discriminate against it.
Men are the worst affected and least bothered about it. The earlier part of the statement cannot be proved empirically because of the latter. Put men in any situation, they scan evidence and reach a snap judgment. Having judged someone or something, they adopt appropriate strategies to attract or repel the subject. And whether or not they succeed, they don’t crib, they don’t cry, they don’t suspect, they don’t ‘feel’ anything about it. They go through life like ants, always running around rather than worrying about future or sulking over past.
They get used to discrimination at an early age. As boys they have to help parents with lifting and carrying chores while their sisters sit under the fan drying their nail polish, or pulling hair out of their brows. Every house guest notices the little sister as the cute one and ignores the brother as just another brat. As students they have to live with the fact that male teachers are led by the collective little finger of girls in the class and whatever boys do will never be more endearing to them, or brighten their mornings as much, as the demure ‘Good morning, sir’ of a girl.
That’s how the system runs. Boys learn, and adopt. They don’t complain. If anything their chivalry in letting girls take first positions in everything from term paper to house elections, has grown into complacence that hurts them later and for the rest of their working lives.
When this young man – used to treating girls nicely, being partial towards them, staying behind them – arrives at the work place he tries the same strategies on women colleagues and ends up facing charges of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment or paternity. This is his second learning curve. If he doesn’t lose the job as a result of the above charges, he can survive a lifetime in that office, never caught again with his guard down.
But a new job means an automatic erasure of the previous experience and requires relearning of the same. Every male starts a new job terrified of women colleagues as potential complainants of all that’s in his (and every functioning male’s) mind. Many bosses have paid a heavy price for simply being courteous and asking a new female colleague out on Valentine dinner. Every mid-sized and decent employer has paid out hefty sums to women employees who needed that money to heal the wounds of a male colleague’s harassment. In some cases, the accuser and the accused have been found to be in collusion, raising money through courts and employers to get married.
But in no case has the accused gone back to courts seeking damages for a false accusation. No man has gone to police fearing his wife will kill him, especially those who eventually did get killed by their wives. It’s just not them. Men don’t snivel, they don’t whine, they don’t mind. If they are required to live with discrimination, they live with it.
Women are also discriminated against, most noticeably by Khawaja Saras who claim to have a female soul but feel more comfortable in the company of men. Women take it as betrayal, and whine. Men don’t seem to understand them either, and often, if not always, behave like Khawaja Saras. That too makes them whimper. Whining and whimpering is an advanced form of the female defence mechanism against anything or anyone they don’t like.
They learn as little girls that human beings come in two distinct groups: those who are mean to them, and those who can protect them from the mean ones. They learn how easy it is to have someone – a father, a brother, a friend – beat up someone else – a brother, a friend, a foe – for being nasty to them. At work the big girl applies the same formula to have a colleague work graveyard shifts for months on end; or ensure he never gets a day off on Eids, and particularly on his wedding anniversary; or gets shouted at in every meeting … simply because she finds his habit of sucking on his mustache irritating and suspects that he must have other bad, much worse habits.
Working women are generally sure that everyone, men in particular, is out to be nasty with them, and as a preventive measure presume all men to be guilty until proven otherwise. This ‘otherwise’ gets proved only in movies, and therefore all men remain guilty as charged in real life offices. If male colleagues try to reason with them, it is obstinate and childish behaviour. If they take offence and shout back, they are being pigs. And if they so much as hint that women’s behaviour could be discriminating against men, they are asking to be put in the dock.
Contrary to popular belief it’s not men who sexualise women, it’s the law that adds the prefix of ‘sexual’ with offenses committed (or perceived to be committed) against women only. Like if a man is harassed by a boss, it is harassment, which is not even considered delinquency, but when the same boss does the same harassing with a woman, it becomes ‘sexual harassment’ which is a heinous crime that carries a stiff penalty.
Khawaja Saras, for obvious reasons, are better off than both men and women and discriminate equally against both when it comes to their line of work. If they have decided to dance at a particular wedding, no host and no competition from men or women performers can stop them from doing so. Those who do, require several stitches to their broken bodies.
They’ll be at your doorstep soon for their Eidi. Refuse them at your own peril.
Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.