We are inhabitants of a society that is intrinsically patriarchal and is known for accommodating ferocious atrocities against women. Having a rough idea of the extent to which dirt prevails in the minds of our fellow beings, we still find it hard to train ourselves to be able to accept the ways of society simply because it brings shame and disgust to humanity and humanitarian values. We bluntly refuse to accept violence and harassment against women and attitudes expecting women to be subservient and submissive as the popular belief places them in a ‘weaker’ position than men.
Patriarchal views confine the status of women to a child-bearing and child-rearing machine that is devoid of emotions and skills and is exclusively designed to follow the commands of male and appease his overwhelming physical needs. Over the years, a lot has improved on the front of women’s rights but a lot more needs to be done. Where Pakistani women crave for a societal system that abandons discriminatory attitudes against them, foreign women who are in the country for various reasons find the entire scenario highly disturbing. Blush, in this story examines the problems that foreign women face living in a society that is comprised of many sections, most of which practice extremely rigid and discriminatory attitudes against the ‘presumptuously weaker sex’.
Brooke Benning hails from the state of Pennsylvania of the USA and has been living in Pakistan since the past 10 years. Benning, who married a Pakistani man of her choice, finds the precarious conditions of women of our society very infuriating. Narrating the way she looks at our society, Benning says, “Men have entirely too much freedom while women don’t enjoy even a quarter of it. They give too much time outside of their families and their views are generally extremely narrow. They exploit and manipulate religion to control the women.” Expressing her opinions on the family system and psychological harassment of women in Pakistan, Benning adds, “Women don’t endeavor much to improve their conditions and their place in society. They are very submissive and inexpressive. Most of them I know are unhappy with their lives because they do what they are told to do by the family. Women are afraid to speak up for themselves.” In a grim tone, she concludes, “I really feel bad for women with mother-in-laws because of the unlimited authority they exercise over their daughter-in-laws. Men and women have their sides to show to the society and hardly have you got to see a person who is truly himself.”
Mary, who presently resides in the Karachi University hostel, studies at the same institute and belongs to Kenya. Her encounter with Pakistani society and men is largely about ogling and teasing. “I have come across a number of good Pakistanis most of whom are men but certainly, we cannot escape the ones bearing filthy mentality. They tease, hoot, follow and signal in inappropriate ways most of the times but I have learned to live with it”, says Mary.
A common trend that is widely acceptable in our society about foreigners, especially those belonging to the West is their weak moral standing. A substantial majority holds low views about Westerners and they justify such biases by the secular outlook and composition of those societies. In many instances, such biases evoke a sense of false pride and people, especially men consider it absolutely legitimate to misbehave with any ‘angrez’ they happen to pass by. A lady of British origin in Karachi was once feeding her pets along the stairs of her apartment, when a young man approached her for having sex to which she slapped him right in the face. “I couldn’t stand to what he said and I hit him hard. They think Western women are easy to take to beds,” she angrily recalled.
With increasing gender crimes, the society has become more volatile for women. The ill-fated legal system, adamantly corrupted police and general victim-blaming attitudes of society have helped increased hostility towards sufferers of harassment. This is breeding ignorance among the ‘dominant and powerful sex’ regarding the respect and goodwill that a person naturally secures by virtue of being human. Fetima, who is of Turkish descent, associated the innumerable glances at her with low number of foreigners Pakistanis get to see. “I really thought that they haven’t seen foreign faces before and this is what surprises them most about us,” said Fetima. “With the passage of time I realized that its just not mere surprise but a sickening deep-rooted habit of ogling at women. Whenever I visit the market area, there are men who follow, pass remarks and even throw their contact numbers on me. Once, this proved so disturbing that it made my sister cry but of course there are kind men too. I would really like to visit other countries and see if these things happen in their societies or is it only a Pakistani domain,” she concluded.