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Judge her not

  • Published at 06:01 pm October 26th, 2016
Judge her not

They say women are doing much better in society than before, and while undoubtedly that stands to be true, there are still problems that prevail in the everyday lives of so many of us.

Sometimes, a problem stops us in our tracks (somewhat literally when you get cat-called by a passer-by while crossing the road), or a comment made in passing amongst friends and family may make you second guess your actions, or make you scrutinise the comment made, later in the day.

Not bringing up child marriage, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, being raped and murdered in the “securest” of regions, getting killed by a stalker in broad daylight, or hacked by BCL hooligans while walking back home from school -- but I’m about to possibly clutch at straws and point at the internalised gender bias that many still face at the hands (or opinions) of not merely elders in the family, but by friends and peers who have been brought up and raised in the same “progressive” backdrop, and claim to hold the same “liberal” values as you do.

Not bringing up our prime minister’s take on women empowerment in her speech at the Global Women Leader’s Forum in May 2016, where she brought the world’s attention to Bangladesh’s progress in this regard stating that: “Bangladesh is perhaps the only country in the world today that has a woman as the prime minister and leader of the House, deputy leader of the House, leader of the opposition, and speaker” -- because, let’s face it, statements like hers do little to actually ensure a safe walk back home from work.

Yes, indeed, we have come very far in terms of women empowerment in the global scale and at home, but what about actual change in perception and views regarding women and their actions in everyday life?

We have come very far in terms of women empowerment in the global scale and at home, but what about actual change in perception and views regarding women and their actions in everyday life?

More often than not, a momentary lapse of judgment is inevitable, and it seems harmless at the moment, looked past as nothing too important to hover around, but is it though?

When an individual gets judged based on his or her actions, you would assume that such is the norm, and the judgment call is not gender specific.

Whoever has been living in Dhaka for long enough, sadly, also has to acknowledge and accept that proclamations such as “that is the trait of a bad character,” is very much gender-specific when it comes to late night parties, being too outgoing, etc -- it simply depends on whether the said person is female or male.

But let’s keep in mind that such bias is mostly expected from members of the society leaning over the older side. “Mostly” being the keyword here -- age does not entirely dictate those snap judgments.

It seems, even with all the access to social media, first class (read English, and hence, liberal) education, Western influence and its brouhaha in all its glory, many of the twentysomethings still do make the same blatant judgment calls.

It is more subtle and veiled. And, again, it is the women who are cast aside as the “bad influence” by the same people who are said to be very broad-minded and liberal.

It is women who have the added pressure of acting lady-like. It all comes down to a promiscuous woman vs a “pla-yah” (I probably got the spelling wrong).

Promiscuity by either gender is not exactly ideal. But if we “have” to judge individuals because of it, are we not to judge unbiasedly? What has gender got to do with it anyway?

While many glorify a man’s promiscuous acts, the same many badmouth, label, and/or ostracise a woman for the same acts. And this social construct may seem harmless, and not worth the brouhaha that I am attempting to spew, but is it all really that harmless?

I’m not speaking of how the streets are unsafe, and how what had happened to Tonu, Risha, and Khadiza are unacceptable and grotesque -- that goes without saying.

I am, however, speaking of something that occurs on a regular basis, and does not raise too many eyebrows.

It is the subtle commentary and judgment calls that we make on a day-to-day basis. A large chunk of such judgment calls brew because of gender-specific social constructs, which even this generation holds near and dear to its rationale.

It doesn’t involve stalking, rape, and/or murder, but it is surprising, to say the least, that even the most educated class in their mid-20s, still judge women unabashedly based on actions that their male counterparts are being glorified over.

So, to recap, in this wonderful patriarchal society that we all harmoniously live in, there are circles and groups of people in their 20s who are too easily labelled as the liberal youth of the country.

And at the same time, it may be them who would casts out their female friend for her unconventional lifestyle, but probably pat the male friend’s back for the exact same lifestyle.

We may not be taking lives in broad daylight, but we remain cocooned in our perverse social construct

It is these everyday conversations, a comment in passing, a female friend judged different than a male friend, that we need to take note of -- because a judgment of such nature slithers through the maze of our rationale, and sometimes it is what is meant by a coup de grace with a judgment call.

Nusmila Lohani is a Sub-Editor at the Dhaka Tribune.

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