Masculinity always seems to be associated with the narrow definition of men who exert their dominance through authority without being able to show compassion, which tends to be instead looked upon as a weakness, especially in Pakistan. Perhaps now though, after the recent political turmoil with India, Pakistan may be shifting towards a new, more evolved definition. The typical masculine man would previously have been described as Modhi-esque; The man who shows his strength through brute agreesion and power. Yet interestingly enough it was Imran Khan’s stance of peace and tolerance that made him come out looking like the stronger man. His influence may be paving the way towards a society which is less patriarchal but we still have a long way to go. Why is patriarchy so deeply embedded within our culture, especially when religion tends to put men and women as equals?
We’ve asked the expert opinion of Ms Eman Niazi, a physcotherapist, to share her expert opinion on the matter
“Pakistan is a patriarchal society, this may be attributed to a variety of factors-while the Islamic faith establishes rights for women…. the protection of women promoted in Islam is often misconstrued as subjugationby people… Men hold power and promote the belief that women are inferior in every aspect – this belief allows men to continue to wield power. When women raise their voices, as seen in the aurat march this year, society responds by calling women “unislamic”, “western”, and immoral. Equality between the genders has come to be viewed as a western ideal and one that is shunned by the larger society”
Interestingly Eman, posits that religion is one of the main perpetrators of male dominance. She states:
“Religion is used as the greatest argument for the promotion of patriarchy. Family values are considered to be threatened by equality across the genders” and to exacerbate the issue, some women themselves push the patriarchal agenda.”
In her expert opinion Eman believes that “This may be because they are disempowered everyday, in small insidious ways and in larger ways – and this disempowerment is internalized”
Although this attitude may be shifting, albeit it slowly and steadily. Global movements such as Me Too are having far reaching consequences, perhaps even with local implications.
“The global #metoo movement is gaining momentum in Pakistan, and it is definitely impacting local perceptions- having said that- I feel that privilege plays a key role in who is being impacted by this movement.Women, with the privilege of education, and those who have experienced equality are definitely experiencing a shift in thought, and perhaps even moving towards challenging the existing system”
Yet, there is still a pervasive attitude of men acting with “toxic masculinity”:
“To be a man, globally and especially in Pakistan has come to be synonymous with aggression and domination, because it ensures that their sense of power remains intact and not threatened in any way. Men, who act differently are labelled negatively by other men and unfortunately by other women too….It is unfortunate; as a mental health therapist I see the repercussions of maintaining this masculinity and the toll that it takes on the well being of men. Emotional acceptance and expression is a key aspect of mental wellness and toxic masculinity threatens that and in doing so adversely impacts well being.”
We also sought the opinion of a Mansour (name changed for anonymity) a 39 year old male living in Pakistan. Mansour acknowledges that living in Pakistan as a man offers him many more advantages as it is a male-oriented society. He asserts that as a man there are less rules and strictures to follow and even if one were to break said rules there aren’t many consequences attached due to him being a male. He does state though that men tend to be placed with a lot of pressure at the same time. Men are expected to be the sole breadwinner of the family and are responsible for taking care of everyone. This societal pressure furthers the patrichical mindset as this is construed as men being the ‘head’ of the household.
In essence, Pakistan has of late seen a slight shift in masculinity as shown by Imran Khans action and events such as the Aurat March. Yet, at the same time although the fact that Aurat March took place, is a feat in itself, the very same March was denounced with the parliament of KPK going as far as to pass a resolution against the Aurat March on grounds of it being “obscene” and “Unislamic”.
As Eman puts it:
“I would definitely like to be optimistic and say that there is change in a positive direction; however unfortunately that change is incredibly slow and impacts those with privilege more than the average Pakistani male.”
Pakistan may be reforming slightly in certain ways day by day, but the country still has a long way to go.
Contributed by Shanzeh Malick
Ms Eman Niazi is a mental health professional with an MSc in Clinical Psychology from Punjab University and an MSW from New York University.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this publication do not reflect the opinions or views of MWP.