All these name callings and slut shaming only make our resolve stronger

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Shumu Haque:

Exactly 3 days ago, someone brought a Facebook Post to my attention. A post that contains just 484 words.

And yet, it managed to insult my sensibility quite strongly.

This post is politically incorrect on so many levels that you can’t help but wonder how the writer can get away with a post such as this in an open Social Media Platform. And that it has been written by a man, whose Facebook profile claims him to be a Medical Doctor.

To add insult to the injury, a news portal called Banglamail71 has actually published this in their opinion section.

http://banglamail71.info/archives/1926

My first reaction was not to dignify this post by showing any reaction to it. However, it took me some thought and just a few views of the comments under this post to come to the conclusion that it is because of silence from people like us that people with such misogynistic mentality and their views are getting traction in Bangladesh.

I will simply translate a few of his nastiest comments from these 484 words long post below so that you can get some idea as to the level of the writer’s aggression.

The title of the published article from the Banglamail71 site literally says (And no, I am not kidding, although I really wish I was), “Only menopausal Old Women from the brothels write for Women Chapter!”

Personally, I have nothing against elderly people, in fact I appreciate them for the wealth of knowledge that they can convey to the following generations. And the day Women Chapter will actually go and start gathering materials from the older residents from the brothels of the country (It has, already published at least one article including an interview from sex workers of Bangladesh), and be able to bring to light the exploitation from society that these women have to endure all their lives, it will be a feat to be extremely proud of!

However, you must view this title in the context of the Bangladeshi society and it will be quite clear that his sole intention was degrading the Women Chapter portal and its writers with very cliche and predictable language that instead of critiquing any actual content from the site simply focused on creating a very demeaning image of the women who write there so that it can feed the chauvinistic ultra-conservative mass mentality. And you only have to read the comments under the post to realize that the writer has been quite successful in reaching his target audience through his careful use of language that may appear nothing less than repulsive if you are an educated individual with any sense of decency.

Here are some translations from a few of the other most repugnant statements from the post:

“If you look carefully, all these women, who has been writing feminist pieces in numerous places including Women Chapter, how old are they? More or less all of them are above thirty. Although they have managed to survive by selling their bodies until now, now that their market is down, how can they keep it hot? The elderly women in the brothels become madams and once these online feminists get older, they start writing to encourage people about illicit sexual relationships. Or else, they won’t get any money from the few customers that they have left!”

 “If you look at most of the feminists, the effect of their trade is visible on their looks. They are extremely ugly. They have neither achieved the love from their husbands, nor a home. Their entire lives have been spent walking around hanging on to their boyfriends, or partners and in their final days, their business through which they can once again become hit is happening online! Currently, the few young feminist women that you see in Facebook are also in similar state. Previously, if a girl was ugly, their parents used to make them doctors or engineers so that they could be married off well. Now that same girl starts the University and sees that if she becomes a feminist, she will have multiple boyfriends, multiple customers!”

 “These middle aged menopausal women and the unhappiness stemming from their unhappy personal lives and from that their turning into maniacs with anti-male mentality, it’s a severe mental disease and that is being promoted by numerous online publications (Here a pun has been created by changing the spelling of the word “publication” with one that signifies “a—hole”). The writers from this Womenchapter have recently supported homosexuality. I have said then and am saying now, today they are supporting extra-marital affairs and soon, they will talk about the right to commit incest or pedophilia! They are mental patients, and should be mentally rehabilitated!”

Although, these days, thanks to Facebook, there are plenty of young feminists, since no one pays attention to middle-aged syphilis -riddled women!”

My apologies for making you revisit the vileness of the post along with me, however, it was necessary to show this very disturbing trend of online bullying and slut-shaming that anyone writing for women’s rights have to endure in the Bangladeshi society today.

Cyber Bullying is nothing new for the editor or the writers of Women Chapter.

Ever since it was created, the editor and its writers have accepted cyber bullying as a normal part of their daily life. It is simply the predictable reaction if you are writing for a site such as Women Chapter that talks about issues related to the status and rights of women within the context of a country like Bangladesh.

If this had happened in any of the more civilized countries of the world, we could be looking at a law suit for slander. But sadly, although you can end up in jail for simply voicing your opinion against the government, or for an “apparent” assault to anyone’s “feelings” and “sentiments” in Bangladesh these days, no one will find such a post warranting such measures. After all, it was written against women, who are nothing more than sub-humans, and of course, feminists are simply a nuisance and anyone has the right to slut-shame them. What did they expect will happen to them when they started writing about such issues in a Bengali portal?

From my understanding and my personal knowledge from the moment of its inception, Womenchapter was created so that women could write about their own issues, in a portal that will give them the freedom to express themselves in an otherwise oppressive Bangladeshi society. I don’t think the goal of the site was ever to promote or to “teach” feminism. But then what else is feminism if it’s not the movement to ensure equality among men and women?

Gradually, as time passed, and as thousands of voices started coming out and echoing the spirit of Womenchapter, and now, along with a very popular Bangla site, has an English site as well. Now its roster includes men and women from all over the world.

The initial idea behind Women Chapter was to give women an open and safe platform to share their views and experiences.

As the goal was never to editorialize, but simply to let women express themselves, often a lot of unpolished pieces have been published.

A lot of them should be and have been rightfully criticized for their weak content and biased portrayal of issues.

Women Chapter has always welcomed constructive criticisms and even gone as far as publishing criticisms of pieces that were previously published there.

And yet, instead of providing constructive criticism, certain people are downright bullying the writers of this site in the vilest manner possible.

Portals such as Banglamail71 is simply cashing out on the popularity of such feminist bashing mentality and vulgar language to get their online traffic rate high.

Recently, a major part of the world has seen a shift towards more conservative views regarding women’s rights and freedom. Be it the policy of US administration to move far away from planned parenthood that will result in millions of women losing access to reproductive health care as well as decisions around their reproductive rights to Bangladesh government’s decision to create an exception to the Child Marriage Act that will now make it very difficult for child brides to get away from an unwanted marriage, the world has seen a very difficult year for women across the globe.

It is more important than ever before to talk about the rights of women, to fight for the rights that will allow women to live with dignity as a human being. Entities such as Sam Rahman (the writer of the infamous post) and others are continuously making the battle of fighting for equality even more difficult than it needs to be in the context of societies such as that of Bangladesh.

It is true that this particular post is utterly ridiculous even on its face value. However, given that they use a language that is at once titillating and perverse, they are able to easily attract the attention of the masses.

The sad and unfortunate truth is, that Bangladeshi society still lags behind in terms of basic human rights including education (and no, I am not referring to just the notion of education as a degree or a certificate), health care, etc. Add to this an oppressive culture that still considers a discussion around sexuality, sexual and reproductive health a taboo and a government that is continually bending over backwards to implement the fundamentalist agenda of entities such as Hefazat (a radical Islamist movement) that consider women as sub-human beings, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I have recently finished reading Margaret Atwood’s dystopian work “The Handmaid’s Tale”. The entire time that I was reading it, I kept getting a very suffocating feeling of des ja vous. It talks about a fundamentalist society in future the United States where women have been stripped off all their individual rights and are considered nothing more than vessels for breeding and procreation. It didn’t take me long to realize that that chilly, unnerving feeling that overpowered me the entire time I was reading the book is the realization, that while Atwood was simply foreseeing a grim future for part of North America, for millions of women across the globe including Bangladesh, that grim future is simply the reality.

The writers of Women Chapter are being bullied for speaking out for basic human rights that most men in our society takes for-granted.

We are ridiculed for protesting against domestic violence, for speaking out against marital rape or even rape in general. Our demands to gain control over our own body and our own sexuality or our reproductive rights are considered absurd, fodder for jokes.

At the risk of sounding crass, just imagine if a man ever had to submit the freedom (or dignity) of his penis and his prostrate to the mercy of the society and its norms! Would it ever occur to anyone to ridicule that man for saying, “It’s my body, so the decision should be mine as well!”

But sadly, in a chauvinistic and patriarchal society, women speaking out for their basic rights are always fair game for social and cultural abuse.

Is this apparent rise of violence and abuse of women a new phenomenon? No, it’s not. The violence against women is probably just as old as the patriarchy itself. It’s just that with the invent of technology, the perpetrators are gaining new means of abuse. Their aggression is now taking over the cyber world as well. Add to this an enormous population that can be easily manipulated due to their lack of education and an easy access of internet available to a wide range of people who are not used to the intricacies of a virtual cosmopolitan reality and the result is a unique and new platform that can now be used to harass and abuse women.

The writers of Women Chapter have faced everything from death threats to threats of being raped and sodomized, cyber bullying, isolation from family and friends, threat of losing their employment, marital problems and the prospect of a possible marriage disappearing, all simply because they decided to speak out, to stand up for their rights by writing on Women Chapter.

If anything, all these harassments have done is strengthened our resolve. They have only stood as a proof of why such a platform is necessary.  All these criticisms are a sign that we are on the right path.

As we see, that the same online portal that has so strongly condemning Women Chapter and its writers is also shamelessly stealing our articles one after another and publishing them to get more traffic to their sites, it tells us, that they also, on some level recognize the power of women speaking up and standing up for women. As I have been told a few times before, “Only dead and useless people do not have any criticism. They do “Nothing.””

Shumu Haque has Studied Print and Broadcast Journalism at Humber College, Toronto. She works for a Canadian Not- For Profit Organization and in her spare time, likes to study and write about issued related to the status and rights of women across the globe

 

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