A Sense of Huma

Expendable Lives: A snapshot of how men hate women

By Huma Munshi

Women are hated all over the world. Our lives are expendable in the face of family “honour” or a man’s spurned pride. This sounds like hyperbole but given how the news has unfolded of late, it is hard to dispute.

farzana

In Lahore, Pakistan, Farzana Parveen was waiting outside a courthouse with the man she wanted to marry. Her family attacked her with such ferocity that she was killed onsite and her bloodied body was left for bystanders to peer over. They looked on in the aftermath just as they looked on as Farzana was attacked. She had dared to refuse her parents’ choice of partner. Her lover got away and it was later found that he had killed his first wife.

In Santa Barbara, USA, Elliot Roger went on a shooting “spree” after writing a diatribe outlining his hatred for the “sluts” that would not sleep him. How dare he be refused.

In India, two sisters from the Dalit community (the “Untouchables”) were gang raped and strangled. Their bodies hung from the trees, like some lose debris, used and discarded. Their gender coupled with their lower caste made them expendable, fit for one purpose only. The police were informed but turned a blind-eye.

In China, a woman was been beaten to death in a busy McDonald’s for, allegedly, refusing to give her phone number to a male customer. Other customers looked on as this brutal murder took place, with some continuing to order food.

Boys will be boys, right? It’s just a bit of fun.

These incidences are a tiny snapshot of the global prevalence of violence against women. Women are stoned to death in the name of so-called “honour”; they are butchered and bloodied as a result of male anger. Because women are a nuisance; how dare we choose who we love; how dare we refuse to sleep with a man. Our clothes are too provocative; our intellect too threatening; we are too outspoken; not contrite enough; not willing; not passive.

This global pandemic is about one thing and one thing only: It is a hatred of women – our bodies and our independence. It is not the case that in the Indian sub-continent the brown men treat their women worse; or that in Muslim countries, religious text is more effective in legitimising male violence.

Soraya Chemaly powerfully describes what misogyny is:  it is “a system whereby women are subjugated and dehumanized” and it permeates all spheres: it is the “systemic exclusion of women from leadership”; “the ritualized silencing of women by male domination of religion”; “the message that women are base, where we are grossly objectified by pervasive and dehumanizing imagery and language”.

Intimate partner violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, “honour” killings, and the language of “sluts”, “bitches”, “witches” are all a manifestation of a deep-seated hatred of women. The ideology of misogyny legitimises people being bystanders or the police and other bodies turning a blind eye. It is the combination of the pervasive influence of the ideology and the institutions that collude that has created a culture of institutional misogyny.

And we do not tackle instuitional misogyny with politicians selectively condemning some acts of male violence and not others. William Hague condemns Farzana Parveen’s murder but remains silent at the misogyny in USA that bears witness to the murderous acts by Elliot Roger and the horrific rape in Steubenville.

Indeed, the statistics tell us the true picture of the scourge of male violence permeating all spheres of society. In England and Wales on average two women a week are killed through domestic violence. This statistic cannot be overlooked when Hague condemns Farazana Parveen’s murder. We need a fundamental change in how male violence is addressed: from police training; to the resourcing of the voluntary sector; to tackling the language of victim-blaming; to effective governance on this issue.

 If the international community has a role to play it is firstly tackling the culture of misogyny within our own countries. More widely, it is to support women’s education around the world; encouraging accountable governance; encouraging adherence to the rule of law; supporting organisations on the ground because strengthening civic structures and encouraging participation will lead to change.

These things provide the platform for women to speak out, organise and lobby for change. From experience I know that once you start speaking out against oppression, you will not stop. But there must be opportunities and institutions that give women the platform. In the end, only the true liberation of women will see an end to male violence.

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Huma Munshi started the #fuckhonour hashtag to express her anger at the oppression women have experienced. She is a writer, poet, blogger and trade unionist. She is a regular contributor to Media Diversified, F-Word and Time to Change.

She has written widely on honour based violence, mental health, film and intersectionality. Her weekly column will reflect her passion for activism, a feminism that reflects her own experiences as an Asian Muslim woman, film reviews and current affairs. Read more of her articles here

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9 replies »

  1. …this is NOT a good article. How men hate women? Really? Is suddenly generalization fine? Would it be appropriate, then, to talk about white hate against blacks in the US? Or how “the British” hate all foreigners? Shall we discuss the situation on Gaza and the West Bank in these terms? Why is generalization fine in this matter? Does your father, your boyfriend or your son hate you? How about your doctor or teacher? You think men just go around with a seething resentment and hatred, waiting to boil over? Are we all Elliot Rogers in your mind? Or is it easier to make inflammatory sweeping generalizations, than to address a complex issue here?

    (And how complex these issues are, perhaps this peer reviewed paper can help demonstrating: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1854883/)

    • NOT ALL MEN!! love these comments jumping to the defense of the menz rather than examining the complex issues contributing to a culture which legitimises misogyny. NOT ALL MEN!!

      • “Women are hated all over the world. ”

        This is the first sentence of the post. You are complaining about jumping to the defense of menz, however, you seem to be condemning all. In fact, you are condemning the whole human civilization. The complexity you are complaining about is the very same thing that I missed from your post. You distilled the complex issues facing women at different parts of the world into “women are hated”. Then go on and 1. accuse me of jumping 2. being simplistic by jumping, instead of considering the “complexities” -which are, as I said, the very things that I missed from your post. So not all men. Then how big percentile, you’d say? 80? 60? 20? Maybe 10% hate women? 5? Smaller? Out of 100 men you know, how many hate you because of your gonads?

        Give me a number, if you don’t think you are generalizing. If not ALL men are guilty, and not even a sizable portion, then why accuse the whole mankind? If not all of us are guilty, then surely the society’s issues are not our faults, but a very few with power? You know, the same people who exclude others because they’re black, gay, foreign, atheist/christian/jewish/muslim or whatever. Perhaps a large part of misogyny is a part of a larger, systemic issue. Perhaps a lot of cultural shit women has to suffer through still (like the idea that girls can’t do math) is a fossil left over in the culture, an antiquated notion rather than hate. After all, we all have elderly relatives with embarrassing views on race, gender issues and whatnot. The younger generations do not generally share these views. Change comes slowly. (We’re talking about the Western world here; female circumcision, gang-rapes, honor killings and other issues are not included.) We’ll never know, because asking questions, apparently, earns you snapdown.

        About that one issue I mentioned. (It is the easiest of all the problems facing women.) So how do you explain the studies that show 70% of domestic violence was instigated by women? (But they do suffer more fatalities and injuries.) It seems like it’s not exactly a men-hate-women issue in this case, but more like everyone-is-violent-as-fck-only-men-are-bigger-and-hit-harder issue. You know, a COMPLEX issue. That’s one issue out of many, and you cannot put it all under the same umbrella about men hating women, and then come back to assume that I generalize somehow with a knee-jerk reaction when I ask you about these. Mine was not a knee-jerk reaction. Your hint that I’m some bitter men’s right activist, however, is.

  2. I love the points that you emphasized in this well written article. I have one point to add. Any solution that does NOT included series dialogue and male involment is bound to be a limited solution. Women need men to help curb the behavior of other men if we’re ever to make some real changes in how women are treated globally. A victim is always the first to cry out from the pain and humiliation of injustice, murder and oppression but with no real engagement/discourse with their victimizers theirs is just a voice in the wind easily dimmissed and ignored. How do other men who don’t engage in such disgusting behavior feel about members of their sex attacking, controlling and brutalizing women? I truly feel that advocates must reach out to men who have the guts to condemn such behavior and stand with their fellow human beings against this societal disease.

    • Though i wonder if first and foremost the priority is to build the capacity and strength of women and the feminist movement, if men want to support this, more power to them. The inequalities are too ingrained and need to be addressed to effectively tackle all the values that contribute to mosogyny.

  3. I completely agree. I think too that the reason why white, western male politicians comment so infrequently about violence towards women in their own countries is purely to distance the ethics and morality of the developed, industrialised nations from the underdeveloped and emerging nations; perhaps because that distance helps to justify western intervention in those other countries and investment in pools of underpaid labour. It is thus in the interests of the power-elite, internationally, to support financially cultures in which women are tortured and killed while at the same time issuing public condemnation – such is the modern orientalism.

    • And I think it is so easy to fall into the trap of all the old colonialist mentality – those savages over there, with their “honour” killings, but let’s not examine our own appaling record on domestic violence.

  4. “If the international community has a role to play it is firstly tackling the culture of misogyny within our own countries. More widely, it is to support women’s education around the world…”

    Great points, I couldn’t agree more. Education really is the key to ending VAWG, and that includes education in the West.

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