6 sexist jokes everyone must avoid at the workplace

6 sexist jokes everyone must avoid at the workplace

Before you call someone a 'woman' as an insult, think twice about the stereotypes you're perpetuating
Updated 07 Feb, 2018

Sexism in Pakistan is like dust in a bazaar; it's so prevalent that you don't even notice it anymore.

But that doesn't mean it's okay to be sexist or turn a blind eye to its occurrence.

Public figures should especially carefully consider the words they use in their speeches and statements, but every few weeks we are served a reminder that this is not the case.

From the Chief Justice of Pakistan on live TV to fashion designers on big award platforms, high-profile personalities are often found displaying a shocking lack of regard for gender sensitivity and thus reinforce the notion that sexist remarks are acceptable in everyday discourse.

Here are some rules to remember:

1) There's no room for wife jokes in a public setting

If you must, then save your banter with the Mrs for a private space, because that's the only place where it's acceptable.

Last weekend, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar was addressing lawmakers at National Judicial Policy Making Committee when he decided to share the following anecdote:

"A Supreme Court friend of mine — whose name I will not take — told me that he stopped fighting his buddhi [wife] the day he became a judge. I was a little surprised, so I asked him: why? He said, 'Because how can I provide justice if I am not at peace mentally!' So you need to get rid of stress — and that should not be hard as I am sure most of your wives are nice — because under stress, you will not be able to pass good judgements."

The CJP really didn't need to use the example of domestic strife here, when a host of other factors could jeopardise one's mental peace.

It's not a stretch to say that he brought the wife into the conversation for laughs — which isn't fair because it plays up the stereotype that wives are prone to quarrelling and henpecking their husbands, thus perpetuating an inaccurate myth about women.

2) Stay away from bawdy humour

It's shocking that several female parliamentarians have had to endure bawdy jokes made at their expense — from PTI whip Shireen Mazari who was asked if she'd like to be strip-searched (like it's done at airports abroad) when she called out the lax security at Islamabad airport to Railway Minister Begum Zahid Khaleequzaman who once said:

"I have so much work that I have one foot in Karachi and the other in Rawalpindi", only to have someone shout from the back, "The people of Rahim Yar Khan must be enjoying themselves."

The CJP's skirts comment in his recent speech was similarly unprofessional when he deemed it fit to use Winston Churchill's quote, "A speech should be like a woman's skirt, it should not be too long that one loses the interest, and neither too short that it doesn't cover the subject."

Some jokes in the workplace are simply unacceptable — and ribald humour is on the top of that list.

3) Name-calling isn't cool. Period

It's important to be mindful about how one addresses their peers, especially in a public setting. Losing an argument during a discourse does not afford one an open pass to take aim at others. Let the following be a lesson on how not to

Sheikh Rashid calling Benazir Bhutto a parrot

According to veteran journalist Nusrat Javeed, Sheikh Rashid was one of the first politicians to be observed passing derogatory remarks to his female peers.

“Benazir Bhutto was wearing a Pakistani green shirt and white shalwar. When she walked in, he quipped ‘You look like a veritable parrot’, which did not go down well with Ms Bhutto at all and caused a ruckus in the house,” he recalled in a conversation with Dawn.

Khawaja Asif's derogatory remarks towards women

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has a history of hurling insulting comments at female members in the house. The earliest reported incident was when he called PML-Q's Begum Mehnaz Rafi a "penguin" in reference to her limp.. Although he was reprimanded by women parliamentarians across the board, it did not seem to make any difference to his conduct. Read below.

At a National Assembly session in June 2016, Khawaja Asif was giving a speech on loadshedding in Ramzan when PTI led by MNA Shireen Mazari protested against some points he made.

Incensed by the interruption, Asif launched a tirade against Mazari, saying "Someone make this tractor trolley keep quiet."

One witness mentioned he also heard Asif say, "Make her voice more feminine." Another lawmaker chimed in from the government benches to say, "Keep quiet, aunty."

4) Don't make jokes about 'gossip' or 'female chatter'

Zaheer Abbas mocking women for talking unendingly

At the 2016 LSAs, fashion designers Maheen Kardar Ali, Zaheer Abbas and influencers Sadaf Zarrar, Momina Sibtain analysed celebs' red carpet looks and selected the winners of the Best Dressed Male and Female awards.

The ladies went first and when it was Zaheer Abbas' turn to speak in the end, he said something to the effect of 'The women will keep going on and on, so I'll just announce the winners'.

Not cool to crack a joke at the expense of your female peers, Zaheer. Why do you have a problem with women talking? Are you sure you would have said the same if you were accompanied by a trio of men?

Khursheed Shah making light of women being talkative

Last year, during National Assembly proceedings, Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah was criticised by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq when he made a sexist remark about his female peers.

The issue arose when Speaker Ayaz Sadiq asked women lawmakers to quiet down or step outside to continue their conversation, after which Shah offered: "Do not ask these women to stop talking, speaker; they will fall ill if they don't talk continuously."

To this Ayaz Sadiq quickly replied: "This is not acceptable to me."

However, lawmakers in the National Assembly, men and women included, had already begun to laugh at Shah's comment despite it' patronising nature.

5) Stop using 'woman' as a slur

Why is the gender 'woman' used as an insult? Among other things, calling someone a woman has become a way to associate them with being weak, sensitive, talkative, a gossiper.

Last last year, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took aim at former President Pervez Musharaf for the murder of his mother former PPP Chairman Benazir Bhutto. In response, Musharaf shared a video calling Bilawal a "woman" and asking him to "become a man."

"I would like to answer Bilawal, who is chanting slogans like a woman, first of all, become a man and then chant slogans," he said.

In order to end this negative association, men must start viewing women as equals instead of using their gender as a derogatory word.

6) Female relatives aren't fair game

It's almost a rule of thumb in Pakistan -- if you want to embarrass someone, say something about the women of their family.

When Asma Jehangir bashed a judge for 'banning' Valentine's Day, an opponent tweeted at her: "Plz give me your daughter's number - I want to wish her a happy valentine's day."

If you disagree with someone's position on an issue in the workplace, there are numerous better ways of addressing your difference in opinion. Also, if you must jibe at someone, don't bring their female loved ones into the conversation. It's a cheap shot — and makes you look just as undignified.


Fuzail Z. Ahmad Feb 06, 2018 11:38am
Excellent article, and really I am going to be careful in future, although its not going to be easy. Even women pass such anti-female remarks and this is just not fair. Thanks Dawn.
Ali Ahmad Feb 06, 2018 12:45pm
Great article. Pin it on the top of ur website and spread awareness.
A Pakistani Feb 06, 2018 01:15pm
Derogatory jokes are for sure some of the most heinous facets of our society, and as such these kinds of jokes should be discouraged in every possible way, such as that Shireen Mazari one.
Amna Feb 06, 2018 05:08pm
Great Article - Absolutely spot on !! This is 2018 after all and not stone age - respect for all is must !!
Naureen Feb 06, 2018 05:20pm
Husbands who take the pleasure of taking aim at wife jokes is a form of abuse!!! Well written articles!
Subhan Feb 06, 2018 05:46pm
Very nice. Please, in the next article, talk about acceptable behavior and give examples where differences were addressed in a civilized manner.
Barkat Ally Feb 06, 2018 07:08pm
Yes we all need to grow up.
SHAHID LATIF Feb 06, 2018 09:58pm
It is part of acceptable culture. Needs to change. Agreed
obaid Feb 06, 2018 10:13pm
A very sanitized list compared to what is actually said in the workplace.
Rev. Eldrick Lal Feb 06, 2018 11:20pm
Thank so much Dawn for writing such an exemplary article. Men and Women should take stern measures at place of work in order to conduct themselves appropriately.
Farouq Omaro Feb 07, 2018 06:27am
Thanks for the article.
sachin Feb 07, 2018 08:16am
Many people especilly the ones holding power in politics or administrative services or even in companies often do this. I have heard a President of a big firm gossiping about Mamata Banerjee the Chief Minister of West Bengal saying that she is the way she is because she is postmenopausal. This was in such a bad taste and shared with a batch of students from US colleges. I have heard many Sr. level men do this. Hence there are many who start believing that it is okay to say such things. Infact it is cool to say such things. Company policies cannot gag these Senior brats. Even Professors do so. Sadly this is rampant in our societies. Please bring out these stuff regularly. I was baffled when a lady friend from a media house also made some slur remarks against women. I think we are all being guided by seniors and people in power. First they have to abide by decorum of what must and must not be said.
Nazia Nazeer Feb 07, 2018 09:42am
Very well addressed . This issue is never been talked about.In Pakistan if you want to sabotage someone the best way is to crack women jokes. Even in Bangladesh now a days they are respecting women more than us. Need to revise our cultural values at home, schools and in Universities.
ha Feb 08, 2018 12:00am
If wonen.want to be equal they should stop complaining at move on. No one gives u respect unless u work for it. Face the jokes and criticism and face them rather than crying.
asfa Feb 08, 2018 12:22am
Zara John Feb 09, 2018 01:33pm
This article has pointed out few of the many issues...being a working woman I gave such ordeals every day...I hope this article brings in a positive response not only in the make community but female as well who also need to Amend their ways in few matters....respect starts from your home if you can't respect your females at home you definitely can't expect any good from such men out in the community....thanks dawn for bringing up this topic...
TAHIR HUSSAIN Feb 10, 2018 02:01pm
A great article for our leadership to learn! I am so glad that this topic is being discussed and raised at various forums. it would take sometime to change the mindset of the society, however a beginning is what is needed! thanks Dawn,