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.