When it comes to harassment, why can't we place blame where blame belongs?

When it comes to harassment, why can't we place blame where blame belongs?

Social conditioning frames our response to harassment: as young girls, for example, we're conditioned to be polite
16 Apr, 2018

I opened Twitter a few days ago to find a stream of tweets and screenshots naming and shaming some fairly well-known men for their harassment and sexual misconduct towards women and underage girls.

Related: Patari cofounder Khalid Bajwa resigns as evidence of sexual misconduct surfaces

As the tweets and screenshots multiplied, one could not help but take relief in the fact that such individuals, many of whom were known to many of us as "creepy", were being exposed. It was a relief to see that there could be a limit to what you can say and do behind the digital mask of a screen, and it was gratifying to let it be known that none of it would be allowed to stay hidden for long.

After all, how painfully innocent or infantile can such men possibly pretend to be, to appear so unaware of what crosses certain boundaries and what doesn't?

And how shameless do you have to be to continue badgering women when you can very well note they are reluctant or uncomfortable in responding to or engaging with your clearly uninvited remarks?

This developing expose was also an effort to assert to this lot that their position and their status, including marital status, both of which are used as covers of sort, do not and will not shield them from being seen as what they are.

While the courageous efforts to call out harassers was met with considerable praise, there was a completely different kind of response that needs to be addressed: the advice doled out by men to women on all the ways they could avoid harassment.

"Bas block kardena tha."

"Na reply karti."

“Shut up call de deni thee.”

"Women are secretly inclined to enjoy attention."

Let's first get something straight: to respond in one-liners, to ignore certain unwanted remarks, to respond after ages or not respond at all are also very clear messages used by women to try disengagement. We try to politely and clearly demonstrate our discomfort, but unfortunately, politeness isn't a language this lot finds comprehensible.

People came out of the woodwork to victim-shame the survivors
People came out of the woodwork to victim-shame the survivors

Also, no woman ever talks with a guy with the knowledge that he'll transgress the bounds of appropriate conversation. And once those signs begin to show, it is difficult for us to navigate through the situation without negative consequences. From digital stalking, incessant messages on every forum, the possibility of aggression to actually showing up outside the female's academic institution or professional workspace, the rage and retaliation spans many forms in a society and culture where victim-blaming and character assassination is common and the dangers to a woman's safety are all too real.

There is also absolutely no guarantee that the harasser will stop bothering you even if you are blunt with them or ignore them completely.

It is here that I would definitely factor social conditioning for women into the frame of our responses to harassment. As young girls, we are conditioned to be polite and we know from experience that our hostile behaviour can beget just as hostile a reaction. And that a "bold" or "batameez" aurat only brings things upon herself.

It is deeply unsettling that the focus of fault is falling on the supposed reluctance of women to block harassers and predators, rather than the abhorrent behavior exhibited by the men themselves. Once again, the burden of responsibility and blame falls onto the woman. The issue is neither as simple as the usage of a block button nor must it be reduced to this.

So while one must appreciate the wisdom being doled out to us by certain men regarding the “appropriate” or “right” response to harassment, the indifference and insensitivity of this wisdom to female conditioning and female fears of male rage and retaliation cannot be ignored.

You can’t speak for a position you neither share nor experience.

But to the women exposing these predators and harassers, you’re speaking for many, many of us. We support you in shredding these long-kept silences to bits. More power to you.


Imran Ahmad Qasrani Apr 16, 2018 06:04pm
100 % AGREED exposing these predators and harassers
Fazi Apr 16, 2018 07:35pm
I fully agree with the article. Women who are at the work place have to show a lot of restraint to survive. Many of these women's family lively hood depends on such jobs. It is high time that the society as a whole should support them and back them.
WesternEast Apr 16, 2018 10:28pm
In today's civilized world, having an affair with a co-worker at workplace is enough excuse needed by HR to fire both parties immediately. Nobody is saying that the harasser is innocent. At the same time the victim doesn't seem a decent person either. It's very obvious from the chats snapped that she is very well aware of his creepy behavior, yet she kept him in contact for a good period of time. In Pakistani culture girls know what they are doing when they are involved in this kind of conversations. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
Annie Apr 16, 2018 10:47pm
When I started working in 2006, calling out sexual harassment by your boss or by your male colleague was career suicide. No one took women who complained about sexual harassment seriously. Which is why I never had to courage to report incidents that happened with me. As a result of which, the predator who came after me still works in the company. But obviously, after about 10 years, no one will listen to me and I have no video or audio proof either, also at that time there were no smartphones, and his harassment was actually face to face, not on messages or email. He was clever like that. Anyway, I am glad that this generation of female workers will get some courage to report sexual harassment.
Fuzail Zafar Apr 17, 2018 08:51am
In a nutshell, you are saying that young innocent girls will never block the guy and continue talking with him until the purpose is served. That in itself is taking advantage of the 'female privilege', a phenomenon which has been completely obscured by feminism's exaggerated assaults on what u call 'male privilege'.
Naxalite Apr 17, 2018 09:30am
Useless article
Sana Apr 17, 2018 11:51am
Robbers will jump into your house if you do not lock the front door. While the robber will be charged for looting , everybody will advise you to lock the door at night. Please think.
Chris Roberts Apr 17, 2018 12:29pm
It's absolutely true that the harassers must be exposed, sometimes despite the consequences due to internal politics. There is no denying that women are all too often on the receiving end. But there are also women harassers who resort to falsely accusing men of harassment when the males in question refuse to allow themselves to be seduced, or when an initial meeting doesn't quite go as planned. In such cases, the man doesn't stand a chance. His name becomes mud almost immediately, and he loses all credibility. This is not right either. Justice and fairness demand that the victim, male or female, should not become the vilain.
Baig Apr 17, 2018 01:19pm
No one has said that Khalid Bajwa is innocent or that his behavior is appropriate.Also, no one is saying that the victims somehow invited him to say / do all that. All that is needed is a healthy discussion on how to respond to such unwanted attention. For instance,saying that the 17 year old was wrong in allowing him to meet her alone and touch her voluntarily is stating the obvious.She herself admits that.As she said she was emotionally vulnerable and he took advantage of that but that is what a lot of guys do and will keep on doing so you have to be smart about that.The girl on texts.. I have a lot of friends who have faced such requests.They have been very firm in giving a shut up call resulting in the requestor never to approach again.The way the girl handled (by discussing the possibility of sharing photos)is probably the worst way to handle it if you are feeling uncomfortable.No one is protecting KB but that does not mean the girls couldn't have been smarter.
The Right Left Apr 17, 2018 02:35pm
Isn't there a law against sexual harassment in Pakistan? Filing one against a man like the exposed one ,will do loads of good.