What a difference a year can make.
Ever since the #MeToo movement started picking up steam back in October 2017, we've found ourselves in somewhat uncharted territory. Women (and also some men) have collectively started calling out their harassers and abusers around the globe. And while it's off to a slow start here in Pakistan, it's clear that it's here to stay.
Today, if you get a group of women together, some mention of #MeToo is bound to pop up. But the men, they aren't having these difficult conversations. Not with us and not with each other.
And if they are talking, it's not positive. At least online (who are we kidding, even in real life), we've seen a lot of guys respond with anger, skepticism or just get plain defensive when the #MeToo movement is mentioned.
So we decided to speak to some of the men who work in our building, who've done their homework to get their views on how this social reckoning might change things and what men can do to ensure a safer environment for women in society.
And although it's not exactly a justification, it's true that a lot of factors prime men to be chauvinistic: the fault lies in how society instills in them a damaging view of masculinity, lack of awareness and formative influences, the media they consume, the way their families operate, the company they keep. That said, perpetrators of violence must first be held accountable for their actions and then we'll talk about reformation.
So where do we go from here? Do we isolate the men we have known to be misinformed? Or do we work on their rehabilitation and try to get to the root cause of this toxic idea of manhood? Reprogramming how they think will take copious amounts of self-reflection; we can guide them but they have to do the emotional labour themselves, which admittedly, most have been reluctant to do.
I've been thinking a lot about something Azra Abbas said at Karachi Literature Festival earlier this year; someone asked her how we can take men along on this feminist journey and she replied, "Is that even necessary? If you can't complete your journey without somebody else's help, is that the right journey?"
I agree in sentiment but policy and change will only come if everyone plays their role; even if as a man, you aren't a predator or a misogynist yourself, you should be uncomfortable because #MeToo is also a war on onlookers' complicit silence.
The upbringing of men has taught them to not take women seriously but they are not beyond education and the reason allies are important is because men have a far better shot at getting through to each other than we do of making them understand (sad but true).
Women will continue to call out repressive practices but our voices are often dismissed or go unheard altogether.
Time and discourse will change that but until then, you already got that male privilege, which means more likely than not, you'll have an audience that's all ears; call out your male peers for sexist remarks, sexual misconduct and other problematic and downright criminal behaviours. It should be common decency; it's not weak or uncool to care about equality and treat women as full human beings in 2018, dude.