From women being forced off social media because of stalking and rape threats to mob violence, toxic masculinity takes many forms and claims many victims - including men.

Like every other year, 2018 was the year of male rage

Toxic masculinity will target anyone - man, woman or animal - who doesn't conform to patriarchy's standards
Updated 28 Mar, 2020 10:53am

It's become increasingly clear that The Hour of Desi Male Rage is far from over; we've lived through a long history of Pakistani men behaving badly with women. Sometimes they want to beat us 'lightly', sometimes they're enraged by women reclaiming public places, sometimes they stab us for rejecting their advances and in some cases, they murder us.

As the #MeToo movement landed in Pakistan, displays of male rage online and in real life have spiked. From women being forced off social media because of rape threats to mob violence, toxic masculinity takes many forms and claims many victims - including men.

This is not to say that women don't get angry; it's just that it's an emotion that's not encouraged, is considered "unfeminine" and is something women often just direct inward.

Men, on the other hand, get a hall pass for being frat bros all their lives. It seems that for them, anger is less treacherous and more socially acceptable emotional terrain.

This anger stems from a toxic belief that 'masculinity' is synonymous with values such as stoicism, inflexibility, displays of aggression, asserting 'control' or domination over women and resources... and more.

Toxic masculinity is just one of the unfortunate symptoms of a deeply patriarchal society. Apart from the direct damage it causes women, toxic masculinity forces men into narrow roles, dehumanising them and desensitising them in the process.

While conversations about toxic masculinity are becoming more mainstream - especially in the entertainment industry, with male celebrities like Osman Khalid Butt and Adnan Malik leading the charge - we're still seeing reactions from men that are vastly disproportionate to the issues at hand.

Don't believe us? Without further ado, here's this year in ill-mannered men:

1) Masculinity so fragile, one little poster wreaked havoc

Male fury is nothing new so we were prepared for backlash against the women's marches that took place across Pakistan on International Women's Day. We already knew that most Pakistanis would react poorly to the idea of women taking to streets to call for equal rights.

That said, we WEREN'T prepared for how one little poster about food — one among the hundreds, if not thousands of posters carried at these aurat marches -- would transform a vast number of Pakistani men into emotional wrecks.

In case you were wondering, this is the poster we're talking about:

Just WHY was this poster so offensive to men? Did they not understand that the poster was a simple call to end gender stereotyping? Apparently not. Clearly, a placard about encouraging men to help out with housework and splitting household chores really makes their blood boil, imagine what they'd do when women start saying it in real life.

In this case male rage found an outlet in making illogical statements on social media, like this one:

Actually, rights activists in Pakistan also want fundamental human rights. And also, western feminism is not necessarily a benchmark for desi feminists.

Read more: Why I made the sign 'Khud khana garam karlo'

2) Men would rather walk to Gilgit than have female pilots fly them

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Captain Maryam Masood and First Officer Shumaila Mazhar are the first women to fly an aircraft via the difficult Islamabad-Gilgit route...but definitely not the first to be subjected to some serious sexism.

The duo took the ATR (PK-605) from Islamabad to Gilgit and then flew back (PK-606) safely, a flight the airline shared is "very challenging and requires a lot of precision and technique".

Obviously, that still wasn't enough for some people to realise that these ladies know what they're doing. Nope, they just had to give their two cents on the matter.

Condescending remarks from blaming women for male unemployment (big LOL) to using the good ol' 'ladies can't drive' or 'women belong in the kitchen' stereotypes were used as ammunition; look at these men, always taking misogyny to new heights.

3) When PTI MPA Imran Ali Shah slapped someone around during a traffic brawl

A couple of months ago, a video started doing the rounds on social media of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Imran Ali Shah physically attacking a man in Karachi; in the video, we see the MNA who's accompanied by armed guards slapping the man multiple times.

Sure, Dr. Shah issued a half-hearted apology after, claiming that he got aggressive because he saw the man "repeatedly hitting a poor man's car" and that the man had abused and pushed him first. The PTI lawmaker further claimed that he had only "pushed" the man. However, in the video it is clearly visible that Dr Shah smacked the citizen multiple times and his story doesn't check out.

4) A pregnant singer was shot dead because she wouldn't stand up and perform

24-year-old Samina Samoon, also known as Samina Sindhu, a local singer from Larkana was shot dead by Tarique Ahmed Jatoi while she was performing at the gathering. Samina was six months pregnant and was shot multiple times because she refused to oblige the intoxicated, belligerent man's request to stand up while she sang.

In another case of men not being able to take no for an answer, Sumbul Khan, a theatre artist was fatally shot by three armed men who broke into her house in Sheikh Maltoon Town and demanded that she accompany them to perform at a private event. The men opened fire when Sumbul refused and fled the scene after murdering her.

From L-R: Sumbul Khan, Samina Sindhu
From L-R: Sumbul Khan, Samina Sindhu

Even petty things, like not having change for Rs1,000 bill could get you a bullet in the forehead.

5) That one time desi women took to the streets on their bikes and outraged Pakistan's entire male population

Girls at Dhabas, a collective that has been working towards female visibility in public spheres had their third annual bike rally this year; the rally is an initiative aimed at asserting a woman’s right to navigate public spaces on her terms.

In 2016, Aneeqa Ali was harassed and injured while riding her bike out in Lahore and the rally was first started then, to show solidarity with her. That incident triggered much-needed conversations as well as criticism for the way Aneeqa was treated and the sexist actions and comments of her perpetrators. Reclaiming the roads became even more timely.

Photo courtesy: Mariam Saleem Farooqi (Girls at Dhabas Facebook Page)
Photo courtesy: Mariam Saleem Farooqi (Girls at Dhabas Facebook Page)

The event encourages women all across the country to challenge the dominant mindset that it is inappropriate for a woman to exercise her freedom of mobility. However, that mindset is one that's deeply ingrained in our society and the comments that followed from men before, during and after are proof of just that.

But obviously, it was okay, in fact, lauded when a white woman did it. Cynthia Ritchie ring a bell?

Also read: This photo highlights how we apply different standards to desi women versus foreign women

6) Protesters looted a young boy of his livelihood

Chaos followed after Asia Bibi's acquittal by the Supreme Court last month. Angry mobs of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters burnt cars, shut down cities and raided a young fruit vendor's cart, among other things. A video doing the rounds on social media showed the kid at Sheikhupura’s Batti Chowk being attacked by the forceful crowd who can be seen running away with the goods while he struggles to protect his cart with a stick.

This behavior is actually bananas:

7) Of course a female comedian making the same jokes as a male comedian gets more flak...and death threats

When Natalia Gul Jilani, a dentist by day and stand-up comedian by night, poked fun at Sindhis (being one herself) it ignited some serious indignation — online and offline. This is why we can't have nice things, people.

What followed after were death threats and hate speech, causing Natalia to delete her social media presence. Natalia going off the grid online is yet another example of a woman being forced to go into digital hibernation due to harassment. Speaking of societal suppression, we figured that Natalia was a double-edged sword: it wasn't just that someone was making fun of Sindhis, it was a bigger burn that a woman was doing it.

Speaking to Images, Natalia shared: "Honestly, the rape and death threats were very disturbing and I'm actually leaving town for a while because my family is concerned about security. This is new for me and for them. When you step into the public eye, obviously not everyone is going to like you and I get that but this whole experience is alien for my family as well. I can't explain the suppression I'm feeling from all sides because at the end of the day, I'm a girl. When Ali Gul Pir got some criticism for 'Wadere Ka Beta', I'm sure he wasn't sent gang-rape threats."

The fact of the matter is that the so-called "line" in humour is subjective and what's offensive can also be funny. When the line does exist, it's often drawn by men, who cross it anyway whenever they please; who remembers Yasir Hussain dressing up as a Pathan and joking about child abuse or even Ahsan Khan?

8) When an unapologetic guy let the world know he loves makeup

As we said before: toxic masculinity's rage is not just directed towards women, it's directed towards anyone who doesn't "stay in their lane" or the boxes society places them in.

Again, we were prepared for some negative reactions when we published a story about aspiring make-up artist Shaheer Khan from Quetta. Better known by his Instagram handle @madeupshaheer, Khan is a self-taught make-up artist wowing his audience on Instagram with daring eye looks and catching the attention of both local and international brands.

As for the guy saying men doing makeup is against our religion and if we had the choice to marry Shaheer or Zayn Malik, I mean...think you missed the memo there buddy.

9) Gilgit-Baltistan’s tourism minister roughed up an airport official

In another case of misconduct caught on camera, Gilgit-Baltistan’s tourism minister, Fida Khan resorted to shoving and pushing an airport official due to a flight being delayed and ultimately cancelled as a result of bad weather. Khan, along with Law Minister Advocate Aurangzeb also burnt clothes in protest at the airport lounge and can be seen kicking the extinguisher in the video.

We don't know about y'all but we've been stuck at the airport plenty of times due to untimely changes in the flight schedule and managed to power through with lots of coffee and without manhandling anyone.

10) 2018 was also the year people tried to disguise their male rage as humour

With more and more survivors coming forward with their stories of assault or harassment, men know by now that getting angry is not going to do them any favours. But that doesn't mean it doesn't simmer below the surface and so, the hostility comes out in different ways, like in the form of "jokes".

Clearly, many Pakistanis still don't seem to understand that violence against women of any kind is not a laughing matter.

Haroon Shahid isn't the first (or last) man who thinks it's funny to joke about assault. Yes, the same guy whose debut film (Verna) was about a rape survivor vehemently seeking justice. Shahid quoted a tweet about journalist Gul Bukhari being slapped with a shoe, adding "A couple from my side as well please. Mein maroon ga to #MeToo hojai ga! (If I hit her, it's become a #MeToo issue)"

After he was called out, he continued joking about, even getting aggressive and only made things worse when he tried to brush off his comment as "light-hearted" and nothing more than a "bad joke".

Eventually tweeted multiple non-apology apologies but by then, the damage was done.

Similarly, when Teefa in Trouble released earlier this year, protesters showed up at the premiere in Lahore calling for a boycott of the movie on account of the Ali Zafar-Meesha Shafi sexual harassment case.

Waleed Zaman was there to attend the premiere and watch the movie...and run his mouth it seems. A video started circulating on social media from the live stream of the Girls at Dhabas page; while Waleed was walking into the cinema with his wife, the protesters were firing questions at them regarding their views on the matter.

Zaman's reply? “Because we support the sexual harassment of women,” he shouted laughingly. This coming from a man whose bread and butter depends on female consumers (he is also the son of fashion label Bareeze's owner).

He then proceeded to lie about his actions, saying he was "angry and upset" because his wife was being threatened and abused by the peaceful protestors. Who hurt you buddy? (no points for guessing it wasn't the protestors).

11) Literally go through any female celebrity's comment section on Instagram

No, really. The hate and vitriol by men you'll find even just shallow-diving into the comment section of any female celeb is nauseating.

Read more: Celebs stand in support of Saba Qamar against online trolls

Even if you go through Images' Instagram, you'll find all kinds of abuse directed towards us, any time we post about women's rights.

12) When Meesha Shafi rattled the Ali Zafar fandom and was forced off social media

While Meesha accusing Ali Zafar of sexual harassment was received with disbelief by men and women (internalised misogyny at work) both, the men were particularly unbearable. This was the start of Pakistan's #MeToo movement; a mainstream, commercially successful celebrity had just accused another big name in the fraternity of sexual misconduct. It was trail-blazing, brave and a long time coming, judging from the other accounts that followed.

That said, this obviously scared men. They knew they might be next, they knew they may have crossed the line in a similar fashion at some point and so their response was laden with anger; it got so bad, Shafi deactivated all her social media accounts for a while.

Also read: A timeline of the Meesha Shafi-Ali Zafar controversy

13) Even animals weren't safe...

Warning: graphic content

Back in July, prior to the elections, animal rescue team Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation (ACF) was handed a donkey brutally beaten, wincing in pain and shaken by trauma. The NGO took the donkey in and shared images on social media of the torture inflicted upon it by political supporters who tormented the poor animal to prove a point to an opposing party.

"This is a hate crime. A donkey beaten to pulp, punched in the face and abdomen several times, nose broken, kicked all over his body until he collapsed, has rope marks and a car rammed into him....all of this to describe one political party as an “ass” by some hooligans as written on the poor donkey’s body," wrote the team.

The donkey, who the shelter had named Hero eventually succumbed to his injuries. And this gruesome act wasn't even a one-pff; in another case of animal abuse involving political workers using defenseless creatures as props, another video was uploaded and shared via Twitter showing a dog wrapped in a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Isaf (PTI) flag being shot mercilessly multiple times.

Like we said, it's not just women who bear the brunt of toxic masculinity — it hurts everyone.