What will people say? In a Pakistani setting, if you are a female reading this, you must have heard this phrase at least once in your lifetime. If you are a male, I am sure you’ve never heard it, as “people” only say something, when a female does something wrong. Males are generally and in most cases exempted from “people’s” trials and accountability.
There comes a time in our lives when existentialism overpowers our thoughts. We start questioning our preconceived notions about the basics of life. It was my time and I started pondering over the characteristics of a typical characterless female in our society. It didn’t take long for me to pin point the attributes of an unethical, immoral girl as I had been friends with a girl who was an ideal example of what people call “a characterless girl”.
Sajida was a spoiled girl as she was the only daughter of her parents who had two sons elder to her. Right after stepping into teenage, Sajida got indulged in smoking because of insistence by some of her friends. She regularly used to hang out with her friends and coming home late was one of the usuals. Her family approved of it, in fact her brothers used to help her with the sneak outs. She occasionally did drugs as well.
Before hitting 20, Sajida had been in relationships with numerous of boys. I still remember that one incident when her brother caught her meeting a boy and informed her mother, a heated argument took place between her brother and her mother in which her brother complained about how their parents never allowed him to see anyone by saying that he can hang around with his wife only, and always shunned his arguments by saying that what will people say?
While her brother probed further about why so much liberty has been given to Sajida? Her mother very conveniently replied that, there is no comparison between both of them as she is a girl and she can do it as nobody will raise fingers on her character but a boy’s character is way too fragile to bring disgrace to the family, so he must mend his ways for the sake of what will people say?
After her teenage was over, she started drinking alcohol with her friends as well. It was her 28th birthday and she finally decided to get married. I still remember the time when she arranged the most enjoyable bachelorette party for herself and her friends. There was booze in abundance and the male escorts that she hired danced all night to entertain them.
Finally, the time of her marriage came. It was an arranged marriage and Sajida made sure that her husband was a pious man of character. She made sure that her husband wasn’t emotionally, romantically or physically involved with anyone in the past. She made sure that her husband didn’t smoke or drink as well. After all she wanted a crystal-clear past of her husband as it was her right. Once her husband passed this trial, only then Sajida mentally accepted him as her husband.
Five years passed by but they didn’t have a child. According to the medical reports, it wasn’t Sajida but her husband who was infertile. Sajida didn’t give a second thought of divorcing her husband and married someone else. After all, that was the right thing to do or else what would have people said?
Before moving forward, I have to conveniently apologize to burst the bubble of your imagination by declaring that the above mentioned story is entirely fictional. However, most of the readers must be thinking that what a heartless, characterless and unethical person, Sajida was. Now let’s take it this way. If it would have been Sajid instead of Sajida, would we still gauge the character of the individual with respect to the same ideals? Would we still term the individual as characterless? No! Not at all.
The reason being that in our society all or at least most of the above mentioned characteristics are a part of a common man’s personality. From coming home late to smoking, drinking, dating, infidelity, throwing parties by hiring showgirls and watching them dance provacatively to humiliate their integrity and to resorting to prostitutes for pleasure is considered to be normal for a male in our society; whereas females can be literally murdered in the name of honor killing just because of expressing their desire to marry the person of their choice.
Why can’t people say anything when a male does something wrong? Why only girls have to face this extremely pinching question, “What will people say?”
What sort of biasness is this? What have we done to our society? Even from an Islamic point of view, things that are prohibited for women are equally prohibited for men as well. Alcohol, Zinah, and dating Na-Mehram is equally Haraam (Prohibited) for all Muslims, irrespective of their gender.
The purpose of this satirical literary piece is not to degrade any particular gender, it is written in order to raise questions as to why parents, even in the 21st century aren’t able to raise their children in conformity with the same rules and regulations? Why men do not realize that if they have a dark and dusty past, then they do not have a right to judge a female’s character.
This piece is written in order to enlighten people about the fact that it is high time that we do not just raise our girls in accordance with the laws laid by Islam and the societal morals but our boys as well. It is high time to get rid of the vague notions such as what will people say?
It is high time to promote the idea that ethics and morals should be equally applicable to both boys and girls irrespective of their gender. It is high time to teach our sons to respect women instead of teaching our daughters to be submissive.
Standing at the crossroads of time, where every other day, a new hashtag screaming for justice for women who are murdered, raped, tortured and abused is emerging, it is high time to put an end to this ‘man’demic, and the only available vaccine for this is treating women as counterparts, equals, and above all, humans.
Source: The Nation (Writer: Manal Jaffery)