Let’s shift the focus from what goes on the head to what goes on inside it.
My husband mentioned they were making a separate shed for the bull at his farm, so that they could remove it (the bull) from amongst the cows. The reason, unexpectedly, was that all that togetherness had made the bull ‘indifferent’ to his cows. Apparently segregation is a commonly used method of stimulating interest between genders, on farms.
Well now, isn’t that interesting? Animals are used in labs to research behavioural patterns, because these patterns are shared by humans with the more complex members of the animal kingdom. Therefore this incident above has to be quite revealing with all its implicit parallels in the human world: could it be that all that segregation is actually having a counter effect to what we expect here? What fun!
There is no huge difference between this society and others, whether more or less conservative, in terms of the ‘interest’ and respect women attract. If anything, the difference registers negative on the respect scale in this country, with many exceptions of course. This goes for the urban areas where women lead a relatively independent existence, the rural areas where women although they work in the fields, are under greater constraint of dress…and in the tribal areas where they are virtually incarcerated. In fact, in the village where my husband’s farm is located, incidents take place which would make your toes curl. Incest is not unknown, and promiscuity is almost languidly acceptable. I have come to accept with some sadness that my father’s description of our rural brethren as simple, honest, salt of the earth folk was either exceedingly naïve, or shockingly outdated, or else just plain wishful thinking.
Anyone who keeps an eye on the news and lives around here, will have witnessed and heard (on an ascending scale of revulsion) of cases of forced or/and child marriage, rape, torture, and the sale of women and girls...there was a case recently where a couple of men in Hafizabad sold their mother for Rs 30,000. This is apparently not an uncommon occurrence, although the price may vary, depending. Women are even killed because they dare to marry a man of their choice, because they are suspected of having affairs, because they did not produce a male child, or just because. In another incident a woman was paraded naked through the streets because her son was suspected of sleeping with their neighbour’s wife and making her pregnant. Yet another lady was taken onto the streets, her head publicly shorn, and her face blackened because she left her husband and married another man. These are for the most part women who do not leave home without a chador, if not a veil.
It can only be called an obsession, what else, when even the Olympics are viewed from the perspective of what and how much is worn by female athletes, particularly those who represent the Muslim countries of the world. If there were anything to show for this preoccupation with (and endorsement of) a shroud for a living breathing human being, one might concede a valid point, but as the incidences cited above and others indicate, there is not.
And then of course, there is the opposite end of the spectrum, again an obsession, again centred on women, but this time encompassing what and how little they wear. The American National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was recently responsible for a video production titled, ‘Bodies in Motion,’ which centred not on the outstanding performance of American female athletes in the Olympics this year, not on their athletic prowess and huge medal tally, or on the achievements of other female athletes from around the world. Instead, it focused entirely on the carefully selected poses of only those athletes with an attractive physique minimally covered. These poses, innocent as far as the athletes were concerned, were conveyed along with a discernibly pornographic aura and decidedly salacious overtones by means of strategic camera shots and suggestive music. The video has since been removed following an outcry from some other (media) quarters.
Obviously, both extremes produce almost identical results. It leads one quite naturally to question the attitude surrounding the matter: that of making the matter an issue at all. Could it be an idea to shift the focus: from what goes on the head to what goes on inside it, while keeping everything below clothed within moderate bounds of decency and sense. The definition of which, of course, is for the individual to decide, and the rest of us to accept. Let’s just call it ‘Live, and Let Live,’ and move on to other, greater things.
The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/