On the question of gender | Pakistan Today

On the question of gender

  • In our fight for power we have become all too man and all too woman but have lost connection to all too human

About two years ago, I heard a very puzzling lecture that was part of many held academic conventions at Alhamra Art Council. During the lecture, the speaker claimed that there is no significant difference between far-right and far-left. This was almost hurtful to hear as recently Donald Trump became the president of the United States and he was much reviled by many because of his exclusionary politics. Whereas, the Marxist ideology, which was best portrayed by Bernie Sanders during the United States elections of 2016, seemed like the sound of a lute played by all the best kind of angels for anyone who was coming from the middle or working class.

Now two years forward, I believe that I was lost in the superficial meaning of the terms. Perhaps, in essence, the speaker was right and the foundations upon which these two very different ideologies stand are same and desire similar sort of society in which there is the marginalisation of the other; the world of differences and discontent, not the world of togetherness.

How is this story related to the question of gender? Perhaps we need to realise that it is the idea of togetherness and difference which play a significant role in any society and ideology.

One cannot deny the fact that men, since last few centuries or more, have been exalted to such a privileged position in the hierarchy of power that the rest of the specie and sub specie of this planet has been reduced to mere objects and nothing more. One should also not deny the fact that we ought to apologise to the rest of the world for all the atrocities that we have committed so far, if not feel guilty which we should be. One should also not deny the fact that whenever humans fought for emancipation, they had only fought for the men’s liberation and not the other half’s.

Today the distinction between these binary genders is to such an extent that a cliché like ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ has proclaimed its place in many hearts. But one should ask the hard question: Are we really so different or are all these differences being imagined again and again to reinforce the cliché like the one mentioned above? The question of masculinity and femininity has become so important to us that we have even ignored the fact that the feeling and attitude of being a man or a woman ultimately come from human beings. Perhaps, in our fight for power, we have become all too man and all too woman but have lost connection to all too human.

However, it is an undeniable fact that women are oppressed. To tell you the truth, as a man, it would be a straight out lie if I say to one of my female friends that I can empathise with them because I cannot. Belonging to a privileged group, I have taken so many things for granted for which the other gender has to work hard for. And in such a situation, it would only be true that in the fight for emancipation, the idea of the ‘other gender’ will further strengthen than narrow down. Philosopher Judith Butler, while giving her thesis on gender fluidity, accuses other feminists, including Simon de Beauvoir, of further strengthening the idea of ‘otherness’ than emancipation as a whole. So, the question is, do we really want this? Or should we be looking for human emancipation rather than emancipating imagined communities?

Perhaps when the idea of misogyny is challenged, it is not only the idea that is challenged but also the identities that are being continuously forged in our society

Perhaps when the idea of misogyny is challenged, it is not only the idea that is challenged but also the identities that are being continuously forged in our society.

Instead of indulging in this battle of strengthening imagined genders and creating a world of differences, would not it be more plausible that we find a way for acceptance, togetherness and human emancipation? It is not an easy task for sure as it has only come naturally to humans to build identities at the expense of marginalising others, may that be occidental against orient, coloniser against the colonised and men against women. In the process of creating such identities, we have caged ourselves and from these cages, we hurl stones and arrows at the “other”, may that cage be of misogyny or misandry. Would not it be better to escape from our own imagined cages and thrive towards the emancipation of human and not of a man or a woman? That is the question I leave you with.



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