I am going to hold this close to my heart. I am going to frame it as a reminder of many things. Primarily, this is a telling example of what happens when you question men and their standards, choices, behaviour, sense of humour etc. How male ego reacts to a woman’s voice of disapproval and dismissal.
For me, its about not finding this man’s sexist joke funny, so he showed me a rather harmless middle finger. In Pakistan a woman didn’t find a man’s marriage proposal worthy of acceptance and she was beaten to death.
In life the ‘middle finger emoji’ gets translated to violence, rape, honour killing, acid attacks, naked parade, forced consumption of human excreta and so on depending upon your caste, class, and fiduciary relationship with the man you challenged.
So what exactly happened
This came to me from a young man much younger than me (6-7 years) but my uncle in distant relation (my mother’s aunt’s son). I was shown the middle finger on behalf of everybody else in the family Whatsapp group consisting of people from my mother’s maternal side. The severe reaction was to a mere 30 mins conversation over a sexist joke made by this person, to which I said sexist jokes are not funny. This happened yesterday, nobody from any part of my family or any part of the world have so far reached out and told me that this was wrong and I deserve an apology.
I could easily tag all the people who were part of this WhatsApp group on Facebook, but that’s not the point. The point is to tell the world that this is how little people respect a feminist voice even within their own family/relatives. How easily they say, “A joke is a joke, take it lightly, in real we respect women” and then in the same breathe show you the middle finger.
It still blows my mind to try to understand exactly what was he thinking when he took the decision to insult me so severely. I am trying to put myself in his shoes, trying to give him the benefit of doubt – trying but failing. Most of us would think twice to even insult a social media troll online, and here I was an elder to him, a relative, a woman. And it wasn’t like we were at loggerheads for days and months, both hurling abuses at each other. Not even like we were estranged from before. We were neither very close nor very distant, we had what you say, a cordial relationships.
Perhaps he assumed that a woman would take sexual insults silently. Surely the older people in this Whatsapp group aren’t completely aware what middle finger means. So this man must have thought that I would get the insult but others wouldn’t notice what happened there. I remember when I was a teenager, I was in the park taking a morning walk, and a man started flashing his penis at me from behind the bush. I was terrified, scared, ashamed and disgusted. What did I do? I ran away. I didn’t confront him. It is that weakness of the victim that they take advantage of, assume she won’t make much noise about it out of shame or respect for others.
But I am me, after I said thank you for the insult I went ahead and copy pasted the Wikipedia description of ‘showing the finger’ so that everybody else get to know what he did. And then I wrote this blog.
“On behalf of everyone”
The insult apparently is one behalf of everyone. The EVERYONE includes 3 generations of people from my mother’s maternal side – My mother’s uncles / aunts (meaning my grand uncles and aunts), their children and spouses (meaning my maternal uncles and aunts all younger than me), my mother’s blood sister, her husband, son and his wife. In front of all these people, this man crossed the line of relationship, age, gender, and basic civilized behaviour. And all these people silently approved.
Please have a little bit more patience for the feminist in your family
I want my friends to share it. I want people to know how subtle insults can go a long way in legitimizing violence. And perhaps take a lesson, try not to show the middle finger to the feminist in your family when she or he or zhe challenges “Everyday Sexism”