The Diary of Queen Shugufta, 16, and Nimko King, 3½
Entry 6: Sleazebags
So twitter drama eclipses my own life dramas this week. Yesterday, Meesha Shafi spoke out about Ali Zafar’s sexual harassment. She said in a tweet, ‘it is not easy to speak out but it is harder to stay silent’, and went on to say that Ali Zafar harassed her physically more than once. Woah. Her tone was guarded, careful, but fair enough – it takes courage to speak about sexual harassment, and she’s displayed real strength. Ali Zafar, in response, denied the whole thing. Just every cliché in the book – talking about how he was a father and a son and brother as proof that he respected women. Also, saying he didn’t want to discredit the #metoo movement whilst simultaneously discrediting the movement. A major reason women don’t speak out about this stuff is precisely this – the fear of being accused of lying. This, along with embarrassment, internalized shame, makes it hard for victims to speak of abuse. With her action, Shafi gives others permission to cast off shame and speak too. This is why it’s important to support her. Her comments feed is filled with Ali Zafar fans accusing her of lying – it baffles me tbh. Why would she lie? In addition, people are maligning her character, her so-called ‘values’ … it’s all quite depressing. I hope more people come out in support of her – and also with their own stories of Ali Zafar, in order to bring clarity to the story. Ali Zafar – is the kind of man who writes tweets like: ‘When a woman says no, respect the answer but don’t give up unless she says “never”. If she says “never” with a smirk, you still have a chance’. Yuck. So gross. Please, men, stop being this way.
This revelation comes on the heels of the Patari incident, from a few days ago. What happened there was that two women spoke out on twitter about their experiences of sexual harassment from a guy called Khalid Bajwa, Patari ka CEO. They shared some texts and messenger exchanges – and it was pretty cringe. The guy’s full on pressurizing them to send photos of their feet and whatnot, and not taking no for an answer. He’s going like ‘Pleaaasssse’ and ‘You saidddd’ and weird negotiations like promising not to harass for a skype call in exchange for a photo. One of the girls tries to refuse meeting him by saying she doesn’t meet anyone she speaks to on twitter and he responds, ‘I am not anyone. I am Bajwa.’ Vomit. He’s also into really young girls. He says to one of them, seventeen, ‘braces are hot’, and he begs another, half his age, for photos.
The comments on the twitter pages of these women include people saying things like, ‘it’s equally your fault’, or ‘you were leading him on’ or that his actions were harmless and now they’ve made him lose his job. There remarks are depressing as hell; they must mean, I guess, that these men who are defending and justifying his actions do the same kind of stuff, right? And it’s true, men behave like this a lot. Since I was 12, 13, I’ve been getting random messages on my Facebook, saying ‘you are hot’ or sending super inappropriate photos and messages. That stuff isn’t harmless. It’s really shocking, and scary. And it’s even worse if it’s someone you know. A tuition teacher was messaging me once. He crossed the line in such a clever way that I couldn’t even say anything. I was just polite the whole time, and afterwards, I felt like such an idiot. Other stuff has happened to me too, and to nearly all my friends. Stuff I’ve never told anyone – stuff I’ve just buried, under silence, secrecy, shame. Audre Lorde says, ‘your silence will not protect you’. It’s true. And I think the only way forward is to start speaking about this shit. These women, coming forward, are role models.
When men behave this way, it makes it difficult for us to be out openly in the world. It makes us constantly scared of predators and distrustful of men. It’s scarring, shaming, silencing. And in fact, I think this is the whole point. This is why men do it – to maintain a system of dominance and control. Like this Bajwa guy. He was getting off on being powerful. That’s why he said ‘I am not anyone, I am Bajwa’. And also, this other message he sent to one of the women: ‘I think you are special … and I need to feel a little special back. Just a little. Even if that makes the other person go out of their comfort zone just a little bit.’ You see? He wanted to make these women feel uncomfortable. At least on some level. That’s why he picked such young girls as well. This is about his own power trip. I could go on and on tbh; I checked out the guy’s facebook. Let’s just say he’s the kind of man who’s very proud of his biceps, the kind of man who uses ‘moti’ as a term of endearment. Oh ho, I could go on but Nimko K is looking at me now with judgment. Now that’s below the belt, she’s saying. She’s telling me that this man is also, after all, a child of God. That whatever he did also comes from how messed up our system is – all of this macho stuff, this hunger for power, objectification of women – it’s a societal disease. And to shun and villainise this guy alone is unfair. She tells me empathy and compassion are the way forward. But sometimes, when I see how messed up things are, it feels like we need a full on gender war before we can start to redress the balance. That it’s all so out of joint at the moment that we need to just burn it all down and start again. But I know it’s more complicated than this. Men are also victims of the patriarchy. They suffer, from the expectations of what it means to be a man, and also from the kind of toxicity that makes them do these awful things, that makes them harass and objectify women, instead of loving and respecting them. I want to say to those dudes, you’re missing out. ‘Cause from a place of mutual love and respect, we can really go places. Men deprive themselves of that beauty when they do this kind of stuff. Like Beyoncé says in Lemonade, ‘when you hurt me, you hurt yourself’.
And a word for those kick-ass women who came forward with their stories. Just – wow! I’m so amazed and grateful that people like that exist. Strong women who speak their minds and stand up for themselves. It’s not that they don’t care what other people say, but that they’re brave and resilient enough to face it. And they give the rest of us strength too. They help us all move forward. They’re warriors, fighting the patriarchy. May they find courage in the face of adversity; may they live long, joyous, magnificent lives; and may all their dreams come true. Ameen.
This story is part of a series, which is updated weekly. You can read the previous entry here.