A man’s endurance of struggles to bring happiness for the family and his joyful acceptance of it has been elucidated by Anuradha Padwal and Amit kumar in the famous Bengali love song “Tumi amay korte sukhi jibone” (https://tinyurl.com/y9uu3q5k).
Had Anuradha listened to a few of the latest jokes of our current president and former speaker Abdul Hamid, she might, perhaps, have perceived a different view. Or, perhaps, I’m just overreacting. She may as well have had gotten the jokes and burst into laughter like the rest of us.
Least, the fact that, no matter which side of the politics our affiliation belongs to, we all are fascinated by the amazing sense of humour of our President and he is one of the remaining few politicians of the nation who are widely respected by all corners of our political arena cannot be undermined.
However, in Bangladesh, this dark sense of humour, given it comes from a person who has played an instrumental role in acquiring equality over his long political service to the country, poses a serious risk as it can be masqueraded as serious intellect as well.
Many would suggest not to read too much into it as they were made in good faith and meant to be enjoyed as innocent jokes.
But, is it that simple? Can the sexist nature of the jokes be ignored so easily?
The fact that women were trolled by the highest position of the republic is not only disturbing, it also, intellectually, discomforts the innocent joke argument and it matters.
Can it be denied that wrapped in humour remarks such as, “the marriage contract was to provide food and apparel, not medication” bear a subtle message: Women are the burden and not equal to men?
Isn’t it what our societal norm actually is? Allowing men to maintain a superior attitude towards women. With even most progressives of the men had a tendency of treating women as their responsibility rather an equal partner.
This stubborn stereotypes about the role of men and women in the society and in family structure have been established as the root cause of violence against women by the academics researching criminal behaviour.
Where the vague perception of men is abused by women is found as nothing but a delusion which emerges from vulnerability when their masculinity is challenged and actions are judged, rationally.
The former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull got it right when he addressed this issue with a grand view, “Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women.”
In our case, we are talking here about an issue that has killed nearly 5000 women in Bangladesh since 2001 among them 1500 are rape victims.
87% of our women suffer from sexual assault by their husbands and almost all of our women suffer harassment on the street which we call eve-teasing.
Such an extreme level of violence is a serious concern, not a joke. It goes to the core of our identities and defines our relationships with our sisters, mothers, and wives. It tells us who we actually are, and how dysfunctional our society is, in its current form.
And it demands the sincerest involvement of every level of our society and strong participation of the national leadership.
Which also involves a complete makeover of the stereotypical way we think about women’s and men’s role in society and in the family. The hunter-gatherer era assumptions that men are the providers, women’s role is to clean and cook is not helpful.
Even smallest matters such as Sexist jokes from people in leadership positions are severely damaging. These jokes may sound harmless humour but they can well and truly activate an image of alternative reality in people who are not even necessarily concerned about gender equality issue or discriminatory towards women.
And above everything else we must first, in every level, and in every way possible, stop disrespecting women.
Torture, both physical and mental, for women, is a reality of life. They’re the victims, not perpetrators.