Workplace harassment is a social evil that is often brushed under the carpet for various reasons. While ‘goodwill of the company’ and ‘public image’ are only a few that are cited, the regressive psyche that expects women to be tone-deaf to comments and harassment is one that doesn’t find a mention.
It is more common than you think and it is arguably the most pressing problem of the 21st century. Do not mistake it to be homebound; the spread of misogyny has claimed the professions of many successful women in their prime, across borders.
In a similar predicament, Minahil Khan, a lawyer from Pakistan recently took to Facebook to share her ordeal and expose the misogyny she was subjected to and it will make you feel sorry for our kind.
“Four years ago at 2, I joined the legal profession. Many prepared me for what was to come. I was told not to wear too much makeup, keep my hair tied, keep my gaze stern and wear a dupatta at all times. I joined a law firm of national repute and I genuinely believed that my LLM degree and general privilege would shelter me from workplace harassment. Nevertheless, I kept my hair tied, my face stern and my makeup minimal.
I wanted to be known for my professionalism and in a city as small as Islamabad and a legal fraternity even smaller, I wanted my reputation to be clean and scandal-free. So when I was first sent messages by a senior colleague telling me how I look like a ‘gem’ and that I am beautiful I kept them to myself. More because the person sending those messages was the son of a High Court judge and I did not want my colleagues to consider me less professional and because I did not want my family to find out and tell me to discontinue working.
With time the messages became more frequent; between 11 PM to 3 AM I would receive up to 20/30 text messages almost every day, all those messages went unanswered and the next morning I would go to work and politely say salam to my colleague and pretend they never happened. When I did muster the courage to speak to my bosses, I was made to believe this is a right of passage and the messages will stop and I should concentrate on my work.
Soon after I left the law-firm because I could not handle the misogyny, and I could not work in an environment where I felt unsafe at the hands of a 30 something with a wife and son. I forgot about those messages and continued working hard. So when a week ago I received a message at 1230 AM from the same person calling me a slut, I had the same instinct to keep quiet and forget about it lest it create problems for me in my marriage and my current workplace. I was so conditioned to believe that this is okay that I was willing to forget this personal insult.
But when I told my husband (a man with more courage than I could ever dream of possessing), he made me realise that it is NOT okay. Regardless of who the person is and what his father does, he does not have a license to abuse me simply because his advances were ignored.
Having spent four years in a misogynistic profession, I thought my husband would be mad at me but instead, he gave me the courage to take this man down or he would do it himself regardless of the consequences. Which is why today I mustered the nerve to post this screenshot and the details of this man. His name is Salman Ijaz Chaudhry. His father is now a retired High Court Judge. He has a wife and children. And he continues to harass me just because he feels he can. I don’t know if this post will serve any purpose but I really hope he reads it and I hope his family and friends read it too. Men reading this should know that just because a woman leaves her home she isn’t ‘asking’ for it.
Despite having family and friends that will always support me, I’m still scared that this public abashment might lead to him saying even worse things about me. Which is why I pray for a time when women will be able to go to courts, hospitals and offices without their appearances being commented on. And where they will have the courage that I didn’t possess four years ago to not brush instances of harassment under the carpet and consider them a right of passage and ignore them only because of fear of the perpetrator’s physical strength simply by virtue of his gender.
Read her entire post here.
This is one of those incidents that make me think twice about the society we live in and the way it treats its women. But the question remains, how long before men in power stop taking advantage of their position? How long?