Countering women’s complaints about their negative encounters with men, by sneering that women are just as capable of wrong is not the service it is made out to be.– Fadilah Ali
“Women are incapable of doing wrong,” said no woman ever.
The effectiveness of patriarchal extravaganza, in creating and upholding narratives surrounding women and women’s issues is severely overlooked. A common example is the use of “feminist” as a slur against outspoken women. And in cases where male misconduct is being discussed, the glorious stroke of inspiration that fulfils the need to silence women on these pressing matters is suddenly brought to the limelight: the reality that women are actually capable of evil.
But, here’s the thing. It is not some mighty riposte that will effectively silence women. This is for the basic fact that no woman has ever upheld this fickle, simplistic, infantilising mantra. Women are just as human, and it should not be controversial to state that we are very capable of wrongdoing, just like our male counterparts. And according to our fundamental differences, the differences in male and female wrongdoing varies, in several capacities and frequencies.
Society upholds these narratives; these ideas of what a woman should do, what a woman should be, without considering the actual human nature of women. Absolving women of all wrong, and at the same time unleashing the equal propensity for wrongdoing as a weapon in the face of criticism is akin to the practice of bringing up instances of men being sexually assaulted (victims upon whom no one had bestowed an inkling of thought prior) to silence women’s grievances. On the surface, the idea that women are the faultless gender seems admittedly uplifting. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be regarded as flawless and resistant to wrong? Who wouldn’t want to be venerated and looked up to as the embodiment of all that is good and pure? This would be splendid if women were actually created this way.
However, the position of being held to the highest moral and social standards also comes with a singular pitfall: women are afforded little to no grace in the catastrophic event that they make mistakes. Global culture has developed around offering millions of excuses for men’s actions or just somehow blaming women for it. Since it is to be expected of a man to always be in the wrong, he is ironically met with grace and charitable interpretations rationalizing his actions. Conversely, women dare not step a toe out of line. Society criticizes women for everything, from their successes to their dresses, to their falterings. A fit of collective righteous anger crops up when a woman, is vocal, confident and unapologetic. Seeing as such attributes are reserved for men, it is no wonder that when we lash out at women, we don’t hold back. We criticize and nag and vilify.
Why not? After all, it is rather convenient for any society to ignore the actual realities of women, our peculiarities and connexions, and proceed to mould an image of what it requires women to be. It enforces and upholds that image as the standard, the guiding star to which all women must amend themselves. As the faultless gender, women should act demurely, even when faced with the harshest of inconveniences. Women should always prioritize looking pretty and their overall appearances over literally everything else. Women should graciously tolerate everything that life throws at them, as befits a flawless being incapable of wrongdoing. Women shouldn’t even have body hair.
Making women out to be the faultless gender strips them of their most important quality; being human. It places on them the need to perform superficial goodness, it holds them to an impossible standard of conduct, where perfection in its absolute is not only normal but to be expected. It is counter-productive for a society to be engineered this way, for the men to be expected to do wrong, and for the women to be expected to tolerate these wrongs with a graceful smile.
Countering women’s complaints about their negative encounters with men, by sneering that women are just as capable of wrong is not the service it is made out to be. It is not only absurd to suggest otherwise, in the end, no one has a monopoly on evil.
Fadilah Ali is the Features Editor for The Muslim Women Times. She has a B.Sc in Microbiology and she is passionate about reading, writing, women’s rights, and tafsir.