I couldn’t let this week’s news go un-noted, but first some backstory.
Back in my early twenties I worked on the phones at a pizza shop. Workers were segregated according to sex. Women were put to work on the phones and men made and delivered the pizzas. The men were paid more.
To my left was a Pakistani woman and to my right an Indian woman and we stood for hours without breaks taking orders. The men of the shop had created an interesting little hierarchy for themselves based on the fact that the owner of the shop was Pakistani. The hierarchy went like this: Pakistanis, followed by any muslims (Afghans, Iranians, Syrians), White British of no religion/Black British of no religion, and finally at the bottom, Indians.
And below that, any women.
The Iranian guy of the shop explained to me that in his country there was a saying which went something like “hate between brothers can be greater than among enemies” or somesuch. What he meant was, Pakistan and India, being neighbours, despised each other for historical reasons. That was the best explanation he could give.
The Pakistani woman to my left was not concerned about lording it over the Indian woman on my right. She was more concerned about the fact that her husband,who worked as a driver in the shop, had stopped calling her beautiful and had recently taken to calling her ugly. She was also very much concerned about her baby, who was back in Pakistan being taken care of by her mother in law. She told me that when she went back to Pakistan on holidays her boy didn’t recognize her and didn’t call her “mother”. This had broken her.
The Indian woman invited me for dinner and sat me down and gave me a better explanation than the Iranian guy about the hierarchy of the shop. She gave me a great historic account of British colonialism, which educated me in a very particular way. She told me precisely how the British colonized India and Pakistan and their tactics were unashamedly based on divide and rule. Divide and rule. Divide and rule. She repeated it so that I would never forget. The troubles in India and Pakistan were invented by the British, who knew the first rule of war, the art of war, which is if you can divide your enemies you will rule over them effortlessly.
Which brings us to patriarchy. A judge this week in the UK ordered that a man be given a longer sentence for rape than normal because the rape victims were from a particular Asian background where there was a greater shame surrounding rape and therefore their suffering was greater.
Female suffering, of course, is measured by the impact of the rape on the males they are associated with. If virginity has a market value, the fathers, brothers and future husbands suffer more by her rape hence the longer sentence for the criminal. If the girl is a piece of trash with no particular market value then we can conclude her suffering is less. If the rape victim has children then by this reasoning she hasn’t really suffered at all because we know for sure she’s not a virgin. If the rape victim is an old woman then what’s the point of even jailing the rapist at all if the men in the victim’s life have long ago died off… If we’re measuring suffering, that is. Measuring female suffering. Now that’s food for thought.
And if any woman protests this verdict they know they will be told to #checktheirprivilege which is why you will find women very quiet around this issue. And the stroke of genius is that the judge was female. A woman messenger carrier. A clever stroke. Divide and rule, in all directions.