Even as we try to come to terms with the coronavirus pandemic which has wreaked havoc in our lives, deep-rooted sexism and misogynistic ideas have raised their ugly heads and have spewed venom with male political leaders and influential personalities blaming women for the outbreak.
A report by New York Times suggested that the outbreak has been harder on men than women since more men seem to be dying from Covid-19. The article also suggested that men were at a higher risk of contracting the disease than women. Yet, women have been the worst hit in the pandemic. From abortions being declared as non-essential and consequently being banned in some countries to sexist jokes about how women should avoid nagging their partners during the lockdown, we’ve seen it all.
Recently, a Pakistani cleric, Maulana Tariq Jamil, went on to claim on live television that women are to be blamed for the pandemic and it is because of their “sins” that mankind is suffering. Yes, “mankind” seems apt here since Jamil insinuated women were the reason why men were suffering in his country.
The sins? Wearing scanty and vulgar clothes.
“Who is making my nation’s daughters dance. Their dresses are getting shortened. Allah sends his wrath when obscenity is common in the society” – these were his exact words. And he made these comments as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan looked on.
This is not the first time women have been targeted during the pandemic. A few days ago, the mayor of Japan’s Osaka said that women shouldn’t be allowed to go grocery shopping during the pandemic because they take longer and “dawdle.”
Ichiro Matsui told reporters last week that men should be entrusted with grocery runs because women “take a long time as they browse around and hesitate about this and that.” He also said, “Men can snap up things they are told (to buy) and go, so I think it’s good that they go shopping, avoiding human contact.”
When a city’s mayor openly says that women are slow and hints that they’re flimsy, shallow and easily distracted, it reveals deeply prejudiced gender roles in the country. Now you know why Japan ranked 121 out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 gender gap index.
In March, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared that abortions would be banned in the state during the Covid-19 outbreak, In an argument, Paxton also said that allowing abortions to continue would further spread the virus as people getting the procedure done would be coming in contact with Covid-19 patients.
As a result, hundreds of appointments were cancelled overnight. Once again, women were denied the right to their own bodies. And once again, women were told that their healthcare, which may include urgent termination of pregnancies, were deemed “non-essential.”
A few weeks ago, the Malaysian government also issued an advisory for women and how they should behave during the pandemic. As if years of being told how to sit, speak, walk, eat and conduct ourselves in public wasn’t enough, the Malaysian government decided that women needed a crash course on “pandemic manners.”
Put make-up on. Avoid nagging. Speak in a squeaky cartoon cat voice.
These are just some of the steps that women in Malaysia have been asked to follow by the government in order to make life easier for men and women cohabiting as couples under the coronavirus lockdown.
The posters were released with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19. But we fail to understand how wearing makeup and not nagging men can help women prevent coronavirus. All it can do, on the contrary, is reinforce stereotypes about women being vain and therefore having no real contribution in the fight against the virus.
On that note, need we remind you that all the countries that have managed to ‘flatten the curve’ and curb the spread of the virus are all led by women?
A few days ago, an image of women political leaders who have proved their mettle in a crisis went viral. The list included New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Iceland’s Katrín Jakobsdóttir and the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
These countries have not only managed to tackle the imminent danger posed by the virus but have also successfully reduced the rate at which the disease spreads – through sufficient testing, robust strategies and extraordinary determination and will power to beat the invisible enemy. And they all have one thing in common – they’re all led by women.
If there’s one meme we could show to the men of the world who think women are the reason for the pandemic, it’s this.