opinion

There's nothing honourable about an honour killing. The death of Qandeel Baloch is proof.

When I heard the news this morning that Pakistani woman and social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch had been strangled by her brother in a suspected ‘honour’ killing, I was angry.

Angry that yet another woman has been brutally slaughtered in a senseless murder.

Angry that yet another man has decided that he is entitled to snuff the life out of an innocent family member. As though his own wounded pride and delicate ego takes priority over her most basic human right: the right life.

Angry too, that due to the misogynistic lawmakers in Pakistan, Qandeel’s brother may be entitled to escape punishment, so long as his family say they forgive him.

And if that’s not bad enough, certain men and women have taken to social media to defend the murder, claiming that the victim deserved it. That because she was known as the “Kim Kardashian of Pakistan”, her death was somehow warranted.

Qandeel Baloch was not afraid to be different. Post continues after video…

Video via Qandeel Baloch

The horrific fact is that around the world, 5000 innocent women will be viciously killed each year in suspected ‘honour’ attacks. In Pakistan alone, 1000 women will be murdered in this way.

These murders are so frighteningly common, that we cannot ever hope to learn all the names of all the victims. Indeed were Qandeel not a social media star, we would almost certainly not have learnt her name either.
And it’s sickening.

Sickening that for some men, having a sister who is considered independent, strong, beautiful and feminist is even thought of as a shameful liability, rather than a source of pride.

Sickening that regardless of whether you live in Pakistan or Hollywood, if you are a famous woman who posts alluring selfies on social media, you will likely be threatened with death on social media for doing so.

And sickening that in some places, these threats are not idle ones. That right now, there are countless women living with a genuine fear and terror that they might be tortured or killed at the hands of those who are supposed to love them most: their own family.

In one of her last Facebook posts, Baloch wrote about her support of women’s rights.

Yet despite all this, in 2014, the Australian Festival of Dangerous Ideas decided to invite Sydney based speaker Uthman Badar to do a talk titled “Honour Killings Are Morally Justified”.

As if it were somehow edgy and daring of the St James Ethics Centre to even suggest there is a debate. As if entertaining a predominantly white, middle class audience with a discussion about vulnerable women’s murders wouldn’t be a disgusting insult to every woman who has ever been murdered in this way, and every woman who lives with the fear of that murder.

No. ‘Honour’ killings are not a ‘dangerous idea’. They are a deadly one. And there is nothing ‘honourable’ about any culture where women are being murdered to restore male pride.

ADVERTISEMENT

Over the coming days we will probably hear a lot more about this, and about the idea of ‘toxic’ masculinity.
But this isn’t just ‘toxic’ masculinity we are dealing with. This is fragile masculinity.

Indeed, this is a masculinity that is so feeble, limp and pathetic that even the slightest bruise to the ego results in the sort of erratic, turbulent outburst that you’d expect from an emotionally immature child.

The men who commit these atrocious human rights violations are not savage Rottweilers and we shouldn’t depict them in this way. They are terrified, shaking Chihuahuas who are so threatened by even the slightest show of female power or sexuality that they launch into a vicious, deadly outburst.

It’s pathetic. It’s criminal. And it’s not limited to the Middle East.

No. Fragile masculinity is a worldwide problem. And it’s a deadly one.

Every year, in Australia and everywhere else around the globe, women are being murdered by men whose egos are so delicate and brittle that that even the slightest bruise to their feelings can result in outright murder. This is also why women in Australia are more likely to be killed after they leave a relationship- and reject a man- than while they are still in that relationship.

In Australia, we might not label these murders ‘honour killings’, but who are we kidding? They are the result of the same feelings of injured masculinity, male entitlement, and wounded pride that exist elsewhere in the world.
But what we also need to realise is that fragile masculinity doesn’t just cause violence. It also stops our discussion of that violence.

Indeed, we see this all the time.

Every time a female commentator writes about violence against women the delicate flowers behind the #notallmen movement jump into action, and conversations that were previously about women being murdered or raped are hijacked, and turned into discussions about the hurt feelings of men.

As though slight emotional discomfort at a conversation which is not about you, is as equally distressing and warrants equal attention as women being slaughtered or raped.

As though most men’s egos are so brittle that they simply cannot withstand women talking about these issues, unless a heap of caveats are first put in place, to bubble wrap and protect non-violent men’s emotions.

Frankly it’s insulting to the overwhelming majority of men whose egos aren’t so delicate as to be dented by a conversation that doesn’t immediately pander to their feelings.

We saw a perfect example of this last week when Steve Price was asked a question on ABC’s Q&A by Tarang Chawla, the brother of a murdered woman. Chawla, whose sister was hacked to death with a cleaver, asked what the media and politicians can do to prevent violence against women being normalised.

But rather than expend a single word acknowledging the woman’s life, her death or the family’s terrible suffering, Price launched straight into a defence of his poor, persecuted mates, Eddie McGuire et al.

ADVERTISEMENT

Steve Price defended Eddie McGuire on ABC's Q&A. (Image via ABC Q&A)

As though the feelings of powerful, white men in the media are more significant than the murder of a woman.

As though, it’s even remotely appropriate to redirect a conversation about a woman being hacked to pieces, to a discussion about the smarting feelings of Eddie McGuire.

Without a shred of irony - or self-awareness - Price then had the audacity to suggest that Van Badham was the hyper sensitive and ‘hysterical’ one on the panel.

But as this post suggests, we need to realise that ‘focus’ is not the same as ‘exclusion’.

A conversation that focusses on violence against women does not preclude another discussion about other important social issues. When a scientist chooses to specialise on one particular gene, this does not mean that other genes shouldn’t also get research- it just means that we need specialists in different areas.

And when I and other feminists say that ‘violence against women matters’ there is no invisible ‘only’ before that clause.
It is the delicate male ego that puts it there.

Most of all though, in all of these discussion we need to remember that there was a real live woman who is no longer with us.

A woman who will never get to enjoy her favourite meal again. A woman who will never get to laugh with friends or listen to her favourite music or finish the book she was reading. A woman who will never again feel joy, or excitement, or sadness, or sunlight.

And the man who took these things from her? There is nothing honourable about him.

00:00 / ???