‘Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it’ (Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: Vintage 1991)
The quote highlights the dilemma faced by women everywhere, every day. Men decide how women should dress, what they should wear, how they should behave, where they should go, what work she should do, how much she is worth; it’s a system that cannot fail, because men decide what the rules are and the levels at which they apply.
When men look at women they ‘see’ an object of desire; this is a generalisation, but it’s general enough to be valid.
So how should a woman dress/act in order to avoid sexual attention?
Answer – it makes no difference. http://www.consented.ca/myths/provocative-clothing-is-a-risk-factor/
It’s not what women wear or any of the other criteria above, rather it’s the way men are taught to think about women, as objects, as property.
A dowry is paid by the groom’s family to the family of the bride – why? Essentially because the bride’s father is selling his property to someone else. Because his property has monetary and social value, the father wants it to be in the best condition; ‘mint’ is the term used for coins, meaning untouched and perfect or in case of a female, intact.
The idea of a ‘priceless’ woman in itself increases the desire for it and just as in stealing money or jewels, display is said to ‘provoke’ the theft. Leave your goods out in full view and don’t be surprised if someone covets them and steals them. The correlation is mistaken – a thief will steal not only what is visible but those things hidden in your home. Yours goods are NEVER safe from those determined to steal them.
The notion that a female is ‘owned’ by her father, brothers or other males in the family, makes her both an object with value and worthless. This dichotomy creates a system in which a female can devalue herself by dressing or acting or thinking in the ‘wrong way’; in societies that regard women as property, men have instituted a way to absolve themselves of wrongdoing by making the goods they rob at fault, by which a victim can be blamed for devaluing herself, as if a priceless vase could be blamed for being smashed. Terrible ‘honour’ crimes such as exile, imprisonment, mutilation, disfigurement, even barbaric and hideous murders, are directly related to ‘women as property’. These are evils within civil society and must be eradicated by rejecting the teaching of older, ignorant factions in both religious ordinances and cultural traditions.
Men suffer too, almost invisibly, in this social structure – where a man’s ‘worth’ in his community depends on his control or command of his property, then anyone can put his face in the dirt by implying his goods are faulty. The whole analogy of women as property allows, even encourages this kind of one-upmanship, competition between men for social recognition and prestige. Instead of esteeming men for their honesty, integrity, charity, wisdom, reason or acumen, they become the sum of their property’s market price.
Women are not property, they are not goods to be bought and sold. They consist half of the human race and the future of the human race depends on them as fully as it depends on men. Women have minds, not just bodies; it’s time women were recognised for their contributions to life, society and creativity and with equality, education and freedom their potential must be realised.
Writer: Kay Saxon
The writer is a UK based columnist and commentator with THE PASHTUN TIMES. She is graduated from the University of Central Lancashire, North of England. She can be reached at
THE PASHTUN TIMES