Women-only groups have existed on Facebook under different mission statements. Some are for a sisterhood. Some exist for beauty, fashion and the like. Some are literary and scholarly. You name it. They exist.
I never joined any Facebook groups that had men in them. This was an exclusive choice. I work in an industry where I interact with men on the daily and so women are the people I’m looking for usually.
Some great friendships happened and some disagreements also. I was led to more women groups from members of other women groups.
I have however started to join some combined groups now and I’m enjoying it. I will speak exclusively to the Pakistani woman because my saddest interactions have been with Pakistani women.
The toxic matriarchy that Pakistan’s patriarchal structure has given birth to remains uncontested after many years of Pakistan’s birth. Women have a strong affinity for men and they emulate them in all forms. Some of the most prevalent forms of practice are internalized misogyny and toxic matriarchy.
Toxic matriarchy derives directly from patriarchy. It has a direct connection to it and is endorsed by patriarchs. This is why it carries traits of narcissism, self-centered righteousness and identity crisis. This is why it tone polices, dog whistles and even, manipulates.
Who we are IRL carries into who we are online. We aren’t so different online as we are in reality. Sure we are more eloquent and straightforward online but our ideals and values don’t change much. We are who we are.
Women carry their inherent traits to their online personalities also. They remain true to form. If they’re supportive and compassionate, they offer that to strangers also. If they are anti-women, they come off like that despite their best attempts at sounding like an ally.
I feel that these traits of toxicity, fake anarchy against social norms and pseudo-progressive behavior should be curtailed by the people who practice them because by having such behavior on women-only forums we fail to create the safe space that we aim to create.
But wait! Before you think that these behaviors have just originated from nowhere , let’s examine how they closely resemble the behaviors that women learn from how patriarchy expects them to behave.
Women cannot have healthy debates without resorting to cultural and religious standards. They cannot qualify their debates with practical examples. For example:
“A brown bag used to wrap menstrual supplies in is not indicative of the morality of our society”.
(While feminists in Pakistan argue against the use of the brown bag, a traditional disposable bag used for hiding fertility, reproductive and sexual supplies, the overwhelming majority of Pakistan endorses its use with baseless arguments.)
Rebuttal from matriarchs and conformists: BUT THIS IS OUR CULTURE AND WE HAVE TO PROTECT IT.
This is just one example. This debate could be coherent and conclusive if a blind worship of culture wasn’t the counter debate. Unfortunately it is.
Women speak like this because people considered better than them, that is their men, speak to them like this.
Common phrases in a Pakistani woman’s life are,
“Because I said so”.
“I can’t trust you”.
“How can you? Girls don’t do that”.
“You have to uphold our honor and dignity”.
“If you don’t turn out right, your children won’t turn out right either”.
The online debates follow the same patterns. The most creative these women can be is by citing scripture. And usually their interpretation of scripture isn’t strong either. It doesn’t have their own thought into it. They interpret it as society interprets it.
Women are traditionally discouraged from debating or questioning or speaking.
This shows in their online interactions also. These women are either prohibiting other women from speaking in real life or are prohibited themselves. They carry this in their online lives also. They control conversations and cannot have uncomfortable conclusions drawn. Conclusions largely have to be pro-East, anti-West, pro-patriarchy, right winged conservative, anti-liberal and laced with ethnic and religious slurs.
When women aren’t allowed to debate in real life they never develop the skill set or the tools to have effective communication through negotiation, bilateral exchange of ideas and cognition. They argue with a rigidity that is usually reserved for facts, except their argument is based in cultural and religious stereotypes without much bearing on geopolitical, socioeconomic or psychosocial thought processes.
They are taught to have the last word.
Because most Pakistani women are not directly controlled by men but by women whom men patron, they learn a harmful and dangerous personality feature from their mothers and sisters by way of identifiability with their own gender. Because they are usually told by older women to be quiet, be submissive and be complacent they learn to have the last word in most women-women interactions. The same women are quieted almost effortlessly on combined groups.
Women aren’t educated like men.
Our men are educated to fend for themselves. Our women are raised with a nester-leaning that is the quiet role of a nurturing woman. Our women are shamed to ask for equality, equity, sex and choice. Body agency isn’t something they are allowed to practice. Their reproductive functions are what they’re shamed for. They aren’t raised with a mind towards modern education. They’re raised to educate themselves as a formality of modern times but they are conditioned to uphold centuries-old customs and traditions as the values that our human race will ultimately return to. While men are consciously isolating themselves from a family-based life, women are pushed more in the direction of keeping the traditional family unit alive. To the conformist and culture lover, women now also have the duty to bring men back to traditional ways.
Women roar on social media. They have suppressed rage.
The same women who are loud and strident on social media are mouses in real life usually. They don’t have a real presence. This is classic suppressed rage. They lash out on strange women for talking about things that they wish they had the opportunity or even the courage to say.
Women love the social media anarchist but would like to be a real life conformist.
This becomes a conflict of character. Women are ensconced in their traditional roles and are inspired and even intimidated by empowered online women. They want to be a part of this tribe. Unfortunately because their lived experiences and even their own beliefs are in stark opposition to the beliefs of the feminist, they continue to live a dual life with much of their real life traits and habits spilling into their online interactions. While they want to be progressive they continue to tone-police, make ad hominem attacks and wonder more about who is speaking than what is being said.
We don’t have women leaders.
Even in the online world, there’s a dearth of women leaders who lead from the front. Women are still judged, ostracized and penalized for their forward thinking. This plays a big role in why women leaders aren’t there and so the female social media user doesn’t have many role models to emulate.
Women learn to hate women through internalized misogyny:
Because this is so prevalent, internalized misogyny causes for tribes to not be formed. It harms women in many ways. When women see empowered, open and outspoken women on social media, they immediately identify with their captors, who are men, by way of classic Stockholm tendencies and try to control and verbally punish these women.
I believe in creating only combined spaces on social media. I don’t want segregated groups. I was a big supporter of them but they are probably causing some level of harm by creating echo chambers and hazing grounds. Women are not learning from more educated people who are almost invariably men. They’re not getting exposed to their worldly counterparts. If we created online spaces where men and women could exchange ideas freely, many women who live at home only and don’t get a chance to bargain, negotiate or haggle ever, will get to see people practicing these skills online and imbibe.
And men will learn how patriarchy is harming their most precious asset, that is, the women in their lives.