The fragile masculinity of PTI exposes itself when they talk about PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto

Mahnoor Jalal

Mahnoor Jalal

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The toxic environment within the PTI political party goes worse day by day, as they demonstrate their power by either targeting other women politicians with abuses and harassment, or they encourage their followers to poison even the most holiest places like the Holy Kaabah in Makkah to target politicians over there with slurs. But this time, their toxic perception of masculinity completely exposes itself with how they have come to regard men like Bilawal Bhutto.

Bilawal Bhutto doesn’t appear to embrace the typical masculine appearance like most Pakistani politicians out there, with his accent that appeared because as a child he spent most of his time abroad since his mother, who was the Prime Minister,  was targeted with death threats while she was alive. Also, unlike most desi families where a patriarch stands behind the children, Benazir Bhutto stands as the biggest influence behind the PPP and also the one whose last name was taken by her children, rather than their father. This sole fact irks the toxic masculinity of men from PTI, who have consistently targeted women journalists and also women from other political parties as a demonstration of how powerful they are.

But now this time, Bilawal and his apparent “lack of masculinity” has become a target for the PPP members, who have commonly used terms like “khusra” against him which truly show how little regard they have towards the transgender community and towards men who don’t fit their standards of masculinity. It was first Amir Amin Gandapur who at a political rally, called Bilawal “khusra” , and then also addressed Zardari by saying that his lineage could not carry on anymore. And now later, it is the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan who said during a press conference that Bilawal was “darmian wala” (meaning transgender) before moving on with the speech. Using terms like khusra are not just the PTI’s way of bullying and defaming men who do not appear to follow  the stereotypical traits of the common Pakistani man aggressively loud Patriarch who treats women inferiorly rather than standing as an equal to them, but also further ostracizes the transgender community. As the Guardian reports, “Trans-action Alliance” has said that violence against trans people has surged since 2015, since more than 5000 cases of domestic violence and abuse have been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Other than this, other PTI members seem to take offence with the fact that unlike all male-dominated political parties which are led by patriarchs, Bilawal has credited his mother Benazir Bhutto as the influence and his inspiration as the kind of poltician he would want to become, rather than his father. And what irks a misogynist more than the reminder of a strong woman who held her morals and principals firmly when she was also being targeted by hooligan behavior. Like this now deleted tweet by Dr. Murad from PTI, who despite holding the post as the former Education minister and also received honorary doctorates from foreign universities, had decided that targeting the role of women in Bilawal’s life was the best way to criticize him.

With their incessant bullying regarding Bilawal’s appearance and urging their fanbase to target him and other women politicians is a scary reminder of how little effort is being done to prevent the rise of gender based violence in Pakistan. The way PTI politicians refuse to respect women and any other man who respects them proves how misogyny has seeped itself so deeply in to our core beliefs that anything that presents it self publicly as something other than “masculine” is so resentful and odd to us. We cannot stand women politicians so we target them by harassing them for their looks, or consistently send them rape or death threats because this is the perfect way to dishonor a woman’s capabilities and independence. And Bilawal’s harassment at the hands of the PTI shows how politics has evolved from showing respectability and a common interest to help the people, but a game to demonstrate who has the most power by bullying others on mindless things.