In case you’ve been living under a rock, here is a summary of a series of unfortunate events. About two weeks ago, Zainab Ansari was found dead in a garbage heap in Kasur. Although Zainab’s story is not the first case of child sexual abuse to arise from the city, it has definitely enraged the populace, and prompted engagement in necessary dialogue, both online and offline.
Most of the country is trying to process feelings of grief, frustration, confusion, anger and helplessness that accompany blatant reminders of children being unsafe. Only after people come to terms with these feelings will they be able to move on and take an active part in dismantling the toxic rape culture that currently plagues the country.
At the same time, however, there are those that are sitting atop their high horses and making terribly composed jokes about how performative the national outrage is. These folks attempt to infect the world with their pessimism by mocking incremental progress… on Twitter. One of these sanctimonious pricks is Fasih Ahmed, Editor of Newsweek’s Pakistan edition.
It is not all for naught, though. There are a few lessons to be learned from Fasih’s tweets.
1. For example, the following tweet teaches us that you can express a healthy amount of rage about abuse by focusing on the positive, rather than ever rectifying the negative!
Even if that negative has been a constant for a long time, and people are finally beginning to empathize with survivors of a specific kind of trauma!
Everybody knows good art is worth getting sexually assaulted for, because if you survive being left for dead, you can make great art in your crippling bouts of depression and anxiety! D’oh! And goodness, aren’t we lucky? Since sexual assault can never be eliminated, we really don’t have to waste time trying to process our emotions about it. Nor do we have ever to make ourselves capable of pursuing solutions to it!
2. This specific tweet shows us how much comedy relies on timing, reflective pause, and better syntax.
Fasih is probably trying to be edgy, here. But goodness, somebody has got to let him know he really does suck at this. Directed political commentary requires context. Perhaps, comments on enforced heteronormativity in Pakistan would be better received if not being made at the expense of sexually abused children.
3. The following tweet is a personal favourite. It teaches us that you can be both staunchly against rape (to the extent that the performative anger of “armchair activists” infuriates you) and make jokes about it!
We all know how hilarious and relative rape can always be! Because you know, as Fasih has so graciously reminded us, it is always happening. And it can never be eliminated. So we might as well laugh about it! Haha! Hahaha!
4. The following tweet demonstrates a special negotiation technique. Some call it gaslighting, but it really is a subtle art. Abusive men do it all the time. Fasih probably knows all about it, since he is able to gauge precisely the kind of childhood trauma it takes to produce good art.
Jesus Christ. Let me spell it out: (a) Victims resort to art forms because no one believes them and no one hears them. (b) That was sarcasm aimed at the casual activists who’ve arrived for a fuel break at this issue as a cause
— Fasih Ahmed (@therealfasih) January 23, 2018
If and when you get called out for making a comment in bad taste, you can just feign exasperation. Be extra condescending! It makes you look smart.
5. Last, but not least. This tweet is a lesson in adequate petty emoji usage. With this one, Fasih has truly mastered rich white teenager levels of ineffective indignation at the world about his own unintelligibility, accountability escapism and passive aggression.
Context: a reporter for Dawn, the Guardian, and Al Jazeera called Fasih out for being insensitive. She told him jokes about rape are not okay.
Your anger at casual activism is yours & it’s sent you to a deep dark place. I get that. But you don’t have the right to trigger other survivors to turn around and shit on our struggle and yours.
— Sana Saleem (@sanasaleem) January 23, 2018
Oh my god. I am so so sorry ????????????
— Fasih Ahmed (@therealfasih) January 23, 2018
Fasih used three broken-heart emojis and issued a disingenuous, and perhaps even sarcastic–because we all know how much that Fasih loves sarcasm–apology.
In all seriousness, though…
Rape jokes are not okay. What Fasih did was wrong.
Making jokes about something as disturbing as sexual violence only unveils immunity to barbarianism and brutality. These jokes are in bad taste. They contribute to a culture that does not take sexual violence seriously. It is a factor of the very culture that allows perpetrators to walk the streets without consequences, in the first place. Fasih Ahmed is a grown man, and his comments were not so refined as to be afforded the benefit of the doubt of having been stints in irony or dark humour.
It would be more productive if people that make “edgy” jokes about sexual violence, are able to own up to their mistakes, apologize for them, and learn from their experiences.
While the nation resolves social and political anxiety regarding rampant and hypervisible sexual violence, it would be wise to call a spade for what it is, rather than attempting to defend toxic behaviour. Prominent public figures and digital media organizations are attempting to dismiss Fasih’s remarks as being harmless, or merely untimely. And frankly, that is just a case of mangos gone rotten.
P.S. Where on this green earth is Newsweek Pakistan’s PR team?
** This post was edited to include screenshots of Fasih’s tweets, as he removed them from his Twitter profile.