Ignorance that isn't bliss!

22 September,2023 08:48 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  Srijanee Majumdar

Tanzim Hasan Sakib, whose crucial performance was instrumental in Bangladesh`s first Asia Cup victory over India in 11 years, has recently faced backlash due to a now-deleted misogynistic Facebook rant

Tanzim Hasan Sakib. Pic/AFP

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Eliminating all past social media activity should become a standard practice for every athlete who aspires to represent their country, but this is rarely the norm. Tanzim Hasan Sakib, the Bangladeshi pacer, is the most recent example illustrating how the internet has an enduring memory and often fails to forgive.

Indeed, there were numerous reasons to applaud his heroic performance against the formidable Indian team during a Super Four clash in the recently concluded Asia Cup tournament. However, a deeply disturbing and misogynistic Facebook diatribe that has resurfaced, with several posts dating as far back as 2014 when Tanzim was involved in junior cricket, has left a sour impression on some observers.

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His posts criticised women who joined the labour force and those who mixed with ‘male friends in a university'. Moreover, they seemed to warn men that their sons would not have a ‘modest' mother if they married women who are accustomed to ‘free mixing' with their male colleagues.

"If the wife works, the husband's rights are not ensured," Tanzim wrote in another Facebook post. "If the wife works, her elegance is damaged. If the wife works, the family is ruined. If the wife works, the veil is ruined. If the wife works, society is ruined." When looked closely, his Facebook rant, however, reveals a deeper dilemma than just the choice of words he used.

Through his posts, Tanzim revealed his heart on the issue of deep-rooted gender discrimination, along with the hearts of many men. Interestingly, it is women who form the vast majority of the workforce of the many garment factories in Bangladesh that have driven much of its economic growth over the years. However, conservative patriarchal attitudes continue to remain close-grained in the majority Muslim country.

His comments provoked a fierce backlash, with Paris-based feminist writer Jannatun Nayeem Prity indicating that the jerseys won by Tanzim and his team members were made in factories mostly staffed by women, as reported by news agency AFP. "I feel sorry for you that you don't consider your mother a normal human being," she was quoted as saying.

Shabana Parveen, a Bengaluru-based women's rights activist, echoed similar sentiments. "Such statements show his real character. A person representing the country has such a filthy mindset…imagine the extent of influence he would be having on the youth. I feel sorry for this young man. Scoring runs or achieving records don't make you a star. These men view women only as objects," she told Mid-Day.

The outrage from women in this context, Parveen argued, is not any typical feminist movement looking to attack male athletes or trying and proving that women can do everything that men can. However, the real issue here is the oppression women face every day - discrediting and undervaluing them and seeking to silence their voices and weaken their determination to take part in political, social or cultural life. "These are not mere words he put across. They are threatening aspects of a pattern of familiar behaviour among men that potentially deprives the society of female voices," she added.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), during a press conference on Tuesday, did little to address these concerns and instead could only offer what amounted to a mere apology on Tanzim's behalf. In the course of the media interaction, the board's statements have cast doubt over whether BCB officials were able to comprehend the extent of damage the hateful speech caused. The board, when contacted by Mid-Day, declined to comment.

"We informed Tanzim about the discussions surrounding his Facebook posts. He said that he didn't write those posts to hurt anyone. He wrote it for himself, not targeting anyone. If those posts have hurt anyone's feelings, he said he was sorry. He has apologised and assured us he would avoid posting such things in the future. He said he is not against women, as his mother is a woman," the BCB Cricket Operations Committee Chairman Jalal Yunus was quoted as saying by ESPNCricInfo.

"We will monitor him. We have given him a warning as he is a young player and a World Cup is just around the corner. If he does something like this again, we will act against him. If there is a problem with him, we will provide support."

BCB's attempts to trivialise the matter prompt a wider rethink on how Tanzim may have influenced many others to follow a line of thinking that degrades women. Furthermore, what is the message the board sent out to Tanzim's women counterparts who have arguably brought more plaudits for Bangladesh than male cricketers?

There is precedent for taking action in such scenarios. In 2019, India's KL Rahul and all-rounder Hardik Pandya were banned after making remarks that were widely condemned as sexist and inappropriate on popular talk show ‘Koffee with Karan'. In taking the action, the BCCI sent a strong message of zero tolerance against hate speech. Similarly, Ollie Robinson, the rising star in English cricket who claimed seven wickets in his debut Test in 2021, was suspended for eight matches after several misogynistic tweets from a decade ago resurfaced.

But the BCB chose to respond diplomatically and instead spoke about how mothers ‘cannot birth' misogynists. As long as we shrug at misogyny instead of confronting it, we give it credence. Perhaps more than anything else, it is the broad culture of indifference that is the silent killer. By excusing, condoning, and ignoring Tanzim's misogynistic demeanour, the board has accustomed people to further violence and hatred against women.

Dear BCB, ignorance isn't always bliss!

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