Artwork by Amal Awais – @amalawais on Instagram
By: Manizeh Hussain Farooqi
Who do we hate more?
Women who stick to societal norms or those who do not?
As a society, we collectively (covertly and overtly) hate on women, regardless of who they are.
Unfortunately, female roles in Pakistani TV/film fluctuate between the manipulative wife, the evil husband-stealer and the brainless-voiceless virgin. Their male counterparts either control them or are, in some cases, controlled by them through kala jadu– like Shazia, of ‘Mehboob Apke Qadmon Main’ whose only ambition in life is to bewitch and entrap the man she falls for.
By watching these limited roles, women become easier to hate, by men and women, both. The independent and educated woman watching these dramas hates the brainless-voiceless virgin, whereas the masoom victim hates the evil husband-stealer. Men, on the other hand, nurture a hatred for all female categories, except their mothers (of course), as they are a distinct brand of purity and piety.
Every day, at 8pm, the nation sits in front of the TV, to (unknowingly) get a scoop of the deep rooted misogyny and double standards in Pakistani culture. Some of us critique it, while most enjoy it.
Unfortunately, we all internalize it.
What is the Pakistani TV drama criteria for a good girl?
- Gori, chitti with straight hair.
- Better liked if draped in piety and a dupatta.
- Packs her husband’s lunch and fixes his tie before he leaves for work in the morning, with a smile.
- Waits for him to come home after a busy day at work, so she can greet him with an ‘aap fresh ho jayein, mai chai laati hun’.
- Cooks the best nihari served with the perfect gol roti.
- Does not raise her voice above one decibel and gaalis lie in the Astagfirullah
- Does not raise her voice even when she is being subjected to the greatest injustice in the world.
- Is a bakra (read: has a highly sacrificial nature).
And what makes you a bad girl?
- The exact opposite of all the good girl requirements.
- Westernized woman- uses her God gifted tongue to speak (in English) and wears jeans.
- Working woman.
- Gold digger.
Do we even realize how these criteria and double standards mentioned above impact/ruin women’s lives?
It results in women believing they are lesser beings.
Moreover, the pressure to be perfect leaves very little space to express their true feelings and more space for self-doubt.
Growing up, I watched the zalim saas-chalak bahu dynamic in most Pakistani TV series, the perfect wife belongs in the kitchen narrative perpetuated in cooking oil advertisements, jammed to ‘Bewafa nikli tu’ (catchy song though). I also noticed how ‘love marriage’ and ‘working woman’ were taboo concepts and the mere mention of them made everyone recoil with disgust. However, even more upsetting was reading the ghazal, written by a famous female poet (ironic),
“Woh kahin bhi gaya lauta tou meray paas aya,
Bas yahi baat hai achi meray harjai ki”
Can one beat how low we set the bar for men and how much they get away with?
The art I consumed made me make concessions for all bad behavior I experienced at the hands of men. It also led me to step back in real life situations, whether it was not raising my hand in a classroom full of men even when I knew the answer or not raising my voice whenever someone disrespected me. I learnt to give up the domain of power and bravery to men.
Content creators, writers, authors, poets and the media need to keep in mind that the representation/misrepresentation of female characters is of paramount importance in the upbringing of young girls. They can help prevent them from finding role models in Mahira of ‘Mera dil mera dushman’ by creating positive and powerful female characters like Saajda of ‘Udaari’ and ‘Mannat of ‘Cheekh’, that do not fall in the category of the churail, chalak or masoom.
Opinionated and educated women should not be seen as a product of Westernization. Uplifting and empowering women is the first step to a thriving society and we, as a nation, need to follow the same formula. The focus needs to be put on more pertinent social issues rather than complaining about a girl’s character or complexion.
A conscious effort needs to be made to change most of the regressive norms that have been shoved down our throats.
Why instill in women a crippling desire to impress the male gaze?
Why tell a young girl that the most important and beautiful event of her life will be her marriage?
For who they are!
Bio: The author is an aspiring writer and currently studying law, with a minor in English, at LUMS. She has a love for fiction and feminism.
You can read more of her work at: https://ofsmallthingsblog.wordpress.com