The misogynist narrative on Hum TV



The gender-based discourses on Pakistani television may not be very dynamic but the way they are discussed leaves one to ponder if those who are at the helm of the affairs have any idea about the impact of their careless deliberations on the subject.

Take the case in point of a television serial ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’ airing on Hum TV these days. Only last week, the male protagonist of the story picked a fight with his girlfriend about her clothing and a direct quote from the play said, “if you had seen her clothes, you would have known that she was a walking invitation for harassment”. In times like these, where there is global protest about women’s clothing and how it has no relevance to the sexual violence they face, here is a drama where a protagonist — who is extremely popular among women — is telling women that yes, their clothing invites men to harass them. In case anyone is wondering, the woman was wearing a sleeveless top with a shawl draped around her shoulders.

This was not the lone case of misogyny in that particular play. The protagonist also had issues with the mobility of his female family members. He wanted to impose a curfew for his sister and wanted his mother to seek the permission and approval of his father before she could leave the city on a work assignment. He said repeatedly that “he is a man and can go wherever he wants and whenever he wants and women cannot do the same”. While it may be a reality in our society, reinforcing such ideas in the guise of propriety and religiosity is shoddy and has consequences for the audience. What disappointed this scribe even more is the fact that both the writer and the producer were women and that the producer has a personal history of struggling for her rights.

Our television plays seem to glorify the role of women who are situated within the four walls of their homes, sacrifice their happiness for their families and do not complain if their husbands beat them or take second wives or are just really horrible to them. Those who are financially independent, situated outside their homes and interact with men who they are not related to are the bad ones. This does not only judge all women who choose to interact with others in the public sphere, but also presents a distorted version of reality to women who stay at home, that all those who do step out in the public sphere do so after compromising their morality.

Ours is a society that is used to either lecture or indoctrination. It is a society where powerful forces indulge in monologues and there is hardly any room for dialogue. We do not open up conversation on gender; we tell people what is appropriate through Islamic programmes, television dramas and literature and expect them to follow what is told.

It is about time we challenge the television narrative that focuses on taming female sexuality and identity, and glorifies the sacrificial women whose ideal sphere of activity is the private space and is critical of those who venture out in the public space and implies that they do it at the cost of compromising their morality and roles assigned by religion. In any case, the concept of a stay-at-home woman is a very urban middle class one and if half the population had stayed at home, the economy would have collapsed a long time back.

First published in Express Tribune
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5 Comments

  • Interesting observation and I completely agree with you.

    Another thing I noted in one of the episodes (maybe the 1st or the 2nd) was that Ayesha Omer was wearing a tee that said Little Miss Jihadi where a niqabi cartoon character had a bomb strapped.
    As a person who enjoys freedom to dress any way I like, I found the tee offensive to people who do take the veil. I think they deserve as much right to exercise their preferred way of dressing as we (the non hijabis/niqabis) do without being labelled as terrorists! How ignorant can you get?
    Both Ayesha and the director should have know better than to parade around wearing such things on television.

  • Bonjour Tazeen,
    In this airplane story you showed solidarity with a fellow human being and let’s hope this will be reciprocated when needed.

    As to the reactions of some Indians, don’t let it bother you. Nowadays, some Indians may feel bigger than life because they landed some juicy software contracts in Europe and the USA.

    Keep on writing as you do presently, about things you know and have a feeling about it.

    “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” (heard from Marianne Faithfull, the singer with the special voice).

    Georg

  • This is one reason I never watch these shows and fully agree with you in saying that the television narrative needs to be challenged!

  • Oh well, if you watch any television shows in India, it will leave you feeling incredulous. Women are portrayed horribly, looking like Christmas trees. No one works outside the house and all they do is bitch, plot and celebrate festivals and weddings. Bullshit, regressive crap. Surely someone is watching for the sustained crap to the churned out. Misogyny exists everywhere and subconsciously influences each one of us. The sad part is that women don’t understand other women.

  • Oh I’m so glad you wrote this! All these points were boiling inside me in worldless, inexpressible fury and if you or someone else hadn’t written t I would have exploded. The misogyny in drama after drama, with no sign on improvement or change, persisting despite all criticism, is annoying as hell. We need more voices like you to point out the flaws in these heinously popular dramas.

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