Browsing "women"

Trash TV is just trash, even when the characters wear Prada

One of the advantages of growing older is that you are not generally ashamed about the questionable things you do; like eating nutella straight from the jar, reading Ansar Abbasi’s pearls of wisdom in Jang every week and watching trash tv like Gossip Girl. 
I just finished watching the season finale of the tv series and I am marveling at the fact that people who wrote and produced the show still have jobs. I mean one usually watches soap like crap with suspension of logic, such as resurrection of Daddy Bass from the dead (he was not really dead but was hiding in Bermuda Triangle or a tanning salon if his skin tone is any indication) or Mummy van der Woodson’s accessories  – or was it Bass or Humphery; I lost count and order of her multiple husbands – (She was wearing gigantic earrings while she was still in her gown/robe/not dressed in the morning and is lacing her coffee with something alcoholic) but to caricaturize the characters to the extent that they have done in this show – everyone has lied, schemed and cheated on their spouses and significant others at some point or the other – requires a suicidal level of crazy.
I always bemoan the fact that Pakistani television shows women as either helpless creatures, scheming bitches or victims; but with shows such as Gossip Girl, it looks like that American tv featuring the lives and exploits of rich and powerful of New York is just as lame and with characters with similar flaws. There are two leading female characters who have failed The Bechdel Test in every goddamned episode. If they are not talking about a guy they are dating or want to date then they are scheming with each other and against each other. One of them is a very smart Ivy league student, yet she gives into an abusive relationship time and again (we have seen her suitor being manipulative and violent in the past. He also had the dubious honour of trading her for a piece of real estate and cheating her with an underage girl. He also has an obsession with bow ties and colour purple, but I digress) and can only defines herself through her boyfriends. The other one is not so smart – yet she too ends up in the same Ivy league school (suspension of logic, I tell ya) and has a peculiar obsession with a guy who used to be her boyfriend – turned step sibling – turned best friend’s boy friend (yes, it is as incestuous as it sounds) and slips into her old bad ways of riding trains and hooking up with her drug dealer who looked suspiciously like a pop singer when the said boyfriend turned step sibling turned bestie’s boyfriend spurned her advances for the 537494th time.
What happened to women’s liberation and feminism? Are those ideas so last century that no one wants to portray female characters on TV who are smart, independent and do not define themselves through a man? I know it is asking a lot from the local television writers and producers who are still busy peddling stories about polygamist feudal lords, jahez ki lanat, baap ki izzat and saas bahu tamasha but if the first world’s emancipated women are subject to this crap then there is no hope.
Perhaps my younger snootier self was right in sticking to TV shows with people like Tina Fey
 PS: Watch this awesomesauce video on Blechdel Test if you are interested.
PPS: Tina Fey is like my most gigantic girl crush. 
PPPS: This post is kinda suicidal as I am publicly admitting to watching trash TV. I have a feeling that my sister is going to have a field day when she wakes up in the morning.

Apr 15, 2012 - published work, Society, women    1 Comment

The problems with Jamat-i-Islami

The war of the words between Jamat-i-Islami (JI) and Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) is neither new nor shocking. The residents of Karachi and newspaper readers all over the country are well aware of it. However, the latestround of spat where JI head asked the government to deal with their coalition partners – the MQM – in a high handed manner ostensibly to bring peace to Karachi borders on ridiculous, even for a party that boycotts elections and has not had any noticeable presence in the national and provincial legislative assemblies for quite some time.
For starters, MQM is the single biggest representative of the people in Karachi in the parliament and has been consistently getting the votes since ’88, kicking them out of the government and dealing with them in a “high handed” manner will not yield any lasting – or temporary – results. JI has been so long out of the parliament that its leaders have forgotten that popular politics is about taking care of the wishes of the electorate, not dealing with their mandate in a high handed manner.
By constantly targeting MQM, a party with a decent enough mandate in the province of Sindh, JI is indirectly proposing the political isolation and disenfranchisement of a large group of people. In a country where sense of victim hood is high among so many marginalized sections of the society, adding one more to it is tantamount to internal security hara-kiri, but JI is vigorously following this policy. Instead of working to bring in more groups into the political arena, they are trying to push away those who are part of it.
JI is supposedly a national party but they are only concerned with safety and security of Karachi – an issue that gets enough coverage in the media and is never out of the discussion. However, one is yet to hear a single word of condemnation from their leadership on the premeditated targeted killings of Shia Hazaras in Quetta, probably because the ‘banned’ organisations that have taken responsibility for most of the attacks are ideologically identical to the JI vision of a Pan Islamic Sunni hegemony.
While they are quiet on the Hazara genocide, JI decide to speak against the sectarian violence in Gilgit – Baltistan and are supporting the protests by Majlis Wehdat Muslemeen in front of the parliament. However their denial about the causes of the violence continues and they are blaming the ‘foreign enemies’ for the latest spat of violence in Gilgit-Balitistan. To add injury to the insult, they are seeking council from the right wing militant Sunni outfits – the very perpetrators of the violence – seeking to bring about the peace in the region.
JI also opposes the bill on the domestic violence which was presented again the national assembly recently after being lapsed. What JI should realize is that they have lost their right to protest legislative amendments when they boycotted elections. Only the parties with presence in the assemblies get to discuss and amend the constitution.
If Jamat wants to be taken as a serious political contender they need to focus on the issues that are relevant to the people of Pakistan instead of blaming MQM for violence in Karachi and USA for everything else that is wrong with the country. But if their previous record is anything to go by, it is pretty obvious that Jamat does not want to be a serious game player and is happy to play the rebel rouser with a nuisance value and not much else. 
Originally written for The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version. 
Apr 12, 2012 - rant, Society, women    6 Comments

I want my space in national narrative and I want it NOW!

Bytes for All arranged a country wide forum on social media initiatives by youth on regional peace and security and I moderated a session with Senior Vice Chairperson of Awami National Party and member national assembly Bushra Gohar on role of women parliamentarians and politicians in democratic processes.
Before I express my disappointment on the Caucus’ official song and Ms. Gohar’s rather poor defence of it, I must point out that I have great respect for Bushra Gohar as a person and a professional capable woman. Ms. Gohar wanted to talk about the Women Caucus in the parliament and she opened her presentation with this Tina Sani song prepared for the Caucus which basically cements the patriarchal notion that only a woman who is covered in a chador is virtuous and worthy of respect and can be the face of a Pakistani woman. The song lyrics go like this: Anchal ko parcham bana rahain hain, hum waqt ke mailay daman pe umeed ujalay jaga rahain hain(the director of the video was so incredibly smart that he showed a woman washing clothes during the words waqt ke mailay daman pe – someone kill me already). When I asked Ms Gohar about the contributions of women who do not abide by the chadorand chardeewari philosophy and do not really have the so called anchals, ghooghatsand what not to turn into parchams? Should they be excluded from the national narrative because they do not conform to the majority’s idea of what is considered appropriate for women?  Bushra Gohar, much to my surprise, defended this song and said that that the song meant to convey the message of empowerment by turning women’s dupattas into national flag!!!
I know that no one knows there exist a song like this (the last I checked it had only 37 views on youtube and it was uploaded a good six months ago), no one actually cares about it and me fretting over it is kinda useless but I am sick and tired of being kept out of the national narrative because I am a woman who does not believe in chador and chardeewari. I live and work in Pakistan, I contribute to the economy and pay taxes which pays for the salaries of the police and army and the mostly useless executive but neither am I safe in this country, nor am I called the Qaum ki beti. Who is called Qaum ki beti? A woman named Aafia Siddiqui – an alleged terrorist whose legal defense fees is paid for by the very same taxes that I pay every year –and I am able to pay those taxes because I work and called a maghrabi aurat (westernized woman) who leaves the sanctity of her home everyday to go to work. You know what is most ironic? The so called Qaum ki beti has not even lived in this country for ages, she is a bloody US citizen.

I know it’s a silly song but I am tired of being relegated to sidelines because I am a woman and I make my own choices based on informed ideas rather than propaganda. I want my rightful space in the national narrative and I want it NOW!

A person’s womb and gestation is a private matter, even if that person happens to be Meera!

Of late, I have been visiting the media and communications departments of a few universities and speaking with students about how to sift through the clutter, focus on the news and cut out the irrelevant bits and pieces so that every news item should be crisp, precise and most of all accurate and free of embellishments. 
I have innumerable print and video clips that tell us what NOT to do while writing a report or making a package. Unfortunately, clips that show us good ethical journalism are rare. Try as I may, pieces where the reporter and/or his editor have applied basic critical thinking tools and journalistic ethics are hard to come by. However some reports are so bad they do not even care for a even a minimum degree of professionalism and print slanderous, unsubstantial and at times damaging stories that serve no purpose other than humiliating people and provide salacious fodder for the voyeuristic amongst us. This report about Meera’s alleged abortion by the horrible horrible Jang group is one such example.
For starters, this report is about a very private matter of a woman and should not have been published. Getting an abortion under any circumstances is a private matter and should be dealt as such. But the reporter Shahab Ansari not only reported the incident, he milked it for what it was worth and added other unnecessary detail. For instance, when the doctor told him that the abortion was carried out due to no fetal activity, he chose to speculate if the actress had carried out actions to stop that fetal activity of which he had no proof. Even if it had been true, the matter is private and not open to public debate. You and I and that reporter have no right to determine what a mother should or should not have done. We should NOT be interested in another person’s womb and gestation activity, period.  
He also speculated that Meera wanted to conduct the DNA test of the fetus which obviously is no one’s business but the moron of a reporter had to add this bit to make the news more masalaydaar for lack of a better word.
The doctor at the hospital should be stripped of her medical practice license for divulging all the private details of her patient’s medical history. I request all the Lahori ladies looking for ob/gyn services should boycott Dr Shahida Khawaja and her hospital for breaking the patient doctor confidentiality code. Shame on you Dr Khawaja, shame on you.
The reporter chose to end the report with a veiled threat citing Section 338 of the Pakistan Penal code which basically says that a whoever causes a woman with child whose organs have not been formed, to miscarry is said to cause ‘Isqat-i-Haml’ and is liable to a punishment of a minimum of three years imprisonment if the abortion is performed by the woman’s consent.
We have insulted the life choices of our celebrities many a times, be it Veena Malik’s nude shoot or Shoaib Akhtar’s medical records, giving the reason that the celebrities ask for it by being in the limelight. But what about this incident when it is obvious that Meera is trying hard to keep a personal issue to herself? The reporter not only reported what happened but also speculated to make her come across as a woman of loose morals who has no idea who the father of her unborn baby was. Asking her father-in-law who has been hostile towards her in the past was just adding more masala to an already sordid saga.
If the current lot of journalists resort to the worst form of yellow journalism, no matter what we teach our kids in media schools will be useless because the market tells them that this is the trash that sells. If a market leader with a lot of money like Jang group indulges in this type of sensational and scandalous crap then there is no hope for smaller cash strapped media houses.
Feb 24, 2012 - published work, women    6 Comments

Politics is far too important a business to be left to men alone

Pakistan is a strange country. While on one hand it has had the first female prime minister of the Muslim world and has the maximum percentage of women in its legislative assemblies in the region; politics has not been used as a tool of empowerment for women at the grassroots.
It is a curious paradox and the reasons can be as varied as politics being a classist business in the country to general lack of women’s access to public spaces. If political parties are scrutinized, most female politicians are either siblings or children of the party heads or are married into the political families. There are hardly any role models, if any, of women political workers who assumed a leadership position after serving their parties over a number of years. Political ascendency on meritorious grounds is a novel phenomenon in Pakistan but more so in case of women political workers.
With exception of Bushra Gohar and now Nasreen Jaleel, no other party barring ANP and MQM has women holding pivotal positions in their parties and they too need to do a lot more. MQM’s Rabta Committee has a disproportionate number of men and the regressive elements in ANP still bar women from exercising their right to vote – as late as November 2011 when all the eight contestants of the constituency KP61, Kohistan decided not to allow women to cast their votes.
Importance of being out and about in politics is obvious to anyone with passing interest in it. The women’s rally staged by MQM last weekend showed us that politics is far too important a business to be left to men alone.
In a country where women are losing ground in the public spaces and confining themselves to fit to the desired patriarchal norms, the rally and its message that a strong Pakistan is dependent on independent women was a timely reminder that women need to go out and reclaim the spaces they have receded and find newer avenues to call their own such as political space at the grassroots. 
MQM may have wanted to show the world that Karachi is still their home and other political upstarts have a long way to go before they lay any claims to the city but what also comes across from this is that women as voters and citizenry are important and must be viewed as such by other political powers. The large numbers that turned up also showed us that women are interested if they are taken seriously and want to engage in the political process.
It is about time the political parties realize that women are a political constituency and their concerns needs to be addressed and fought for, not only in the parliament but also in their party ranks. This is the election year, should we not demand all parties to include issues important to women in their election manifestos and genuinely try to bridge the gap that exists.
In politics, the importance of constituency cannot be overstated. The MQM rally brought to fore the fact that the constituency of women across the ethnic, racial, tribal and class exists and needs to be catered to by all the political parties. Women’s caucus in the parliament have voted across party lines on issues that mattered to them as a group most and if the parliament is a microcosm of society, it can happen at a macro level as well. 
First published in The Express Tribune

PS:  The reason I have only mentioned ANP and MQM is that these are the only two parties where women hold positions as central as  Senior Vice-President and Deputy Convener. PPP’s CEC has a fair number of women, in addition, there are a few female politicians from PTI,  and the high profile female parliamentarians of PML-Q. With Maryan Nawaz Shareef, even PML-N is trying to score with women and young adults.

Dec 30, 2011 - religion, women    10 Comments

Appreciating male beauty in hijab and how!

Appreciation of beauty transcends most things, even religious taboos. 
My hijabi sister who disapproves of most things on telly for being too obscene cannot help but appreciate beauty when she sees it – even it happens to be of male variety. My sister was surfing through the tv channels and stopped on one showing Travie McCoy’s Stereo hearts featuring Adam Levine. After watching the whole song, she switched off the telly, threw the remote on the sofa and left the room saying, “I wasted good 3 and a half minute waiting of one decent shot of Adam Levine and there was none. Why would anyone want to watch the video if there are just 2 frames of Adam Levine and that too fully clothed.”
I was quietly watching it all and have now come to the conclusion that my overtly religious hijabi sister may frown upon romantic scenes between Sadia Imam and Humayun Saeed, but Adam Levine’s bare torso will make her forget her standards of fuhashi and how awesome is that.
What do my other hijabi sisters think? If super fit beautiful men agree to flaunt it, would they let go of their inhibitions?

PS: Trying not to blog about what happened in the Supreme Court today because if I write what I feel like writing, I will probably be hauled in for contempt of court. I have been told that even “Chaudhry Iftekhar Hai hai” can be considered Tauheen-e-adalat.
PPS:  I also feel vindicated for the 2973 time that I did not support the restoration of judiciary movement back in 2007 because I was smart enough to see through the clutter for what it was – power struggle between two men, one in khakis and the other in black robes. 
PPPS: I may have gone overboard with the pictures but hey, its the weekend and the festive season – enjoy. 
Dec 26, 2011 - PTI, religion, women    13 Comments

Peddling obscurantism

In  Shahzeb Khanzada’s programon Express News Imran Khan, in response to a question raised by a young woman, said that if his party forms the government, they will not dictate how women should dress up. When I saw that I was quite pleasantly surprised because back in 1990s when Imran Khan discovered religion, his first op-ed for The News/Jang was on the importance of “Chador and Chardeewari.” He was all about how important pardah and the four walls of the house are for a woman and praised women who chose to stay at home to raise their children, away from the eyes of others.  Now that Imran Khan refused to concern himself with women’s clothing options, I thought he is finally maturing into a politician who cannot be bothered with the non issues. 
But somebody was not happy with this development and that somebody was Ansar Abbasi. In his columntoday, he questioned Imran’s pronouncement asking how a follower of Allama Iqbal and God fearing believer of faith can say something as outrageous as that: giving women option to choose what they want to wear!  If God and his prophet have restricted women’s clothing to a certain standard then how a mard-e-momin like Imran Khan can question that restriction. If Ansar Abbasi is to be believed that the code of an Islamic welfare state is hidden in a woman’s blouse.

Ansar Abbasi questions if the change Imran Khan talks about is Ata Turk and Musharraf inspired or a true Islamic change and wants Imran Khan to explain his stance on women’s clothing. In a country where half the population is malnourished and 70% do not have access to clean drinking water and sanitation where law and order is in a shambles, our very senior reporter/defender of faith is worried about the length and breadth of the dupatta of our ladies. 

Ansar Abbasi was so perturbed by this new aspect of Imran Khan’s personality that he went up to him on Sunday and said that enlightened people like Veena Malik would be very happy with this new Imran Khan. According to Ansar Abbasi, Imran Khan responded that people like Veena cannot do much in Pakistan and the country will never have any law against Quran and Sunnah. 
When I read this piece, I wanted to die – literally die. Forget the obscurantist rant, I cannot get over the fact that the chief investigative reporter of an English daily does not know what the word enlightened means and uses it in context with actresses known for their risqué wardrobe! People like Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Spinoza must be turning in their graves with such liberal use of the term “enlightened.” If I am not wrong, Pakistan perhaps is the only country in the world where being enlightened is considered a stigma and a matter of disgrace. Not that I expect much from Imran Khan, but if people like Ansar Abbasi keep peddling the pedantic agenda, we cannot even hope for gradual maturity that comes with being part of the mainstream politics. 
Here is to staying in the darkness. 
Those who can read Urdu should check out this gem 

Jun 8, 2011 - religion, women    14 Comments

Because concubines are all halal

Every now and then, a woman politician in a Muslim country will rise and say things more misogynist than  most vile male chauvinists, to score points with their counterparts who want women off the roads, schools and public space in general.
Last year it was our polygamy champion Ms Samina Khawar Hayat (since then she has gained notoriety for breaking lotas on Tv shows) who wanted men to marry multiple times to bring honor to many unmarried women and to satisfy their superior libido. This year, it is Salwa al Mutairi, a wannabe parliamentarian from Kuwait who wants men to have  …. sex slaves or concubines which is a slightly less offensive term.
If you are thinking I am high on something, I am not. Ms Mutairi really wants to bring the 10th century back, where ownership of sex slaves was rather a cool thing.
Before one could ask her where would one get women who would willingly want to be concubines? She came up with a solution. She thinks prisoners from war-torn countries, like Chechnya, would make perfect concubines. Sudan, Somalia and Liberia are also war torn countries but Ms Mutairi, who I believe is not just a misogynist but also a closet racist only want white Caucasian Chechen women to provide recreation to her countrymen.
She is rather casual about it and suggested that offices could be open to facilitate the sex trade like any other recruitment agency. She seriously believes that there is no shame in owning people in 21st century as it is in conformity with Sharia law.Her point of reference was caliph Haroun-ul-Rasheed who apparently had 2,000 concubines at his service when he died.
Samina Hayat and Salwa al Mutairi are not the two exceptions, there are many women who hold similar views because the common narrative – be it religious or political – is designed by men and it suits them to keep women thinking that they are nothing but sexual beings created to serve the male libido. Unless that norm is challenged, there will be more such women who would suggest such misogynist legislation to gain support of the men – who are the real power holders – in their societies.
Jun 1, 2011 - Porn, religion, women    93 Comments

The heavenly orgy

This heavenly orgy fantasy ….

…. was brought to you by a maulana near you.

Being a woman, I was never subjected to a Friday sermon (women don’t go to masjids in South Asians countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh). I have heard many a tales about the kind of hate mongering, violent and misogynist sermons that do rounds in mosques across the country every Friday, but four days back, a friend emailed me the link of one such discourse with the subject line “WTF speech of the millennium” and then I was inundated with the same link on facebook and my inbox.

This video titled, Jannat ki Hoor (heavenly creatures provided as companions for pious Muslim men – sorry, no hooris for non-Muslim man, no matter how virtuous you are), is an interesting commentary on our society. For starters, the maulana, who goes by the name Mairaj Rabbani and is part of Ahl-e-hadees group, thinks all women are low level dirty whores (his exact words are dirty, filthy, worthless and prostitute) and they are only good for providing men with a few seconds of pleasure. He thinks that good Muslim men should not waste themselves on earthly creatures such as women as all of them are soiled bitches. They should wait to get into heaven where they will get multiple partners who will wear see through clothes and entice and then satisfy their lust like there is no tomorrow. Technically it is wrong as there would be an endless stream of tomorrows in the eternity, but I digress.

This maulana wants to make sure that his congregation “gets” it, so he elaborates in great detail that Muslim men will not only get to kiss and cuddle them, they will actually get to experience hardcore action that goes on and on and on … for forever. When they will be done with one Hoor, another one, even more beautiful and voluptuous than the first one, would come and demand some action. Raise your hand if you too think it is taken from one of the millions of porn movies where hot women go after ugly men and say that want more and more and more! Maulana sahib’s porn fantasies are filled with heavenly playmates with awful taste in men.

Maulana sahib is actually quite smart. He knows that he has captive audience as long as he turns the sermon into a soft porn delight. In a deeply segregated society like Pakistan, such misogynist perversions actually form the basis of inter gender relationships. What we take from this video is: all men are supreme beings, women are filthy and not worth the time, piety is only good to get you laid in the afterlife and repeated use of the word istemal indicates that women will continue to being used as commodities in the paradise. If maulana sahib is ever in the market for a change of employment, he will be the toast of the desi adult film industry.

Nov 4, 2010 - religion, Society, women    19 Comments

Women, not allowed


Women may not visit the mosques in Pakistan but they regularly go to shrines to seek divine intervention for things spiritual and trivial. The tomb of sufi saint Shah Jamal, in Lahore, is one such shrine which attracts a lot of devotees. Women are usually allowed to go to the general area and have a separate area where they can pray, sleep or eat. However, they are forbidden to enter the room which houses the grave of the saint. Shah Jamal is no exception. The entrance to the grave in the general area have this board which says: “Entrance of women is strictly forbidden.” I have seen such boards before but what I find humiliating is that now they have added the image of a young girl in pony tails with a red cross sign on it, really pushing the message that women are NOT welcome.

Sign of no entry in the general area
Sign of no entry in the segregated area for women. 

Interestingly, inside the segregated area, they have this sign which says: “This area is for women only, men are strictly forbidden to enter.” However I spotted a few men who were roaming inside. A couple of them were distributing mithaee (traditional sweets) but the rest were just loitering. I guess women do not enforce the edict as vigorously as men do.

I saw a lot of really young girls in the shrine and I was wondering what kind of message the silhouette of a young girl in in pony tails with a red cross sign on would they get. Not a nice one, methinks.