Archive | July, 2016

Stop moral policing

19 Jul

People from my generation often come across social media posts urging us to be “Diana in a world full of Kim Kardashians”. Often, you laugh and think that there is a clear distinction between being one kind of woman or another. Women, not just in Pakistan but across the globe, are constantly fed mixed messages throughout the course of our lives. Through advertisements and mainstream media, we are constantly taught that we are only as valuable as our bodies are attractive. Through social media, we are subsequently named and shamed for ‘exposing’ our bodies. Our parents tell us that we should cover up what is ‘precious’ but everywhere we go and everything we see tells us otherwise.

Who are the victims in this cycle of confusion? Always women. It is women who are forced by societal and economic pressures to take their clothes off. It is women who attack other women for being just a piece of flesh when they give into that pressure. It is women who wage war on one another’s characters and allow men to label us owing to our own insecurities and jealousy. It is indeed true that women are our own worst enemies. The ultimate winner? Patriarchy, of course!

It is no wonder then that there is such divided opinion on Qandeel Baloch’s murder. There are very few of us who can honestly argue that we never mocked Qandeel or put her down because of the choices she made in her life or her actions on social media. However, the majority of us would never condone murder. It is from this that our dilemma arises: we condemned her during her life so how can we criticize her death without aligning ourselves with who she was and what she did? Why are so many of us towing the same line of argument: “You may not agree with Qandeel but that didn’t mean she should have been killed”.

Contrary to what we may believe, Qandeel never lived for us nor was she seeking our acceptance of her lifestyle choices. Throughout her life, one had heard awful things women would say about Qandeel but not once did I ever hear Qandeel make a misogynistic remark about another woman. While the rest of us put her down for owning her sexuality and exposing our society’s firmly embedded hypocrisy, Qandeel didn’t reinforce the misogyny surrounding our criticism of her. She continued to do what she wanted, while supporting her entire family, including her brother who killed her.

Why do we feel the need to distance ourselves from her actions when she never aligned herself to any of us in the first place? It is because we, ourselves, are so confused about right and wrong that we instantly reject and condemn anyone we believe falls out with our warped conceptions of morality. Many criticized Qandeel, accusing her of using ‘cheap tactics’ for fame. Was it the fact that she was famous and we are not that we felt the need to label these tactics ‘cheap’? The irony is that the same elite that called her cheap is the same elite that wouldn’t think twice before opening a Playboy or watching a Western or Indian music video in which there is a lot more nudity than what Qandeel ever displayed.

As if it wasn’t enough that the media and all of us were giving attention to someone we loved to hate, the media thought it should go one step forward. PEMRA, which is so quick to ban people from appearing on TV, had clearly joined in on this endless nap the State seems to be taking. Was PEMRA too deep in slumber to realize that the media had crossed a serious red line in broadcasting Qandeel’s NIC and passport? The same media which reports the incidents of honour killing, acid crimes and violence against women had ensured that yet another girl from a conservative locality may fall prey to such attacks.

That is not to say that there was an expectation that Qandeel would be murdered – if we genuinely believed that ‘she had it coming’, we are just as sick and depraved as her brother who murdered her. There is, however, a concept of media ethics which seems lost on Pakistani media. When one is aware of the fact that women in this country, particularly from South Punjab, are commonly the victims of atrocious violence, why would anyone play with another human being’s life in the way that our media did?

Let’s be clear: there is no justification for murder. Our likes and dislikes aside, there is no one who deserves to die. There is no ‘honour’ in killing. When will we realize that we are not moral police for anyone except ourselves? It is neither our responsibility, nor should it be expected of us, to impose our sense of morality on others. When women shame other women, the only winners are those who inflict the worst kind of suffering on us as a collective – the men that suffocate us, beat us and tell us how to live our lives.

To conclude with some food for thought, in the words of J.R.R Tolkein, for all of us who should be ashamed of ourselves to the core: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends”.