The misogyny industry

As hatred for women continues to be sold on TV, Zaitoon Malik has a few questions for the salesmen

The misogyny industry
Let’s cut to the chase: misogyny is an entire market on its own. Capitalism didn’t only build a base upon the oppression of women, but has grown to establish a market devoted to hate, insult and ridicule women. And who better to profit off this market than our very own Pakistani media. A nation so steeped in misogyny it delivered rape threats to Malala Yousafzai for doing the daring task of existing; womanly.

Flip a channel, any channel, if it isn’t airing misogyny, it will be in the next few minutes. These past few months Ayyan Ali has been a great source of inspiration and income for sellers and buyers alike, not once was her arrest and case reported with seriousness and without a tarka of misogyny. Another muse was the Khan union; Reham Khan’s degree was more important than anything going on in volatile Pakistan for a better part of a day. Tanveer Zamani was another favourite. These three ladies were given turns on being ridiculed on a day India was in full offense mode, and therein lies our media’s priorities. Ridicule of women over national security. And oh did everyone enjoy it. Some self-respecting, brave, “no-power-on-earth-can-undo-us” nation we are.

Reporters, please start acting like you’re qualified for your serious jobs and were given training in a university or college and not only in a patriarchal, misogynist Pakistani house.

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai

Turn over to our drama channels, other than rarely serving original and inspiring plots with good direction and writing, all they partake in is misogyny. There seem to be only a limited number of roles for women:

1.    Ammi/daadi/naani/khala (maternal) roles: these are women who are out to either protect daughters from their own evils or ruin the lives of the daughter-in-law and husband. There are also those old female relatives who have no family of their own and are a burden on their poor brother and sister-in-law. These women are always on either side of the good-evil spectrum.

2.    Achi bachi roles: these are the ones we must aspire to become. Ladies, they are the pinnacle of all that is woman. They are masoom, don’t speak up for themselves, will do as they’re told, and most importantly, wear shalwar kameez (Alhumdullillah). These are the ones the best dudes from walait (the ones who only wear 3 piece suits and speak fluent English and have studied from the best universities abroad) will want to marry, because they serve an entirely empty canvas for these men who seem to know all the paints of life and work and life to paint on! Oh and she will cry on cue! And you know how much people love seeing women cry!

3.   Sautan: Evil, slut out to get your man. Ladies never ever even think about becoming this woman. She wants to get “educated” rather than push out eight children for hubby. She has ambition to establish herself, isn’t afraid of asking for what she wants and needs and most importantly: she wears ‘pant-shirt’ or sometimes even kurtas but they are always revealing. These are the unwrapped lollipops that no good man from walait or from your family will want to marry. And they usually end up unhappy because they couldn’t secure a god man, some even commit suicide.

Ayyan Ali
Ayyan Ali

So ladies, if you can’t get a man to marry you or find a fellow woman to torture, what is the point of your existence? To hell with the complexity we women as human beings possess, these writers, directors and whatevers don’t care. They sell what sells. And what sells is the reducing, insulting and humiliating women.

I care not about whether it is intentional or not. People in charge are fully-grown adults with access to all arenas of knowledge and awareness. They consciously choose to do what they do. This is not limited to our media, of course, but the lack of creativity and taste with which it is carried out in ours is especially irritating.

As for the need to express this all: yes, we all have inherent misogyny inside of us waiting to leap at a chance of expression and presentation, that does not excuse it from scorn. Art exists to question and comment, to challenge norms and break moulds. There is a reason it is uniquely human; it makes us think and construct. Artists are not conformists and never have been; their job to society is to present a view which could be, an environment that should be. So why are ours failing?
Why would you want young girls to think of wailing women as entertainment?

Some might ask why the ruckus, it’s just entertainment, one should enjoy it. Well, again, short-sightedness. How could anyone adult fail to realize the repercussions here? If you won’t let your teenage daughter watch angrezi filmein for being fahaash and what not, how could you let her watch something so demeaning and damaging to her personality? Unless you want to box her into an achi bachi, of course.

As I’ve mentioned before, art, if it exists in a society, has a responsibility to it. Why would you want young girls to think of wailing women as entertainment? Why would you want them to think their worth and personality all stems from a choice of clothes? Why would you want young boys to think women exist for their intents and purposes? Why would you want them to think of women as weakly criers rather than the fierce and strong fighters we actually are?

So, Pakistani media, why would you? For money? We have a popular word for that but it is strictly reserved for women.

This piece comes after the equally celebrated and criticised ‘Bin Roye’ because, frankly, I, like many other women, have had enough. If “Pakistan’s answer” to a fellow misogyny selling movie-industry Bollywood is misogyny in return, all one can do is laugh at the ridiculous competitions between these patriarchal nations.

We know misogyny sells, we know it is a reflection of our society and we know it is in demand. This should be a source of anger for our female writers, producers and directors, so for God’s sake have the gall to come up with something original and complex and dare to challenge the notion of women in this society.