For the Critics of Striptease

2399324897_86d1833883_bThey say she is vulgar. They say she is distorting Pakistan’s image. They say she should be banned because the content she produces is not ethical. They say she is a bad example for young women. Some of them also say that she will create problems for women who are fighting societal barriers to become more independent. They say she is polluting people’s minds and they say she needs to be stopped. They criticize her on social media but then the mass media uses her to make headlines.

They also say our entertainment media is not representing our society in anyway. They say women working-out on national TV in their jump suits or yoga pants is unethical. They say that women dancing in morning shows are not representing our culture, in fact, they are ruining our society. They say the topics covered in Urdu Dramas are highly inappropriate. They are worried. They are concerned. They are the critics and they hold the right to voice their opinion. We must listen to them!

But they are undoubtedly in a state of denial.

Accept it or not, everything that is shown on TV is part of our society. Be it hidden behind the doors or be it considered a taboo… it all exists. Women are highly sexualized in Pakistan’s society. Every society has multiple layers. If we have female Nobel Prize winners and female Cricket Champions, we also have a huge Mujra culture where women are the stars of the night. If we have female CEOs of multinational companies, we also have paid private dance performances at farm house parties and local porn stars.

I have also lived in a bubble, just like many of us in Pakistan who are not directly exposed to this side of our culture, until I searched Youtube for making a short powerpoint presentation on Pakistan. All I wanted to find was folk dances or music videos that would reflect Pakistani culture. I typed in ‘Pakistani dances’ to search videos and the results were unbelievably gross. All the clips were of women wearing obscene clothes, dancing in a provoking way under rain. Something we categorize as ‘mujra’. Now of course words like obscene and provoking are highly subjective so I would probably rephrase my last observation to ‘relatively’ provoking and obscene.

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I got so pissed off that I wrote to a friend in Gujranwala telling him about what I had found on Youtube. His response was more appalling than I thought. He told me how common it is to find paid strippers to perform at the men’s segregated section at weddings. It is more like an after party and it happens very often in both small villages and bigger towns. I ended up discussing the matter with several friends all over Pakistan and they shared multiple stories about how they have heard or seen such performances in person. There is also a culture of letting women and children go home after a family function so the men could continue ‘partying’ later. Of course, the women who are present at the ‘after-party’ are no one’s wife, daughter or sister.

I am not defending or criticizing anyone here. The topics discussed in the morning shows could definitely be improved and made much more useful for the general public. Female artists that are highly criticized for producing sexualized content also have a lot of potential to produce quality work. Discussing taboo topics like sexual abuse or using protection when your husband has multiple sex partners (since many men in our society have 2 – 3 wives) would help these TV shows get high ratings as well. They just need to be a little more creative.

However, all those who deny that anything shown on entertainment media these days does not represent Pakistani culture needs to pop out of their bubble and talk to a random trash collector or rickshaw driver about his source of entertainment. The entertainment media is not even portraying one-third of what happens in the streets and corners of our beloved country. Denying it would not help anyone. What the critics can probably say is that they do not approve the content or they find it distasteful, but saying that it does not represent our society would be a lie. If the purpose behind their criticism is correction then acceptance is the first step towards correction.

Also published at: Dunya Blogs

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