Monday, March 23, 2020


“The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself,” wrote Virginia Woolf in her essay A Room of One's Own published almost 100 years ago. The essay is among the most influential feminist texts which makes the case that women who wanted to write fiction needed two things: money and a room of their own, literally and figuratively.

We were reminded of Wolf once again as controversy brewed around the television drama serial, Meray Paas Tum Ho (MPTH). Had a woman written the series,  the narrative would not be replete with worn out tropes about women that in real life terms have very toxic and often violent outcomes. And while MPTH is not alone in churning stereotypes about virtue and vice in women, the popularity it gained among audiences across Pakistan means that hate against women was consumed hook, line and sinker. Those associated with the production claimed to have presented a positive portrayal of women through the narrative; in truth, the television serial was a representation of life seen through a man’s lens  and biases.

The protagonists in MPTH are a happily married couple with a son. They come across a man who is richer than the husband. The wife, who is super beautiful, is swept off her feet by the rich man. The wife — ‘greedy and materialistic as women are’ — eventually decides to abandon her husband and child and leave with the rich man.

This plotline is as old as Adam and Eve. There wasn’t anything unusual, exceptional or unique; it was very much in line with other dross that appears on the media. What drove audience numbers towards MPTH was controversy — after all bad publicity is also publicity and in MPTH’s case, viral publicity.

Much of the controversy centered on the writer of the series. In one morning, show, he spoke of what he believed to be the ‘worth’ of a woman. Another gem offered by the writer was how women can be equal to men if they started to kidnap and rape men. His real wrath was reserved, however, for feminists, who he described as an ‘organisation of bad women.’ With such provocative hot takes, the serial and its writer were the subject of discussion on social media for many weeks, creating hype around something that did not really deserve it.

To understand the kind of success it received, the channel broadcasting the serial decided to screen the last episode in cinema houses and it played to packed houses. Not that the last episode was worth the wait or the hype but the sold-out tickets, huge profits raked in, and millions of eyeballs captured, what should we gather?

Pakistan: Uks Research Resource & Publication Centre
Via Tasneem Ahmar 

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