Sometimes, society really baffles me. After watching a recent advertisement, I just could not help but think something is seriously wrong with some of the society in Pakistan; or at least with their understanding of feminism. For those who have not come across this advert, in that video a girl is first cat-called, and filmed on a phone, by men in Lahore's old Anarkali market as she is walking along (covered in a scarf too!), but as a result of the street harassment, she strips off her chaadar (scarf) in the middle of Old Anarkali, and dances to "Who run the world!", while also joined by backup dancers who appear from the crowd.
Though I am all in favour of dancing to a good tune, as well as female empowerment, I found the message of the video; that dancing in front of lusty men (who have blatantly harassed you on the street, and videoed you walking around) can be called "Empowering"; absolutely ludicrous! Not to mention, linking this message to enacting feministic rights is beyond me...
Feminism is a movement for gender equality, fighting for the basic rights: rights to be educated, rights to have social respect, rights to having the same opportunities as men. How is dancing in front of men who have objectified women meant to fight street harassment in the first place? And how does taking off items of clothing account to liberalisation?
I would not call this feminism or empowerment! Because as a feminist, I know how I have made my place in the patriarchal society and fought for my rights. Pakistan is the country where Malala got shot in the head for studying in the school, and Qandeel Baloch murdered by her own brother in the name of honour killing. In that hostile environment, imagine those girls facing street harassment in their real life due to that bizarre advertisement. I believe that Pakistani society seriously needs to redefine their approach to feminism and fighting for equality in order to stop the harassment. Both extremes (being covered in hijab and being repressed or stripping out of clothes) are wrong. Neither being covered in hijabs nor stripping from hijabs can save a woman from street harassment if men think they have the right to cat-call women or harass them. The cure is being a strong, confident woman, and stepping up against men who do this. This video would certainly build a powerful image if the girl would have confronted the man who harassed her and then sought support from those around her in the same street as other men and women would not have condoned this behaviour.
Women are not meant to be objectified or some mere source of entertainment just for the mental arousal of men. What disturbed me about this video was that instead of promoting respect and acceptance for women acting out of the norm of being repressed, the men, who were cat-calling, are simply now filming them with perverted looks, and the ladies continue dancing... for what? To continue being objectified? It was honestly sickening, not to mention, insulting; especially given how much women in countries such as the UK have fought for in the past, just to get voting rights, and even still things like the gender pay game remain unchanged.
By simply adapting Western dance styles in Asian societies, women are not automatically liberalised. Yes it is out of the norm, yes it is a way to stand out, but does it help the fight for equality? No, it does not. The fact of the matter remains that girls are not even allowed to be schooled in northern regions of the country, they are forced into arranged marriages from adolescence and not given the same credit for their hard work as men. Society is patriarchal to its roots, men think they have the right to do whatever they want to a woman as she is just a mere object, a breeding machine or a trophy to flaunt around. The misogyny needs to end, as that is the problem, and it will not change by street dances, it will change when women finally stand up against men together; create a strong political or cultural force that will not be put down. Not all men abuse and harass women, some will stand up with women and condemn it all together. That is the image, of co-operation, that we need to strive for!
I would not say the West itself is not guilty of misogyny; cat-calling is a massive problem here in the UK and women still feel incredibly unsafe walking the streets at night, and not just that, school girls are cat-called on their way home; Croydon being an example of this. Not to mention misogyny is plastered all over pop culture (I'm looking at you Game of Thrones and rap music). Slowly but surely, equality will be achieved but to each, their own as every society and the country is at different stages and tackling different issues.