Boys will be boys but Qandeel was defiant – so she must be eliminated

Published: July 18, 2016

She could do outrageous things and, in doing so, inspired millions. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

The first video I watched of Qandeel Baloch was shared by a friend on his Facebook wall. She was clad in a skimpy grey dress showing off her voluptuous curves. Swaying suggestively and looking straight into the camera she said,

“I’m 99% sure you hate me but I’m a 100% sure not even my shoe gives a damn about it.”

In one fell swoop she not only fully asserted herself as a sexual being – a space denied to women in our society – but cocked a snook at everyone unwilling to acknowledge her agency. I instantly fell in love with her.

Because I come from a conservative family, I can never imagine doing anything even remotely similar. Though my sisters and I were fully supported in our education and allowed to work by our parents, early on we were bombarded with messages from various sources that women who use their charms to attract men are immoral, evil.

I remember walking on the street with my father when we passed a woman sitting in the driver’s seat of a car as a man (standing outside) spoke to her through the window. Two other men stared at her from a distance, as if she was public property.

My father was infuriated by the sight and uttered an expletive – not for those men, but for the woman who, in the public space, invited their attention. I remember feeling violated and diminished. I wanted that space for myself and I knew that if men were staring at her, it was their fault, not hers.

As a teenager I was very fond of western clothing and bought myself a pair of jeans with my pocket money. When my otherwise loving and supportive father saw me wearing jeans, he was furious and severely reprimanded me. My heart sank. I never wore them again, no matter how badly I wanted to; I could not face my father’s disapproval.

I shaped my conduct to suit social expectations. My parents trusted me and allowed me to study and work outside the home. I never attempted anything that could potentially disgrace my parents. I remained very strict and disciplined about how I interacted with men. It was not just because I wanted to please my parents; I saw that it’s very easy for a man to enjoy the good company of a woman and then spoil her reputation. Countless women have had similar experiences of being harassed and blackmailed after ending their relationship with men who claimed to love them.

What if someone reported such a thing to my family? The fear of having to explain myself to my parents and/or prospective husband was enough to dissuade me.

But, you know, I’ve felt miserable trying to observe these boundaries. I have felt extreme pressure and my agency as a person being suppressed. I had to smother my natural expression as a sexual being. It seemed I’ll always have to walk the tightrope to be accepted because if a woman steps out of the strictly defined line she is condemned, disrespected, even killed.

Men, on the other hand, can sleep with sex workers and then easily call them filthy and sinners. They can watch explicit content in their dens but divorce wives if they express sexual desire and interest in the marital bed. It’s acceptable for them to ogle and grope women, but then hold them responsible for it? They can sexually assault young girls because they think underage marriage is religiously sanctioned, but feel threatened by a woman like Baloch who claimed her feminine and sexual space?

Boys will be boys, but she who’s defiant – must be eliminated.

This duality and repression impacted me acutely. I’ve often wondered what such deep sexual suppression does to society as a whole. Why is a woman’s sexual agency so threatening to social order? Why does she always have to fit the role of a daughter, sister, wife or mother? Why can’t she just be herself – a woman – and feel just as accepted?

In such a suffocating atmosphere, Qandeel Baloch was a whiff of fresh air, even when she looked like a nut case. She was unapologetic and simply did not care about what others thought of her or expected of her, even when she dealt with hate speech – sent her way by the very people who watched her videos probably a hundred times over. Her authenticity and audacity was a big shock for most Pakistanis that are used to living dual lives.

Qandeel Baloch had the guts to hold a mirror to a society where maintaining a pious public persona and a separate private life is the norm. She reminds me of Saadat Hassan Manto’s character ‘Mozelle’ from the short story Mozelle set in Mumbai during the partition riots of 1947. Manto puts in a sharp contrast; the empty religiosity of a Sikh character, Trilochan Singh, with the courage of a Jewish woman, Mozelle, who refuses his marriage proposal because he’s too religious and conservative for her taste.

Trilochan’s reverence for religion is tied to his turban, which he refuses to remove for fear of revealing his shaved head to his young fiancée. Mozelle, on the other hand, does not believe in outward manifestations of religion, but demonstrates true courage and compassion as she attempts to help Trilochan’s Sikh fiancé, Karpal Kaur, escape from a sensitive neighbourhood. She goes out naked onto the street to distract the rioting mob – but gets killed in the process.

In powerful strokes, Manto delineates a bleeding Mozelle without any clothes on, lying in the middle of a small crowd. In her death throes, she refuses to cover herself with Trilochan’s turban when, dazed by the horror of what had happened, he finally removes it and offers it to her.

It seems, like her, Qandeel Baloch did not have any need for social approval. She did not need to please anyone to feel accepted. She could do outrageous things and, in doing so, inspired millions.

She is my hero. Rest in power, Queen!

Ishrat Saleem

Ishrat Saleem

The writer is a journalist and tweets as @ishrats (twitter.com/ishrats)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • [email protected]

    Very well written. I really liked reading it and agree fully.Recommend

  • Human

    WOW – CLAP CLAP CLAP

    She is my hero too . well written – God Bless youRecommend

  • Amer Lodi

    Please be very clear of what you write. Being Muslims we have very precise guidelines for both men and women. We need to follow those guidelines and not to come up with things that suits us or pleases us. You tell me is it ok to show for a women those “voluptuous curves” ????Recommend

  • MR.X

    somehow women find ways to bash men again.Recommend

  • MR.X

    Exactly. And somehow a woman finds a way to find faults in men and nag them. I guess whenever something happens they look for some men to blame. Boys better man up to face this hate campaign against them or men will turn out to be wussies just like in the west.Recommend

  • Aisha

    well you have read the entire article so clearly you have nothing better to do.Recommend

  • Es Kay

    I believe the article is very nicely written as far as the writing is concerned. Qandeel was a WANNABE. She wanted to change the world according to her childish approach and the approach that she selected was none other than high lighting the sexual side of woman. There is so much more to a man and a woman other than having sex or showing your body. Moreover she looked like a hero to me she appeared as the most ignored person of the society who along with her wannabe attitude was trying to highlight herself n not the women folk. Everytime I saw her I felt like an uneducated illiterate woman wearing some good Thai stuff and doing absurd things. She was altogether an emotional woman and people use emotional men n women by bucking them up to do stupid things. If anything wrong happens none of them will ever show up. You don’t need to rape an emotional chap they can be messed up easily. We should always remember if we want to change we should see that where we are standing and how are portraying ourselves. Jokers can never change the world or society, they can only be laughed upon.Recommend

  • Es Kay

    Wannabe is more appropriate than so called celebrity :). Recommend

  • siesmann

    So fathers have done a real good job to teach their sons!!!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    Boys will be boys even if they were to be married at birth.A misogynist nation can’t think otherwiseRecommend

  • Shahrez

    Your stereotyping game is pretty strong! Well done.Recommend

  • Riz

    Practice your faith at home please! No one has right to judge others. Being sexual is not immoral or inhuman.Recommend

  • Fahim

    Seems you & your nation’s haven’t come across pornRecommend

  • Xyz

    Oppression of women by man through murder, physical abuse, etc has been a reality for ages. Oppression of men by women has been a rarity. So please excuse women if they do lash out at times…. Be thankful that the reaction is usually only verbal.Recommend

  • NaughtyCaller

    ” She is my hero. Rest in power, Queen! ”

    Good Day Ma’am. If she is really your Hero, your Queen, you would know she intended to fight for the custody of her son

    You can start fighting for the right of Queen’s son (Your Prince)Recommend