Qandeel Baloch died nearly a week ago, and in that week I was forced to ask myself a lot of uncomfortable questions. You see when a woman like Qandeel dies; the way you react to her murder is the probably the most telling thing about you.
Last week when social media and news outlets broke that this brave, funny and frank woman was strangled to death by her brother; I was angry and terrified. I refused to comment on it because I was still smarting from a brutal murder that struck Chennai nearly three weeks ago.
A woman my age had been commuting when she was stabbed by her stalker only to be left to die because no one wanted to “get involved with the police”. The only good thing about this awful incident was the questions the media asked to the people of Chennai and the government.
I could only think how could we let this happen? How could we as people who claim that we’re the “modern India”, we’re the “educated” people of a nation let a woman bleed to death instead of getting her to a hospital? How could we keep let another woman become a statistic in a report on honour killings?
These questions are difficult questions to ask anyone belonging to the South Asian subcontinent. But they’re also really relevant because we’re living in regions littered with henious justifications to why our country doesn’t need feminism or basic rights for women.
If you talk too much or have an opinion on an issue belonging to a woman – you’re considered a feminazi. You’re also obviously ugly and fat, as I’ve been told on a Huffington Post article comment section because I dared call out Lisa Haydon on her bullshit comments on what a woman can do. Even when I posted clarity on Qandeel’s murder and explained what kind of gross misogynistic drivel is spewed at South Asian women in the form of ‘well-meaning advice’ and ‘polite schoolings’ – I was still sent three comments asking me why I ‘defended a whore who left her husband,’ or ‘OMG! Don’t bring South Asia into it, my country doesn’t have these problems,’ and of course, ‘the West has honour killings too!!’.
You see that’s the problem with all of us – we celebrate being quiet and being submissive.
We reward attitudes that discourage women from belonging to a STEM background, we reward actresses and celebrities who constantly derail feminism despite them clearly profiting from a system that give them access to so many opportunities and freedoms. We shut up when man-child Salman Khan compares shooting Sultan to feeling ‘like a raped woman’ after a strenuous take. Yet, he still has fans going to the mat for him and people posting about how everyone is ‘human’ and ‘makes mistakes’.
We’re told to be happy with what we have, which is what exactly?
In NH10, Anushka Sharma’s character is told by a male coworker that the only reason her boss liked her pitch presentation is because ‘she’s a woman’. I’ve been told by many childhood friends growing up that I couldn’t do what boys do because ‘I’m a girl’. In fact, I still get lectured on what I can do and can’t do because people are so invested in policing what a woman has to be like.
Is it tiring?
Of course it is, you see someone like Swathi should have said yes to Ramkumar because that would mean she’d be alive today. A woman like Swathi had to grin and bear with him encroaching her personal space and privacy because that’s what our society expects us to do. A woman like Qandeel was mocked by her country because “no one could believe someone like her was real”. No one could believe that a Pakistani woman could be that self-assured, confident and bold about her sexuality because that’s not ‘what a good girl is like’.
You can’t be confident about celebrating your body on social media because people will assume you want attention. People will demonize and point out how your parents, but really your mother (its always the mother’s fault) has failed because when your child screws up – it’s always her fault and not your father’s, right?
This is why I’m always going to be 100% behind representation and visibility in the media. I’m always going to rage at people who tell us we don’t need feminism because our beloved Bharat is ‘our mother’.
We need all sorts of women in our media because as women we’re so much more.
It’s not unbelievable that a fashionable, politically incorrect gynaecologist with a sexual appetite as voracious as Dr. Mindy Lahiri exists, because in some ways I’m sure they do. It’s not unbelievable to believe a woman as attractive, manipulative, and brilliant as Alex Parrish exists because she does.
Jessica Lal, Meera Puri, Susannah Johannes, Nirbhaya, Swathi S, Rani Mehra, and Ayesha Mehra – they’re all real or were real. They all exist and we need to stop acting like they don’t, we need to stop making women small. We need to stop policing them on what “South Asian women should be like”.
We need to stop erasing all those girls who get murdered every year in honour killings, we need to stop erasing and boycotting those women who dare open their mouths and ask uncomfortable questions. We need to stop victim blaming and silencing victims of sexual assault.
We need to stop saying ‘log kya kehenge,‘ or ‘what will people say’ to both our sons and daughters because we don’t teach them to question our thinking when it is outdated.
Here’s to you Qandeel Baloch, the woman who didn’t care about the amount of people who spoke ill and mocked you. Here’s to you, who deserved applause for living life the way you wanted despite people telling you that it wasn’t right or culturally-appropriate.
May we always aspire to be as brave, bold, and honest as a woman as you.