As human beings living in the 21st century in a very accessible world, every individual, and especially public figures must consider their words and actions carefully.
he more access we have to almost every single piece of knowledge, in every single faculty, from every single corner of the world, the more aware we have to be of how we conduct ourselves.
Before posting what you would think is a harmless Instagram story or tweet, one must consider how their words would affect those reading it. And no, this is not some old, boomer-souled millennial’s manifesto on how being politically correct all the time is exhausting, it is acknowledgment, that yes, it usually is worth it to consider how your words or choice of meme would affect your audience.
For example, every Women’s Day, certain people will make “jokes” about Aurat March, “feminazis”, and how anyone subscribing to any kind of feminist ideology is most likely a single, sad, unhappy, overweight, chainsmoking b*tch. Unfriend these people immediately, both on Facebook, and IRL. They may be your friends, but my friend, they are no friend of women.
However, to err is human, and we are all guilty of laughing at or sharing things on our social media that may hurt someone’s sentiments. Saying that, our followers probably number in the low hundreds to maybe a couple thousand at best. Also, as civilians, or non-celebs, maybe we have a little more wiggle room to be inappropriate.
If you are a celebrity on the other hand, you have to watch what you say, or post, at all times. That doesn’t sound fair, and it probably isn’t, but heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, and heavier weighs the famous finger that clicks ‘post’ on Insta.
Not to drag up and beat a dead old horse, but apart from the interesting comments Nauman Ijaz once made about how he James Bonds his way through crushes on ‘difficult’ women, the actor also commented on the Me Too movement during the same interview.
“Yeh sara kuch iss muashray mein horaha hai na, yeh me too, he too, she too, trust me, yeh deen se doori ki wajah se horaha hai,” Ijaz told the host.
The problem with a public figure endorsing such problematic views is that they fortify the argument for the people already ready to dismiss the experiences of sexual harassment and assault survivors, while affecting the judgment of their fans too. As anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual assault of any degree will tell you, religion does not come into play at all. And as any woman in our beloved country will tell you, whether you’re in a dress or a full hijab and niqab, like haters, harassers gonna harass, assaulters gonna assault.
One might refer to a well-known politician, who claimed women need to dress more conservatively to avoid being harassed or raped, as men aren’t robots, absolving rapists of any responsibility for their actions, and giving oppressive mindsets an endorsement they didn’t need.
If you are a celebrity, you have to watch what you say, or post, at all times.
That doesn’t sound fair, and it probably isn’t, but heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, and heavier weighs the famous finger that clicks ‘post’ on Insta.
Over a decade ago, the video for Rihanna’s ‘Man Down’ drew the ire of the Parents Television Council. The video followed a woman who shoots and kills a man who assaults her. The criticism, of course, was that the video glorified murder. Rihanna had commented then that the weight of parenting children should not fall on her, nor would she consider herself anyone’s role model.
Of course, for ‘Man Down’, one would take the artist’s history with assault and the video’s narrative into context, but again argue that as a public figure, any artist does have to disperse views and suggestions responsibly.
Then take an instance closer to home: actor and celeb wife, Hira Mani posted a story on her Instagram, praying that Dua Zehra, who was married to one Zaheer while under the age of marriage and consent in Pakistan, would never be separated. If you have been following the news even skimmingly, you must know how many loopholes and cover-ups the Dua Zehra case has seen and is fighting, and the frightening implications these have.
When called out, Hira Mani posted an apology video, crying, and saying she was unaware of the details of the case. While one can forgive that too, if we were Hira Mani, we would take a close look at our followers list (which numbers close to seven million) and also release a strong message to the young men and women on it to not give in to the impulses of youth and run away from home to get married to someone they barely know.
The choices public figures make also have an impact. They may not openly condemn a person or their actions, or even speak openly about them, but by continuing to work or socialize with them, clearly show which way they are allied.
Consider Khalil ur Rehman Qamar, who apart from writing female characters from a high, misogynistic horse, has insulted a female host on-air, tore down any woman who criticized his views, and has routinely spewed forth nonsense about what he believes a ‘real’ woman should be. You may disagree with his views, or agree with them, or think he’s a master spinner of words, or some mix of these options, but just because a story is told well doesn’t mean it’s a good story.
Similarly, just because Khalil ur Rehman Qamar writes guaranteed hits doesn’t mean one should work with him. It is always surprising when otherwise opinionated, vocal women choose to work with known harassers and misogynists and we are always surprised without fail when we see women like Mehwish Hayat choosing to work in projects written by him. To Hayat’s fans, this might translate to: maybe he isn’t all bad.
Again, we realize that actors, musicians, models, and anyone else making their living by collaborating with teams of people have to overlook some occupational hazards to make that living, but if by doing that, they endorse problematic individuals, there is a fault in the system.
And while systems take time to reconfigure, unless those with enough clout and muscle to do so take concrete stands and action, every harmful status quo will remain.