Instep Today

Who ever thought that a ‘daagh’ could be sexist?

Instep Today
By Aamna Haider Isani
Fri, 12, 19

Women in most TV serials are faced with the almost impossible task of cleaning up their honour while men, in each story, the real criminals, enjoy absolute approval from society.

It’s a man’s world and no matter how much we protest, things are going to stay misogynist for a very long time, if not forever. Even in a storytelling space, where fantasy can easily override reality, the substance of a woman is grossly dependent on the way she is ‘treated, handled, respected’ or not, by a man. ‘Daagh‘ or ‘stain’ is the latest in a series of problematic words that are being used on TV to objectify women and reduce them to something as nondescript as a scrap of fabric.

‘Laaga chunri mein daagh, mitaoon kaisay?’ In the fabulous world of television, a woman cannot wash off dishonour, no matter how hard she tries. ‘Daagh toh achchay hotay hain’ is a line restricted to Surf Excel ads and kids playing in dirt.

Incidentally, this ‘daagh’, all too often on our warped understanding of ‘honour’, is always applicable to a woman and never a man, which makes one wonder what would, if ever, even threaten a man’s honour? These days you’d think it’s sexual harassment but men all too often slide out of every situation. Sadly, even when a young girl is abducted by several men, fingers are pointed at her for either being out too late, being out with a boy, dressing a certain way, living a certain lifestyle, etc. It’s gross to see the way real crime is over-written by our convoluted sense of judgement; we’ve become so opinionated that we’ve forgotten how to differentiate between right and wrong.

That mindset is reflected on television all too often.

Earlier this week, in a new episode of Thora Sa Haq, Seher (Ayeza Khan) is reminded by her cruel aunt, Rabia tayee (Saba Faisal) that a girl whose wedding procession (baraat) returns from her doorstep bears a ‘daagh’ that she can never wash off. It’s permanent, disgraceful. A chemical, irreversible reaction. This is so problematic. The bloody ‘daagh’ should be a permanent marker on the boy who turned back with the baraat when dowry wasn’t paid. Or on the sleazy cousin whose raging hormones are spilling over and who can’t take no for an answer. But nahin. Daagh toh sirf larki pey lag sakta hai. This daagh is extremely sexist!

Take a look at drama serial Ruswai, as another example. Sameera (Sana Javed) is gang raped and the word ‘daagh‘ rears its ugly head over and over again. How will she wash away this stain on her family’s honour; how will her father ever hold his head up again? To the writer’s credit, the story does feature two progressive male characters; Sameera’s brother Hamza (Osama Tahir) who says, “tell me what Sameera’s crime is and I’ll hang my head in shame” and her colleague, the cynical and practical Dr Feroze (Adnan Jaffer), who brushes her rape off as just another crime that she needs to deal with. That is a great approach. Why is rape any different from any other form of brutal, physical abuse anyway?

Even when the term is not used, it is evident in TV dramas that the onus of upholding family honour does fall on the woman. In Mere Paas Tum Ho, Mehwish (Ayeza Khan) has divorced her husband to live out of wedlock with a married man and while one cannot justify her actions, how does one isolate her to take all the blame and allow the man off the hook? Shahwar (Adnan Siddiqui) is the one cheating on his wife but somehow ‘when a man betrays a woman, one laughs, and when a woman betrays a man, one cries’, says Mateen Sahab (Mohammad Ahmed), as one of the many problematic dialogues in the story.

I could go on forever, for such an example can be found in almost every drama serial. One has to agree that it does reflect on society as it exists today but then again, as influential and inspirational as television is, one wishes someone would write about the way we’d rather see it than the way it is. This ‘daagh’ needs to be washed off once and for all.