Being a celebrity isn’t all it’s made out to be. While they do enjoy a lot of things that normal people cannot, one thing they can’t escape is intense scrutiny. You only have to open up a female model’s instagram picture and look at the comments to see the unprecedented hate and moral policing being dished out by strangers hiding behind a computer screen.
Whether it’s Annie Khalid being called a slew of expletives, including, but not limited to ‘maneater’, ‘vulgar’ and ‘wahiyaat’ simply for exercising her basic human right to get married a second time, or Armeena Khan being questioned about her religious affiliations and being called ‘beghairat’ and ‘behaya’, this disturbing trend of online abuse is largely aimed at women.
While some of these women try to hit back at their abusers, most of them tend to stay silent. The general public has an unhealthy obsession with women’s bodies and attire, when they’re not being bashed for their clothing choices, they’re being body shamed. Sanam Jung has been a favourite among TV watchers for a while now, and for good reason too. She’s a hardworking woman who’s juggling work and family life to the best of her abilities, yet all everyone can focus on these days is her supposed weight gain. She had a baby last year, and it’s perfectly normal for a woman to gain weight after childbirth, and losing the post-baby weight is not an easy task. While certain hollywood celebrities tend to resort to plastic surgery to shed the weight, this particular trend has not caught on in Pakistan just yet. Truth be told, she looks like a normal everyday woman, and her current body structure does not appear to be life threatening in any way. Then why are people focusing on it so much? Unfortunately, she has not responded to the unabashed, and uncalled for, body shaming.
While social media presents the means to reach millions of people at once, having a large social media in Pakistan can very easily backfire. Internalised radicalism is deeply ingrained in the general public, which makes it acceptable for them (in their own eyes) to openly police anyone who thinks differently. What’s even more perturbing is that a lot of the hate comments left on pictures of female celebrities are by women. In a country, where women are fighting for acceptance in public spaces, where women are faced with constant trepidation when stepping outside their homes, where women are killed for a trivial concept like ‘honour’ and sold off to settle debts, women are sabotaging fellow women. The paradoxical nature of this internalised misogyny juxtaposed against women defying societal bounds established by men for gaining equal rights is wryly amusing. Pakistan is a part of the sub-continent, where women in both Pakistan and India are trying to counter the noxious culture which justifies rape based upon a woman’s clothing choices, and it’s shocking to see women policing other women, as opposed to supporting them.
If celebrities, who are considered somewhat untouchable, are facing so much criticism from their fellow Pakistanis, the amount of moral policing forced down an everyday woman’s body and life choices seems unfathomable in comparison.
It was very easy for everyone to condemn Qandeel Baloch and her actions while going as far justifying the unwarranted hate she received in her life, and even the cause of her death, but all these celebrities are supposedly more ‘honourable’ than her and yet their morals are being questioned. Saba Qamar, who will be starring in Qandeel Baloch’s biopic ‘Baaghi’ is receiving death threats for playing Qandeel. The evident gratuitous moral patrol only goes to show how internalised misogyny, stemming from religious fundamentalism, is spreading like a conflagration, especially in the entertainment industry, which was believed to be a safe space for self-expression and acceptance, and it’s a very disturbing trend indeed, with no apparent sign of it ever stopping.