As a strong proponent of the feminist and Me Too movements, my heart soars each time a prominent figure with a large platform raises their voice to cement their feet on the right side of history. It is thus, that I could not hold back my applause each time Hareem Farooq and Osman Khalid Butt put forward their staunchly feminist stances at ZAB Media Festival ’19 on a panel discussing women in cinema.
The panel was, undoubtedly, the most engaging and riveting of all the panels at ZMF ’19. Moderated by Manal Faheem Khan, who steered the conversation towards aspects that absolutely needed to be talked about, the panel comprised of Osman Khalid Butt, Fifi Haroon, Hareem Farooq, and Mansha Pasha.
The panel exceeded its time limit – simply by virtue of it being so essential and consuming, that one hour seemed too less to fully encompass the magnanimity of the ongoing conversation.
From Osman Khalid Butt talking about being a male feminist ally in Pakistan – being called a gender traitor in the process – to the panel collectively talking about how the mainstream representation of women divorces them from their sexuality, the panel was filled to the brim with insight that is necessary for today’s climate.
During the conversation, the fact that women are shown in one role, often as decorative ornaments, aiding the male protagonist’s journey, was highlighted and debated against. The need for more female filmmakers who write and direct from a fresh perspective was emphasized upon.
Item numbers were discussed, and it was seen to be quite an agitating topic, too.
Hareem straight up said that she hated the term. Osman talked about how dancing, in itself, is great, but when the camera zooms in on a woman’s body, that is when the song becomes vulgar. It was decided that when the male gaze begins to objectify a woman and the camera angles follow suit, that is when the line between empowerment and objectification becomes blurred.
This led into two very important topics of discussion: Mehwish Hayat and the Me Too movement.
Hareem, Fifi, and Osman vehemently defended Mehwish Hayat against the criticism she received for winning the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. They asked naysayers to actually go back and do some research on Mehwish’s contributions before smearing her name for no reason whatsoever. Moreover, they expressed their disgust over people using images from Billi to defame Mehwish, when absolutely no one would do the same, should someone like Mohsin Abbas Haider win an award, when he, too, has performed shirtless.
This is where Hareem spoke up and raised an extremely important question. She asked the audience why we question a woman who’s contributed to the industry greatly when we don’t question harassers within the industry. She went on to say that harassers walk free and get a ton of support, and even though numerous women come forward with claims, those claims are shunned.
Osman went on to reiterate how that very attitude will prevent victims from coming forward to share their stories, knowing that the backlash will be immense.
The panel capped off with a request to aspiring writers and filmmakers. They asked the upcoming generation to believe in their talent, write new stories and push for change.
The panel fueled an integral discussion – a debate that needs to be had on multiple platforms.
It’s 2019, and we still have instances of women being killed in the name of honor. We have women facing ridiculous amounts of domestic violence. Misogyny is rampant, with its ugly claws embedded into society’s framework.
If you ask a group of girls about whether or not they’ve been harassed at any point in time, chances are, almost all of them will say yes. In fact, Fifi did ask this question at the panel, and while she didn’t ask anyone to raise hands, a collective “yes” heard from the crowd.
For a victim of assault and harassment such as myself, this panel hit home. I saw five people on stage talking about something that not only has impacted me, but countless women within our country, some of whom may not even be alive to talk about the trauma.
To have women defended, represented and elevated on such a platform is a step in the right direction. I sincerely hope this step, this conversation, doesn’t remain limited and confined to a stage within SZABIST and takes our world by storm in a massive way.
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