There’s a fine line between being funny and being offensive.
The stand-up comedy scene is slowly but surely developing in Pakistan. However, there aren’t really any rules for what comedians can and cannot joke about since a lot of comics are working independently and there’s no real conversation in our society around such topics. In the past, comedy in Pakistan has always been on the politically incorrect and offensive side, with even the likes of Anwar Maqsood making offensive skits at the expense of minorities.
Making jokes at the expense of women, in particular, isn’t even considered offensive in a lot of circles. But the tide seems to be turning now. This year as the Me Too and Times Up movements gained momentum globally, women declared that they would no longer accept misogyny in any shape or form.
When stand-up comic Hazik Ali made a joke which offended many women for being misogynistic in nature, they immediately called him out.
So what exactly happened?
The Gurmani Center For Languages and Literature at LUMS organized a 5 part stand up comedy series. One of the invited comedians for the series was Hazik Ali. A joks he apparently made was at the expense of the FemSoc at LUMS, which is a feminist society on campus.
According to many people who were aggrieved, he called the women in that student society ‘c*nts’. Since this was a comedy show I am sure Hazik was attempting to make a joke and I am also sure he got quite a few laughs because in Pakistan, taking a dig at feminists is always greeted with loud cackles from misogynists in the crowd. But because it was meant to be a joke, does it make it okay?
Today, the Gurmani Center for Languages and Literature had a stand-up show featuring Hazik Ali who called all members of @femsocatlums (a society I am part of) "c*nts" @hazikali said, "Femsocks? Femcocks? Femcocks? Femcocks feminist society of cunts"
— نوال (@namakpaara_) December 7, 2018
Unfortunately for Hazik, some of the women from the society were at the event as well. Including FemSoc’s Vice President for Marketing, Wafa Asher who confronted Hazik on his misogynistic joke and asked for an explanation. Apparently, Wafa was told by the organizers and Hazik’s team to ‘chill out’ because no one really considered Hazik’s joke to be offensive. And in a culture where women are often the butt of offensive jokes, it might be baffling to certain people why women have even taken offense over the joke.
Something happened at Stand Up LUMS yesterday that I’m still disgusted by. A little context about the series – it’s a…
A lot of women took serious offense at the joke and encouraged the students at LUMS to lodge an official complaint about the entire incident.
To the credit of LUMS Gurmani Center for Languages and Literature, the co-director and professor of Literature at LUMS, Bilal Tanweer, responded promptly to the complaints and apologized to the offended women. However, there has been no public statement made by the comedian, Hazik, himself, yet.
Launch an official complaint to the dean. Email him. Cc the people responsible for the event. See if you can rally the society with you on this. Including the patron. See if your patron can get support on this. And send an email cc-ing everyone you can get on board!
— No (@Bluemagicboxes) December 7, 2018
Launch an official complaint! Yeh kya mazak heh
— Seher (@seherinia) December 8, 2018
This is completely unacceptable, I'm so sorry. Getting this sort of abuse from outside is bad enough, but that this guy felt free to do this from inside of LUMS, on a formal platform, is astounding. Please let me know if I can help in any way.
— Sana Naeem (@sananaeemk) December 8, 2018
While others thought that those offended were overreacting since it was meant to be a ‘joke’.
This is feminism gone mad – when a comedy has been given way over the top attention. Let’s steer our feminism in the right direction than waste time over something that (ironically) was never meant to be taken seriously. #JokesOnUs
— Nafies (@Na_Peach) December 9, 2018
With no intention of causing offence, I think this thread is exaggerating the narrative. I’m pretty sure the comedian was saying that in Humor and didn’t have any motive to insult you. If you do watch standups men are called dicks all the time and such –
— lil blackbear (@enderwillrise) December 7, 2018
But should everything and anything be allowed in the name of humor? When we peddle our ‘woke’ narratives and constantly remind and ‘cancel’ others for unacceptable mindsets and behaviors, why is an ‘everything goes’ attitude accepted for comedy?
Would it be acceptable for a man to call a group of women ‘c*unts’ normally? No. Then why is it permissible and even applauded on a comedy stage.
Women in Pakistan are not equal to men; that is a fact. Our culture tends to treat women as second-class citizens in their own country. Our culture practically encourages violence against women, and when comedians take their platform to further normalize a narrative of disrespect towards women by using words such as ‘c*unt’ when referring to them, it really isn’t funny. And in no way should it be celebrated or allowed.
And to those who blamed the women at the event for overreacting and calling their anger unwarranted, well, I can’t say it as well as the person in the tweet below already has:
a group that Wafa associated with "cunts" to the howling laughter of men. That is disrespectful. He is punching downwards. Do not put the burden of respect on the group being wronged, do not expect people to be polite in their anger with someone who does not want to learn.)
— No (@Bluemagicboxes) December 8, 2018
The comedy scene is just emerging in Pakistan and if we nip humor as distasteful as this in the bud, we might be able to achieve a comedy scene which operates on humor rather than relies on age-old misogyny to get chuckles.
Cover Image Source: dnd.com.pk/@femsocatLUMS via Twitter.com