In the last couple of years, with the proliferation of internet usage – famous people that seem to have grown from the internet have also increased. While earlier you had the occasional Awais Lovely, today we have the likes of Qandeel Baloch, Nasir Khan Jan, Nouman Khan and Bhola Record. These individuals have managed to keep the audience hooked to the unusual content that they put forth, mostly explicit in nature.
The fact that people now realize how powerful social media is and how it can make you a celebrity overnight shows how quickly people are adapting to this new medium, in Pakistan
The traditional gatekeepers of taste and fame – like magazines or TV channels aren’t all that powerful in the face of the internet where all you need is to upload a video on YouTube, a selfie on Instagram or a Facebook status to go viral, and even become a celebrity overnight.
The response however to male versus female social celebrities is quite different in a society like Pakistan that is heavily influenced not just by patriarchal values but also religious constraints
For the longest time, an entire population was seemingly disgusted by the content that Qandeel Baloch put forth. She was called out for her actions during the videos, people would take the liberty to talk about her morals, and ultimately wish death for her, too (talk about baddua lagna). Many people would repeatedly comment on how she was bringing shame to her family and must be executed to set a precedent for women who try to exceed their limits.
This was most probably because most Pakistanis have only grown up to see women in a particular light. Women are supposed to “homemakers” by society’s standards and aren’t beings that can exercise their emotions, agency and sexuality like the men can. People still aren’t used to women deciding their life for themselves and the slightest of dissent lands those women the labels such as “characterless” or worse, “whore”.
The same audience somehow appears to be alright with the content put out by Bhola Record or Nouman Khan or even Nasir Khan Jan, for that matter
We all had a chuckle at the “Uncle Majboor” video. A man masturbating on camera was a joke for everyone and no one’s honor was questioned. Even though a woman and what the man would do to her body was the focus of the conversation in the video, it appears because the woman wasn’t visible and only talked about from a man’s point of view, everyone was relieved. Humored, even.
Heck there were joke “protests” against the woman for making that man lose his cool and become “distracted”.
Then there’s the infamous “5000 dirham” guy, Bhola Record, who would show off prostitutes he would spend the night with on live sessions.
And we can clearly see the difference between how men and women are treated in such situations. Qandeel Baloch saying how she wanted to strip for Shahid Afridi caused an uproar because somehow that was a “dishonor” on Pakistani men?
It is a reinforcement of the fact that men can get away with anything whereas women might just end up dead.
The recent incident of Nasir Khan Jan flashing his followers during a live session is just another example of people’s tolerance of men’s misbehavior
As soon as people realized that this could get out of hands they started defending him. Pakistanis do realize the mob mentality here and how things can lead to someone taking the law into their own hands.
Many under Nasir Khan Jan’s video urged people to not blow this incident out of proportion and not indulge in debates about whether or not it was an intentional move because he has apologized. People urged others that if he has accepted his “mistakes”, he should be forgiven.
At the same time, many also said that he is an entertainer and the plan must have been to just cause a stir and not offend people – meaning that stunts like this help gather views and the discussion around it should end with the apology offered.
Wonder where all that forgiveness went when Qandeel Baloch was making similar videos?
A great precedent is being set by Nasir’s followers, one of acceptance and forgiveness, but let’s also extend this to everyone
It is easy to curse people and ask for them to be persecuted when they go against commonly held beliefs. The crucial realization one needs to come to is that the internet is a bounty of content that’s tailored just for you. You can always choose to not engage with something you don’t agree with.
The idea that the honor of a woman’s family is in danger is a constant conversation every time a woman publicly shares her opinions or exercises her agency, to the point that it resulted in her murder and people justifying the honor killing by saying that she brought this upon herself.
Let us not be hypocritical and offer the same acceptance to people regardless of their gender.
cover image via Zod / YouTube