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The lady in Red Who Unraveled Our Moral Hypocrisy


Anything a religious leader says in the name of Islam against a woman will sell like peanuts in winters

So one fine morning you log on to Facebook and find an ad with a lady in red, and people reacting to it. Well that’s not the end of the story; it becomes the hottest topic for debate, like always, for the next 24 hours, and then for a few days to come.

This hullaballoo did raise a few questions, which I’d like to ask now. We have had enough of this hypocrisy.

Here is the story of two women and two different reactions from one man. A famous moral policeman, journalist and popular ‘analyst’ on TV talk shows who incidentally works for the same group that he tweeted about: “My strong protest to top Jang group management for this absurd ad in today’s Jang” in response to  the ‘lady in red’ front page color advertisement of a cellphone company.

However, just a couple of years back, he never showed this response, or any remorse, when a video of the Taliban flogging a lady in Swat went viral. On the contrary he defended the act saying that those speaking against it were in fact gong against the ‘teachings of Islam.’

Notwithstanding that the two issues discussed above concern reactions of the same person, the question here is: were both the ladies not lying on the floor? What gave the right to the Taliban to pin an apparent namehram to the ground while another flogged her? And how does the lady in red become controversial even when no male is touching her?

The last I checked, and this was just before I started to write this blog, courts still exist in Pakistan. And so, who gave TTP’s Sharia Court the authority to pass such a verdict?

And then we had another Tweet from the “flag bearer” of Islam saying: “Learnt that Mobilink has been told by different newspapers that they can’t take its absurd ad anymore. Alhamdulillah our protest worked.”

Alhamdolillah indeed. Still the question cries for an answer: why no protest was initiated against the flogging of the lady, which as was reported later was without proof of ‘illicit relations’? And what about the man, why did no one go after him? Even if they were relatives, what right did the perpetrators have to take this action?

Since the lady in red is an Indian actress and we see the advertisements from across the border right in our bedrooms, thanks to the cable network. Many of these ads are beyond the ‘red’ alert. I would like to ask our dear readers a simple question: how many of you have seen the Pakistani Punjabi movie billboards outside cinemas? Or the stage shows being enacted for the benefit of the entertainment?

The lady in red was again a sales gimmick in an industry where glamor sells. So why complain about just another lady in red advertisement?

How come all of a sudden that lady reminded people of ‘izzat’ and ‘ghairat’ but no one cares when women are mistreated in society? Be it the market, office, or at home? People give reasons that ladies are dressed inappropriately, or were enticing men, but no one will listen to their version. I really want to know, why a man, preferably a model/actor, could not have lied down on the floor like that? And we won’t mind seeing Ali Zafar or Fawad Khan in that pose as they are product brand ambassadors.

You may have an issue with that pose, however I have an issue with women being used in advertising, to sell products and earn market leadership.

There was a shampoo ad where the tag ‘sub kuch dekhana hai’ was said to be copywriters’ best work! What sort of slogan was this? Who approves these? Is there no check on these ads? Is it that movies from India are censored differently while another standard is used for our own programs and advertisements?

Recently a family planning ad with Mathira in it offended everyone. So I ask, what if that same ad was done by a man? And if everyone gets so offended, why has no one said a word about female models showing their legs and arms in hair removing cream or Vaseline ads? How about girls doing ads for sanitary napkins? How does that become acceptable? As a female feel I feel embarrassed to see these on TV while I am on duty with men around.

How are Google ads on on the web with women in undergarments okay? And on the flip side how can I forget the Fair and Lovely cream ad, versus the Mountain Dew ads, where men are always shown with their masculinity, but women are shown as if they are desperate to look pretty. If we can watch Hollywood movies on cable and break traffic record for porn websites, I think we should  be okay with the Nargis Fakhri ad as well.

This is an unending list, but we are in a habit of selective propaganda and justice.

Anything a religious leader says in the name of Islam against a woman will sell like peanuts in winters, but try hearing it for men and see what happens. Be it against rape, marriage, or property. Javed Ahmed Ghamdi is a living example of what happens when one speaks against these interpretations of religion.

These people are more concerned about how a woman should be dressed and sit behind the four walls, but they never speak up for the minorities who are persecuted in Pakistan. Not one of them condemned the Jhelum incident or the Lahore Hafeez Center madness. But they would not keep quiet when it comes to women attires.  Women should be dressed decently, being one of the most common arguments.

May I know what decency is men showing their legs (that too unshaved) in shorts/nickers to everyone? Or keeping your collar buttons open till the vest is seen? Or letting your pants/jeans hang loose on your butt? Or standing in the middle of the market and tucking your shirt in, and ‘adjusting’ your pants/shalwar?

We are messed up in the head, as one of my colleagues said, “We should not be threatened by this lady but be afraid of those who are going to kill her.” This extremism is the root cause of this mess. If only we balanced things. We are more interested in saving convicted murderers making them heroes; or in shielding Maulana Aziz of the Burka fame; or letting the ladies of Jamia Hafsa support ISIS; or siding with the vendors of Hafeez Center… we definitely are not bothered about the fallout of these insane activities.

And maybe I am out of place here, but just how do we justify the politics of Lodhran where a candidate rounded off his election campaign by a public song and dance show (yes a mujra) in a call for the voters to cast their votes for him on the Election Day? Where are all the saviors of women who take on a lady in red print ad, but are willing to see a stage song and dance show live? -The Nation

By Umaima Ahmed


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