A male actor’s ‘work’ would have been criticized – Why is Mehwish Hayat being character assassinated then?

Mehwish Hayat displays Tamgha-e-Imtiaz with pride | 23rd March 2019

A few days since 23rd March, but the madness circling Mehwish Hayat’s Tamgha-e-Imtiaz continues – or should we say, continues to worsen.

Right after the announcement of her award and recognition of her work at the national level, the assumptions and hate started to barge in. But is it something new? For longest the Pakistani society has used slut-shaming and character assassination to perpetuate the misogyny. And unfortunately, the stars and the artist community faces the worst in this regard.

Take Mehwish’s example. If it would have been a man at her place who received the award ‘undeserved’, our criticism would have been primarily based on his work, his contributions and acting skills. But since the one in question here is a woman, the first attack here is on her character. We might scream at the top of our voices to defend ourselves and hide our ugly behaviour in this regard but our invested chauvinism always makes a way for it to shine through our words – effortlessly.

Particularly in this regard, to imply that a woman is character-loose is quite archaic, but it still is a very potent and effective tool to damage her credibility. Politically strong women or the ones in the showbiz community have fallen victim to it. Mehwish’s case is no different.

“It may seem at odds with what we see in music videos, film and women’s magazines (where women are overly sexualised), but the point is that women’s sexuality continues to be policed, monitored and evaluated not only by others within society but also by women themselves. We are conditioned to do so.” 

In a society like Pakistan, plagued with male privilege and the concept of treating women as an agency of men, the life of women with an opinion or the female national figures is further difficult. We set our own standards to judge morality, which varies in the case of men and women to a visible and contrasting level, and then we choose to socially punish them by it.

Where a woman’s worth is gauged by “virtuous, chaste, moral”, it is further horrifying that we use this slut-stud paradox at a place of our choice, and no one will even bother to ask for the evidence. It is just one label and you get all the endorsement you want while turning a complete blind eye to the woman in question.

”Turning a blind eye” – we did the same with Mehwish Hayat’s achievements and contributions as well. One may debate on whether she was worthy ‘enough’ to be awarded the high civil award but the question, if she is worthy at all, only shows our disregard for our artist community. Pakistani industry, which is of course not as giant as its neighbouring counterpart, ever since started to work on revival, Mehwish has been a face of it. Be it films or dramas, her presence has made a difference on the screen.

Na Maloom AfraadJawani Phir Nahi Ani,  Actor in LawPunjab Nahi Jaungi and Load Wedding – which other products has our industry even produced in current years?

This is not something new for us. We have a history of disregarding our narrow artist cohort and treating them with disrespect. Mehwish’s case has further exposed our standing. It is everyone’s right to have an opinion, but rather than making it an objective criticism on her work, why do we only have character assassination, slut-shaming and whore-labelling to offer her? And for how long will we keep adding to this shameful, repititive trend?

What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments bar below.



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