Once upon a time, there was a beautiful badass self-made woman. She was loved by all in the land. She smelled of Lux and ate Tuc. A great influencer of her time, when she spoke, people listened. Girls and boys admired her for her work-ethic and tried to be like her. Aunties wanted her for their sons and uncles wished they were twenty years younger when they met her.
That was, until, one unfortunate day, an evil photographer, in a fit of jealousy and rage, took pictures of her, without her consent and posted them on the unforgiving – internet. Stuck in this web, the woman struggled to break free of the judgement but alas! The damage was done.
Unwilling to give up, the woman struggled against the social media spider that inched slowly and steadily towards her. It was then that you, yes, you; came along and now – the story lies in your hands.
The beautiful, badass, self-made woman is Mahira Khan, and the thing she is being called out for (for those of you who are living in the Bermuda triangle) is having a smoke with Ranbir Kapoor. Yes. That’s it. That’s the scandal. For making this grave mistake, people are stating that she is non-Muslim, commenting on her personal life, and calling her all sorts of unsavoury names.
An overreaction? Definitely. What is worse, these people think this reaction is justified. As they sit behind their keyboards and internet safety, they write these vicious and vile things about Mahira Khan, publishing them for all to read and enjoy. It is widely known that if a woman smokes in Pakistan, she ‘obviously’ has no moral compass.
What I find scarier is the fact that if a Pakistani woman smokes, people feel that they are free to speak of her and do with her whatever they wish because in their opinion, she has a ‘loose’ character. So a woman with a reportedly loose character has no rights, just like the woman with a supposedly ‘good’ character (whatever that is). That’s the real scandal.
A Silver Lining
As the beautiful, badass, self-made Mahira Khan fights off the savages that are the internet trolls (they like to call themselves ‘The Guardians of the Ghairat’) and this article encourages others to assist her in doing so, one thing becomes clear; all hope is not lost. Whilst researching for this piece, I noticed some of the biggest names in Pakistani entertainment came to Mz. Khan’s aid.
From Osman Khalid Butt to Ali Zafar, the Hocane sisters to Meesha Shafi; many used their influence to show where they stood. No debate was sparked, no sides were picked – in fact, a zero tolerance attitude (in this writer’s humble opinion – the right attitude) was adopted. This, if you think about it, is remarkable. The entertainment industry, in most countries, thrives on feuds – that’s how magazines sell.
'SHOCKING: Behaya male actor cigarette-noshi kartay huay pakray gaye – sharmnaak manazir'.. said NO ONE EVER.
F*** your double standards. pic.twitter.com/t91Owh1D1i
— Osman Khalid Butt (@aClockworkObi) September 22, 2017
Yet here we are, in Pakistan, just starting out and already setting a good example for the entertainment giants around us. The entertainers that spoke up for Mz. Khan, made sure their message was heard loud and clear – they will support their own. In a volatile and mostly conservative environment as ours, that’s exactly the kind of message we need.
Mahira and You
By now you’re probably wondering, well, what do I have to do with all this? How can I make a difference? Well, for one, you can program yourself to think differently, think better. Instead of making or laughing at smoking jokes that are targeted at her, perhaps, you could emulate the level of compassion that Mz. Khan has become known for. To the husband whose wife watches dramas, maybe refrain from saying ‘I’m telling you, all these actresses are the same.’
Because they’re not. To the brother whose sister wants to study, encourage her to do so. She deserves your support. To the parents with a daughters and sons, treat them equally. To the feminist whose friend said one thing about Qandeel Baloch and another about Mz. Khan, congratulate her for finally understanding where she went wrong and not shut her down for having a different opinion previously. Would you love her more if she shunned Mahira Khan too?
I know, to most people, it sounds obvious, but our actions indicate that it’s clearly not. We have a long way to go when it comes to respecting women but wanting to make a positive change can be the silver lining to this entire scandal.
To Mahira Khan (if she’s reading this)
I think you’re right to not speak about this matter or offer a defence. Because, quite frankly, no defence is needed. This matter is beneath you as is the criticism coming your way. The only lesson to learn is to keep being your beautiful, badass, hardworking self and as long as you keep at it, no one will be able to take away from you the respect you have so rightfully earned.