I am a woman and I enjoy being myself

Posted on December 28, 2010 by


Pakistani Media representation of Veena Malik

by Nadia Siddiqui

Veena Malik is a popular name in our show biz world. Her recent success is a famous Indian reality show, Big Boss. Veena’s has quite explicitly discussed her love affair on the show and chose to be very western in her selection of dresses. As the show is still on air and currently Veena seems to be flirting with her Indian co-star. Her body language and behaviors appear quite bold to the conservative people in Pakistan, although, they may like to watch Katrina or other Indian actresses dancing on their TV screen. In Venna’s case, the problem for Pakistani media and public is not what has been shown, but the problem is who is doing it and where it has been done.

Veena’s appearance and conduct on the Indian show have been vociferously debated by Pakistani media. The overall impression of the debate seems to be filtered through popular discourses which has shaped and constructed Veena in Multilple identities. Veena is actually not an individual in this case, but a representative image of national, religious and gender identities. The ‘authorities’ have stridently condemned her behavior and looks on Indian TV programme. You must ask who these authorities are. The authorities are not individuals in this case, but those given ideological notions of religious morality, nationality and gender which reside in every brain of Pakistan. It is not only Pakistani media but all of us who see things with given standards for evaluation or character assassination. It is so normal for us to decide who is a good Pakistani and who is a bad Pakistani. Hold on …this Pakistani label is just not alone. It means also means Muslim, and in case if he appears to be a man than a Muslim man and if a woman than a Muslim woman. People like Nawazish Begum have no space according to our standards of morality, nationality and gender, and minority can be cast out as blasphemous any time.

The question arises why Veena’s confidence and bold appearance has struck everyone. Why many Pakistani women have bluntly denied that she is not representing them. The answer lies in the fact that our notions of normality are given by linear ideologies of religion and nationalism. We do not like the idea of diversity because it challenges the induced linear principles of life. We don’t like representation which negates our life long efforts of becoming Muslim Pakistani women. We struggle to become a being as demanded by the politics of ideologies, and quite unfortunately consider the others deviant.

In Veena’s case, I do not consider that she has the onus to explain her character, behavior or in any instance a need to tell how good Muslim she is. This is a problem for those who feel that they have been wrongly represented. To the ones wrongly represented, there is a little suggestion that some day they can try to experience their individuality as a being without any burden of representation. They can imagine in isolation why sexuality is a sin for us. Why cannot a woman just enjoy being a woman? Why cannot she tell others ‘her way’ that I love myself and being a woman is a nature’s wonder to experience the world? Why we pass every second of our short life by burdening our souls and bodies in fears of looks and remarks? Isn’t it enough that we are woman and nature has given us a chance to experience and tell what we feel about ourselves? Can we not just tell our ‘own way’ that we love our bodies? Why a woman like Veena is ostracized on telling that she is a sexual being? Can we ever accept that sexuality is naturally given to us than a religion or national identity?

The author is an academic with research interests in gender and media