Over the last few days, my Facebook and Twitter timelines have been practically scorched with posts on the gory murder of Qandeel Baloch. And rightly so, for what could be more heartbreaking in its cruelty than death being served to one at the hands of those you trust and in a place one likes to believe is a safe sanctuary – home. The shock is stunning in its impact, almost numbing.
The world is wilting under the impact of the checkered footprint of grief, all across. There are tragedies which you bring yourself to look at, even as your spirit stands convulsing in horror, and then there are tragedies where you have to gather your courage to turn your face to, all the while struggling to fit it into some explicable, rational paradigm of emotional, social or economic reality. For me, Baloch’s death falls in the latter category.
The event, if I could call it that, begs a question, what does Baloch’s life represent in the shifting and complex socio-economic world of the Asian subcontinent and more specifically, India and Pakistan? Did her life actually subvert the tenets of ugly misogyny like a lot of recent articles suggest? Was she a protagonist in the tragic drama of life carrying the burden of a ‘fatal flaw’ in the nature of a Shakespearean tragedy? Was her unabashed recklessness a conscious effort at stripping the staid mask of patriarchy or just a chain of events coming from another space altogether, a whole lot more modest?
Do we actually challenge warped notions of the stereotype of the feminine simply by doing just the opposite? And is in-your-face assertion of sexuality the only way a woman rebels against an oppressive order? Is there great merit in ones action if it is diametrically opposed to an established order? Do we stop to think how far we have really walked away from this order if all we reflect is its diametric opposite – somewhere, are we not reiterating the same order which we wish to shatter, if we are using it as our reference point?
Our journey towards freedom begins from the moment when we dump some ugly stereotypes into a bin and establish a refreshingly different paradigm. In celebrating Baloch’s life – for the reasons we are at the moment – we are only acknowledging, in an inverted sort of way, the easy journey. We are falling into the trap of rushing to the edge of the circumference of objectification of one kind, but we are only just a little removed, not quite having broken away. What has happened, unfortunately, is that we have fallen not so far away from that dominant order which we need to challenge and break.
Why can’t quiet and tenacious be an index for bravery too? Why can’t a sober, measured journey through the land of obfuscated vision herald a change too? Are we mistakenly following a specious line of defence, when we define a woman in the same warped way that a dominant patriarchal order would like to – a sexualized doll? How free are we if we hum the same tune but only brazenly? Is the only way to challenge confining boundaries around us by becoming a firebrand version of the doll from the misogynistic world order? Haven’t we just played into their hands again and redefined ourselves simply in terms of the farthest distance from same dark centrifugal force? Can we not break away and create a fresh paradigm altogether where the centrifugal force sits somewhere else? For me, sadly, Baloch’s choices – the ones we are in the know of – only reiterate the stereotypes propagated by the same evil masculinity that we think she wanted to break free from.
In life, as in death, Baloch stripped bare the ugliness behind the oppressive and statuesque patriarchy of the subcontinent, but the journey away from that can begin only now.
Photo courtesy: Flickr