When is a flash mob not a flash mob? The answer is simple: when there are girls in it. Because you see, the rules of the game are such that things that involve women and things that interest them are foremost stupid and second, dangerous because they are feminine. Capitalism plunges us into that terrible conundrum, and Junaid Jamshed knows it best of all: you secretly loathe women, but also realize that women like to buy things they want and not necessarily need. Nobody can explain the siren song of a new pair of shoes, or quantify the extra spring in your step when you’re wearing a new shirt. Men feel this too, but since women are almost always having to go to the bazaar to get more onions or new socks for school and other boring minutae, chances are they will buy something for themselves too. Misogyny is the only reason why the furore over Ali Xeeshan’s dreadful glorification of violence in a recent photo-shoot was embarrassingly small and yet the stilted gyrations of a few girls, fully clothed, have resulted in an avalanche of howling righteousness.
It’s not empowerment, women and men have cried furiously, wringing their internet hands. It’s not empowerment, they howl, but not because they have read their Marx and Greer and know that capitalism frequently apprehends other movements in order to make its product seem relatable, edgy, or whatever it is they need to do to sell more commodities. They are howling because they have feelings, and they must be heard! All opinions, especially the moronic, ill-thought and sexist ones, must be allowed! Particularly when it comes to women, because men and women only have opinions about the behaviour, apparel and attitude of women! You might have noticed how my ire seems to revolve around the many female opinions I’ve been reading (because nobody dare say most of these things aloud, in polite society). This flash mob could have opened up discussion about class, about how we perceive belonging in urban spaces (Do you belong in Anarkali if you’re an NCA student but live in Defence? Do you belong if you live in the hostel but aren’t from Lahore?) or just very simply about the various strategies available (or not, as it were) to young urban women who would very much like to break past the usual regressive patriarchal ideas of what kind of movement is appropriate for women.
But no. It seems that these strategies are futile, because they are rendered next to useless by the steady grind of the howling outraged. When you take your chaadar off, many people have tutted, this is what happens. What should happen is maybe your grandmother saying put it back on you nitwit, or you not giving two hoots and going about business as usual. What has happened is death threats, those loathsome intimidations dealt out by any halfwit with an internet connection. Depressingly, one cannot disregard a death threat entirely either because said halfwits can get a gun without much trouble, or follow you around, or even grab you and shove you in a car because they are men and you’re just a skinny college girl who thought it would be fun and a bit cool to be part of a flash mob.
What makes me furious is that the internet comprises of “educated” people. People who can read and write English, who have internet access, presumably a computer or a smartphone. What does it say for us as a nation if our “educated” classes are the ones with the most retrogressive ideas and the most vicious means of expressing them? That the people who are supposed to be civilized via the culturing effects of said education are the nastiest, beastliest ones of them all? I am proud to say that I have never been harassed in Anarkali, that heart of the city, that bazaar of bazaars where you would think all the poor lower-middle class people are. I go to Shahalmi all the time and not once has anyone whistled, sang, leered, passed a comment or tried to touch me. Liberty Market, the fancy bazaar, the sophisticated one where all the rich people go? A pit of disgusting lechers augmented by moron shopkeepers with signs like “the only legitimate woman is a married one” in their windows. I’d argue that the girls in the flash mob felt safer in Anarkali than they would have in Liberty, and that’s because decency doesn’t come with money or a degree. If it did, I wouldn’t be so disgusted by the howling mob, attacking a few girls to make themselves feel better. God knows what about, because they aren’t the people who genuinely care, or want to engage. They are just sound and fury, signifying nothing.