It’s all your fault.

This is a brilliant (and yet disturbing) satire on rape culture and sexual violence. There have been superficial satires before, but this hits right where it hurts. And that’s how satires should be.
I can’t praise them enough for making this. Thank you, All India Bakchod!

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“So you have depression? Deal with it.”

I will come straight out and say this – I have gone through some terrible times in my life. I have remained in a ventilator, gasping for breath. Those were all very terrible times in my life. But what got me through is the desire to be alive, hope that this will go away, and thankfully I did get out of that eventually. But when I go through phases of depression, this is exactly what I have to fight – when you lose your grip on the feeling – the very desire to be alive, it sucks much worse. My depression is not as terrible as many, and I cope alright with taking my mind away and distracting myself when I go through such a phase. But it still sucks really, really bad when it happens.

It really ruins my day when I see some horrible victim blaming shit about a person who took his life owing to depression. A person, an acquaintance of a friend took his life, and this status was posted by one of the ‘enlightened’ people, who speaks against all the victim blaming women face (and rightly so), say this kind of vile bullshit:

victimblaming sucide

This is what people here do – just refuse to acknowledge the very existence of depression. Do you think we choose to be depressed? Do you think being in USA or India or Afghanistan has anything to do with any of this? Can I tell my brain “stop being depressed, because I am in a much better position than many others?” Well how great it would be had that worked.

...said no one ever.

…said no one ever.

So why I don’t they get help right? Because you have answered your question yourself. This was your attitude towards a person who suffered from depression. And you felt all the self righteousness to shame him in public after he was pushed over the edge.  The stigma is terrible. As I said, I cope alright myself, but I know how this works here – you would be met with some pseudo-medical advice here (because everyone’s an expert, like yourself) – “pray more” or “stop being on the internet all the time” or “we used to never have this in our time <insert random story of hardship here>” or worse, you might get your parents paranoid (not their fault though, understandably). And even if you manage to get past all that and go see a qualified therapist for professional help, you’ll be branded ‘crazy’. I would urge everyone to get professional help if they can’t cope,  but he unfortunately didn’t have it in him to go against the flow and seek help. And our fucked up society and stigma attached to mental illnesses is to blame for that, not him.

Mental illness Stigma Bingo: Same shit everywhere

Mental illness Stigma Bingo: Same shit everywhere

Depression isn’t being ‘sad’. Depression isn’t just being ‘moody’. Depression is having your soul sucked out of you and having that very thing – i.e. that desire that keeps you alive – being taken away. You just feel empty, everything otherwise you would not even think about would magnify itself thousands of times and manage to make yourself feel crappy. For many, it wouldn’t take much to push them over the edge.

If you live in a society where people with mental illness are branded ‘crazies’ and depression isn’t seen as a mental illness and something you can ‘get over’ with some chirpy optimism, and have depression – you would know what I am talking about. It has nothing to do with ‘being rich’ or having all the things you deem to be ‘valuable’ in the world. You can’t just say ‘look at the people who suffer!’ and make it go away. Do you really think we put ourselves voluntarily through all that? Do you really take us for being some brainless morons just because we are depressed? And the last thing people with depression need is such douchebaggery and victim blaming on top of what they already struggle to cope with. So congrats, you are no better than any of the victim blaming rape apologists that you condemn yourself.

Mental illnesses are every bit real as physical illnesses. It’s no different from a badly broken arm – but the only difference is that for many it’s much worse when you don’t have that desire to live anymore, and neither do you get shamed or doubted for it. 

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. Depression is the sign of a person being strong for far too long. 

The problem with Burka Avenger

I was glad for once to see a female superhero being introduced in Pakistan. I am always a big believer that media can do their share in bringing in change to a culture, especially when it comes to children’s cartoons. I’m sure we all fondly remember the Disney films and various other cartoons that we grew up with. So when news about Burka Avenger came out, I  had my reservations about the choice of Burka as a costume like many, as in a very conservative society, especially when it is worn by a child, it could be problematic. I won’t get into that because that is not the topic of my post here, and here is a post that I mostly agree with regarding the choice of burka as a superhero costume.

Finally, I decided to watch Burka Avenger after a long time, as the series is uploaded on YouTube by the makers. Seeing that sites like Huffington Post had good thing to say about it and claimed that Disney could learn a thing or two from the portrayal of female character in Burka Avenger, one would expect it to be really good, right? Wrong. 

Can I haz moar pink?

Can I haz moar pink?

*Spoilers ahead, if you consider it that*

So the series starts with the prologue, of how an orphaned Jiya was raised by a ‘kind man’ who taught her ‘Takht Kabaddi’ which involves fighting with books and pens, and she uses her skills to fight tyranny and ignorance. She leads her ‘normal’ life as the teacher in a village school (and always wears a pink salwar with even pink chappals – god forbid she gets gets any less womanly, right?), and worries about ‘Baba Bandook’, the villain, preventing a girl’s school from getting opened (segregation much?), and rightly so. Him and Vadero Pajero, believes that women should have nothing to do with education and should just stay at home. Burka Avenger manages to throw books at his goons and save her kids from them meanwhile in a sub plot – and it’s boring. I mean, what’s the point? Yeah books and pens are probably supposed to be a metaphor (and in my opinion, it doesn’t work at all), but if you are supposed to land blows using them, what’s wrong with fighting goons like any other superheros? It’s not as if it’s non violent attack, it does hurt them, but no – a female superhero kicking ass would be too bad?

But that is the least of the problems with this atrocious show. This is where it all crashed down beyond redemption. Baba Bandook and his goons block kids from entering the school. Then this conversation takes place between kids and him – where he asks “Do these girls want to become modern? What will these girls do with education?” A girl just comes running into the scene screaming (Nahiiiiiiiiiiin, Bollywood ishtyle!) and says these gems that would just made my want to stick needles in my eyes.

burkaavengersexism

 

Yup, that’s the reason why girls should be educated, because they are mothers of tomorrow, and if mothers remain illiterate, the kids too will remain illiterate. Really? And the whole scene was so bad, with background maudlin background music and everything (think bad Bollywood movies from the 50’s) and the girl pleading in a very (fake) sad voice. And this was a child who was mouthing these dialoguesand they actually thought it was good to put in a children’s cartoon? Ugh.

Burka-Avenger-555x370[1]That’s not to say the whole thing is really bad, but even the good portions (that were the fight scenes in my opinion) were itself not so great, if you exclude the end credits – which was really cool.

Why this is so disappointing is because this was a good opportunity for them to push the envelope for all the media attention it got – and they completely grassed it. This could have been so much more. Production values when it comes to animation and such are really good for a Pakistani cartoon, and only if they had hired some good writers to make this at least a little better without. I shouldn’t have expected much better when the co-writer is apparently the guy who is behind this comic.

The whole point of me writing this brief critique is in some vain hope that the creators would notice this and at least try to stay away from reinforcing gender roles, ending up doing more harm than good.

Why the romanticization of Arranged Marriages needs to stop

I just happened to come across this video, which is apparently a video made by students of University of Berkeley as a part of their Campus MovieFest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtppMsiqqrM

The video description reads:

The movie is a light-hearted take on the custom of arranged marriages in India. Although widely practiced, the young generation is uncomfortable with the concept and feel compelled to show that it was love that brought them together.

I wouldn’t have honestly minded this, and I did find some parts of the video funny in a cheesy way. But it ends with this ‘message’:

Most Marriages in India are arranged…  amazingly enough this bonding lasts forever!

This really made me angry. There is nothing romantic about arranged marriages. marriage

The main part that disturbs me is the concept of spending a lifetime together with a partner you barely know. If it has worked out well for some people, I am happy for them, but I just don’t see it how we are supposed to marry a random stranger you barely know, whom you would have to decide if he or she is a good enough match for you looking at the photograph? Oh, and how are these photographs chosen? Either through online marriage services, or some agents who would do the same offline. And potential ‘grooms’ and ‘brides’ are handpicked by families based on factors like religion, caste, class and even color. Yep, because that is what is very important for the stable marriage, being of the right classcaste or religion. And this is what you are romanticizing, instead of criticizing. 

And what makes it all the worse, people who break this ‘tradition‘ of arranged marriage would face serious pressures from many families. Many just don’t bother resisting, but those who do, are disowned from their families. And many who resist are disowned by their families, which has happened in my family itself (although they later made amends, but in many cases they don’t). And that is me ignoring the common problem of forced marriages, which deserves a whole separate post – and this outrages me even more as one my friends now is living under the fear of getting married by force herself.

 

And as for the, the ‘bonding‘ lasting forever is mostly because there is still really bad stigma associated with divorce, and families would still ask them to ‘compromise‘, even when it comes to domestic abuse – because as  ‘well mannered woman’, you have to make compromises. That is how it rolls. Because it is all the inevitable part of a family life, apparently. This is why I hate it when people bring up divorce rates in the ‘west‘ and compare it to that of India to show how ‘stable‘ our relationships are. 

Now remember, I am not talking about those who have a good healthy, relationship that happened to be a result of arranged married, but rather the process itself, as it is widely practiced in India. It’s an utterly despicable and hardly talked about practice in my view – and the last thing you need is a propaganda telling us ‘young generation’ who are ‘uncomfortable with the concept’ how great this absurd practice is.