By Anthony Permal
The television serial Udaari was was supposed to be the artistic representation of what we suffer as a nation when it comes to child molestation and brutality.
It was supposed to shake us out of our apathy especially in the wake of the Kasur tragedy, the bachabazi scandals and the daily reports of children being raped across the country.
The reviews by critics, the social memes, the commentary on the internet and social media would have us believe a chord had been struck, that many are watching this show and learning. Finally, the taboo topic which everyone swept under the rug was being spoken about.
Last Saturday night, all this was undone not just by one man, but by the entire showbiz fraternity.
By the time you read this, you will already be aware of the outrage against actor and writer Yassir Hussain and his comments about Ahsan Khan’s good looks as a fictional child molester. You may already be among those who are calling for him to apologize, to retire, to be banned, boycotted and held accountable.
Yassir has in fact apologized. But is it an apology? It is more of a ‘I’m sorry you’re upset’ placating statement. There is no regret, no remorse and certainly no self-awareness about what he has done to upset people.
Let’s look at his statement to Dawn:
First of all no one’s talking about the first part of my segment which got lots of laughs, why is the positive aspect of my performance being put aside?” “But if this hurt people, then I have said sorry for it
Does that sound like an apology?
Then you have the bigger issue at hand: the fact that the hundreds of celebrities present in the audience that night applauded and laughed at his ‘joke’. No one called him out, no one walked out in protest, no one thought it wise to approach the organizers and certainly no one was brave enough to take a stand for the very children for whom Udaari was write.
Funny, when these same celebrities play heroic, brave roles on screen teaching the masses to stand up against what is wrong, what is evil and what should not be.
In other words, hypocrites, the lot of them.
As a survivor of child molestation, you have no idea how much joke triggered me. It took me back to the guilt, rage, fear and confusion I felt as a 6-year-old in Karachi. Feelings I had buried deep for 30 years and had to seek counselling for as I grew older.
Now imagine what went through the minds of kids watching the show on Saturday night. Imagine the child who probably got molested THAT VERY night after watching this joke you all applauded and laughed at.
You, that child’s heroes, heroines, idols of idealism. You who for a few nods and pats on backs sold out your country’s children. And for what? For a joke.
In one fell swoop, in one incident, you have destroyed what Udaari stood for, and have shown that indeed, your new garment, new TVC, new film or series is far more important than a child’s innocence.
RAPE CULTURE AND REALITY
Why people should find the apparent joke by Yassir problematic is because of our society’s inability to distinguish humour from insult.
We stereotype entire cultures and ethnicities in our country and use disparaging, sexist, homophobic and insulting remarks when we refer to them. I don’t need to spell the humour and insults out, you know exactly what i’m referring to.
We laugh at such humour, and so it comes as no surprise that the audience laughed at Yassir’s joke. Did some of them feel uncomfortable? Maybe. But no one dared speak up. Just like when someone in our friend’s circle cracks a sexist joke we laugh despite knowing there’s something wrong. We don’t want to be the uncool ones, the ones who get ‘offended’ easily.
Get offended. In fact, take as much offense as you can. If you lose friends because of this, lose them. They aren’t your friends, or rather they’re not the friends you need around you.
There is only one thing to remember when figuring out if something is a joke or an insult: will it hurt someone’s feelings to the point of them being uncomfortable around you? If yes, then don’t crack it. A few seconds of laughter is not worth a week or more of someone’s hurt.
You still have time, though. You can still fix this. Come out in the open and call out Yassir and the people who laughed. Call out the ‘joke’. State in public your support for children who suffer molestation and atleast stand by them instead of ridiculing them.