Did this female flashmob in Lahore send the wrong message about empowerment?

Did this female flashmob in Lahore send the wrong message about empowerment?

The internet seems to think so. We ask the brand behind the viral video for their take on the issue.
Updated 10 Sep, 2016

Does dancing on the streets empower women? In Pakistan, some say yes, many beg to differ.

Of late, fashion brands have been trying to stand out amongst the herd by coming up with creative ideas to market their companies, and one such brand is Do Your Own Thing. For an out-of-the-box idea, DYOT hired two NCA students to choreograph a flashmob of five girls dancing to Beyoncé's Run The World (Girls) on the streets of Lahore.

Also read: 6 Pakistani fashion brands that wowed us with winning social media campaigns

The two-minute clip starts with a woman throwing her chaddar to the ground and breaking into a dance after being teased by a male passerby. Seconds later she is followed by four other girls who copy her dance routine.

The video has since been removed after the article was published.

Hours after being posted on Facebook, the video caught the attention of many on social media and instantly received flak for portraying #feminism and #empowerment in the wrong light.

For most, the video failed to portray women's rights in a positive light.

Feminist collective Girls At Dhabas took issue with the video as well, but their post has since been removed from Facebook.

However, one Facebook commentator highlighted that women face different struggles and should not be judged according to one scale or set of values.

But was the idea behind the flashmob to highlight empowerment and feminism? The co-manager of Do Your Own Thing (DYOT) steps in to explain his point of view.

"Our brand is about customization. Our customers can change our designs to suit them, which hasn't been done before in Pakistan," he tells Images.

He adds, "We are a small brand, we can't afford billboards so we wanted to make a viral video. We watched a lot of videos to get inspiration and [finally] reached out to to students from NCA, Saad and Ikram, to help us. Saad managed the choreography and Ikram was the DOP. We shot the film in Anarkali in Lahore, which is next to NCA."

Though many may associate DYOT's video with a recent campaign launched by a local clothing brand under hashtag #ReclaimPublicSpaces, the co-manager dismisses that relation entirely.

"We didn't do this to 'reclaim space,' and we don't claim to be making a stand for women's empowerment through this video. Our brand's perspective is that you should 'do your own thing,' and no one should bother anyone else for how they choose to express themselves," he says.

He admits they were anticipating a response, but not the one they received. He explains, "We expected some kind of reaction to the video, of course, but in hindsight I wish this many men hasn't seen it and commented on it. And then, very soon women started commented on it also, and many said 'this is not empowerment'."

"Well, we're not telling other girls to dance in the streets, but if these girls wanted to dance, why shouldn't we let them? After the video there has been a lot of judgment on the internet about what women 'should' and 'shouldn't' do - isn't that also negative? Why should women be told what they should and shouldn't do?" he questions.

"If I had to use a hashtag to answer to criticism to the video it would be #LetThemBe. If somebody wants to dance, let them," he says.

While it's true that the worth of the ad's final message is debatable, we wonder — does everyone criticising the ad saying that it encourages immoral behaviour or 'isn't ladylike' realise that they're applying to these women the same moral framework of 'achi larki/ buri larki' that allows patriarchal norms to flourish in Pakistan and police women's behavior?

Something to think about!