Updated Jan 04, 2017 04:41pm

This web-series encourages Pakistani women to unapologetically be themselves

Budding filmmaker Anam Abbas (fourth from left) takes on the patriarchy and the ridiculous standards women are forced to conform to
Budding filmmaker Anam Abbas (fourth from left) takes on the patriarchy and the ridiculous standards women are forced to conform to

Television shows are great but this year, we're really digging web-series.

The rise of digital content has increased over the last couple of years and web-series can tackle issues and stories that aren't represented in mainstream media. Yes, the budgets aren't as big but that doesn't mean it's not innovative content.

Inspired by web-series like Broad City and Delusional Divas, one Pakistani filmmaker has decided to give this format a go.

Anam Abbas is the woman behind Ladies Only, a homegrown Pakistani feminist web-series made by women for women.

"This has been entirely possible because friends came together and brainstormed and agreed to act, help with editing, help with social media and share, support and give love; it's really created this sense of community," she shares.

So far, they've released four episodes, focusing on topics like harassment, the "mullahs" crying against the Women's Protection Bill and even a kick-ass tribute to Qandeel Baloch.

"Ladies Only is allowing me and us to live out some fantasies with the camera as a safety net. Episode four, which was about Qandeel, was so powerful to film. We were all full of rage and in mourning, I don't think it's something we're ever going to forget. I'm pretty sure we fully weirded out my friend's parents though; we filmed at their house and they were like uuhhh..."

"In episode one, the "liberal mullah" dialogues have actually been pieced together from real comments we read on articles about the bill in Tribune and Dawn, among other publications. Maha Makhdum, an anchor from PTV World and Munir Ahmed, someone who got in touch through Facebook, are the stars of the pilot," explains Anam.

"One line from the episode is particularly important to me. When Sophie provides an alternate meaning for the Arabic word other than to beat. I believe in arming yourself with knowledge to beat religious misogynists at their own game. I'm a Muslim feminist and those who want to take my religious identity away from me if i identify with feminism need to be set straight."

Four episodes in, the show proves something we've been thinking for a while: that web-series are valuable because creators can hone their voice and audience outside corporate development.

And the more we saturate society with ideas of women being free and doing their own thing, the more we can inoculate the future against stereotypes that limit the potential of women.

"The camera has allowed us to agitate real life or rather to be subversive in real life. For example, in the second episode, we have a woman in a blue Afghan burqa riding a horse down Seaview; I mean that was real, that was we filming with a little DSLR in a public space. I went to Seaview again many weeks later sans camera and was recognised by a vendor there," reveals Anam.

"Similarly in the third episode, the character wears a golden chaddar and is seen around Islamabad holding a pink sign that says 'God is love', including outside Lal Masjid. The reactions are real, that intrusion into public space was real."

Screengrab from episode 3
Screengrab from episode 3

"What's great about what's happening in western pop culture is that since more women are writing and running shows, suddenly we have a lot of flawed, sometimes unlikable, female characters on television. The women in Ladies Only are not infallible. This series does claim to be feminist and part of that is to see the contradictions of the lives we live, in a patriarchal capitalist society. It's essential to laugh at ourselves, to be a bit sacrilegious."

She adds, "Now that the episodes are out, I'm getting so many lovely messages from women wanting to act, write or just expressing support. It's so lovely and this means that the series will only grow and there are that many more ideas to explore, I'm stoked!"


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Comments (16) Closed

PUmA Jan 04, 2017 10:38am

"Budding filmmaker Anam Abbas takes on the patriarchy and the ridiculous standards women are forced to conform to"

What about men ? Don't we have to conform to stupid standards ?

1) The need to work from 9-5. 2) The need to wear clothes (and not be free like kalahari bushmen) 3) The need to "man-up" 4) The need to "defend" (Nation , Religion and WOMEN) 5) The need to "feed"

The moment men decide to free themselves from the demands of society and return to the "state of nature", this society will crumble under its own weight. It won't be just women who will be free but men as well.

Najam Jan 04, 2017 11:24am

Creative yes, Liked it. Don't know the wisdom of using expletives repeatedly. May be that is a trend now.

haroon Jan 04, 2017 01:26pm

imported concepts imported on foreign agendas. Sorry i do not support this feminism movement. Already i have seen women extremely confused and becoming head-strong for no reason, destroying lives and relationships.

Nothing good will come from beating somebody esle's drums.

Reja Jan 04, 2017 02:44pm

@PUmA men have their issues, definitely. However male privilege also exists, and until that privilege can be erased, you will go through these issues. this is why women empowerment is important, because through it, load can be taken off of men too. Equality and Equity are everyone's responsibility to give.

Khan Jan 04, 2017 03:43pm

Female power. A great effort indeed.

Ali Jan 04, 2017 04:05pm

@PUmA couldn't agree more.

charu Jan 04, 2017 05:27pm

@haroon : As an Indian woman, i strongly second that. No point being a rebel without a cause

Agha Ata Jan 04, 2017 07:49pm

Ladies. . . before you be yourself, know thyself.

Ali S Jan 04, 2017 08:48pm

@haroon Of course, we have perfectly acceptable local agendas like honor killings, wife beatings, karo kari, wani and acid throwing.

Sameer Jan 04, 2017 10:57pm

Women empowerment -absolutely. Women feminism - Hell NO.

HMA Jan 05, 2017 01:29am

Total craziness... these series will not help a single woman suffering from honor killing, acid attack etc. this is just to further demoralize the society.

Patriot Jan 05, 2017 07:31am

@PUmA if that's the case, then what if we stop producing babies.. nd stop cleaning the houses, or stop cooking meals, u are gettng the whole point of women freedom wrong, do ur research,, more than 2800 women have been victims of honor killing, they are judged on the basis of their physical appearances making them more vulnerable to acid attacks, the honor of a man is always tied to the females of the family, why? why is his honor with the girl, a man can do anything and not blamed for a single thing, on the contrary a woman even has to bear the brunt of the crimes his male family member committed ( karo kari, vanii etc)

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Jan 05, 2017 07:32am

As a Canadian of Pakistani origin, I am happy that some positive developments are taking place in Pakistan society although at slow pace.

Keep it up!

Jehanzeb Idrees Jan 05, 2017 07:58am

Stretching too far will never make the too ends meet. To be a rebel could be a fashion of the modern age but this modern age is too young and the torchbearers of this modernism are too in their nascent years. Couple it with a life of wealth and privilege and you get a lot whose source of education, learning and information is very very one-dimensional. To reform a society, you need to understand it first be firm but nice - crying out 'mullah' everytime in a way that can only be termed as derogatory would further expand the existing chasm within our society. Societies are not formed or sustained on forceful ideologies especially if their discourse is completely foreign and not native. That will only create more confusion, more hate and much more divisions. Please be logical and respectful, not forceful and definitely not hateful.

God bless!

PUmA Jan 05, 2017 09:52am

@Reja Yes, i agree that there is a thing called " male privilege" but why is it only seen as tool of oppression against women.

Zeeshan Jan 05, 2017 04:52pm

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Its not a gender issue, the root cause is illiteracy and feudalism and mind it there is an urban feudalism also in the form of political parties in the cities. they behave like feudal lords or a mafia.