PPP politician Sharmila Faruqi recently replied to actor Mirza Gohar Rasheed's reflections on violence against women on Instagram, correcting the actor's assertion that "oppression is a choice".
The actor had posted a message on Instagram to address a slap scene from his drama Laapata that was being widely shared on social media. The actor had posted that the reason he'd taken on the role of Daniyal in the drama was to "prove that oppression is a choice". "If any insecure man with his fragile ego tries his 'so called' muscles on you, make the choice that Falak did without any fear," he had written. "One tight slap back from a brave woman to such weak man in our society would be a giant leap for women kind."
Drama serial Laapata is currently airing on Hum TV and stars Rasheed, Sarah Khan, Ayeza Khan and Ali Rehman Khan. In a previous episode, Rasheed's character Daniyal was on the receiving end of a slap from Falak (played by Sarah) after he slaps her.
Faruqi replied to Rasheed's post, saying that oppression is "not a choice". "It's a hard reality," she wrote. "Thousands of women are oppressed daily not because they chose to be oppressed but because they don't have the choice to hit back or leave. Marital rapes, domestic violence, acid victims, child marriages are rampant because the victims are helpless physically and financially. They suffer in silence and those who do muster the courage to fight back are either silenced, murdered or divorced with no where to go. The victim blaming never ends, it's a vicious cycle."
Rasheed then replied to Faruqi's comment via his Instagram Story. "With all due respect ma'am. Then how can we break this vicious cycle? If thousands of women are being oppressed daily, how can we change that reality?" he asked.
"The main reason why women tolerate all this injustice is because of fear, the norms and taboos that have been created by our unsophisticated society. And now this fear is becoming a mindset for these women and the only thing that can change this mindset is an idea. An idea of not being oppressed, tolerant or fear any injustice or abuse by the spineless men of our society," the actor reasoned.
"The 'slap scene' depicts a woman standing up for herself and saying no to violence which is a step towards breaking that vicious circle. Oppression is a choice, an idea for the generation to come where no woman should accept being abused or oppressed due to the society norms and if she does tolerate being oppressed then that is her choice not a mindset anymore," he wrote.
The 'slap scene' stirred controversy on social media after it aired. While many supported the scene as a much needed depiction of a woman defending herself, there were also those who criticised the scene and said violence in any form should not be condoned.
What Rasheed doesn't seem to be getting is that by saying that "oppression is a choice" he is making it seem as if women are choosing to be oppressed. Not everyone has the ability to slap their abuser and walk away. Many victims don't have anywhere to go and have little to no options when it comes to supporting themselves. While a cracking slap makes for good TV, it doesn't always work in real life.
We appreciate the sentiment behind his words — that people should stand up to abuse — but the victim is not always in a position where she can stand up without consequences. To say then that the victim is choosing to be oppressed is akin to victim blaming. What Faruqi is saying holds weight — not everyone has the option to hit back and it's important for people to understand that.