We supported Veena when she spoke against sexual abuse in her famous exchange with Maulana Mufti, but now she has gone too far. Exposing for male consumption does not represent independence, enhance womens' rights, or promote feminism.
True, FHM sounds like a typical Maxim type sleaze fest for male consumption, some humor, some nudes, some intelligence thrown in for the guy who works out. But this picture, specifically, has been consumed by men, women, Indians and Pakistani, and stimulated some essays in the Guardian. It represents the next level in the Veena Malik Discourse. When a woman strips bare, the magazine's profit margins aside, this may be a symbolic rejection of the implicit patriarchal control society exerts over womens' bodies and their sexuality -- and in this case, the rejection is happening in the context of the vehemence and misogyny directed at a Muslim girl from a middle class family who did not do the right thing - broke into the entertainment industry, got some freak luck, and capitalized on it - all the while igniting a national debate on nudity and taboos in our society. Really, she's done a mouthful.
But isn't there a better way to debate womens' issues and taboos than the clichéd, redundant, intellectually un-liberating rejection of your panties?
Point well taken. But we would not be talking about it with such focus and passion. Nudity never goes out of fashion. Its not slave to long, short, loose or tight -- well, because its nudity. Nudity does not always confirm patriarchy or the male gaze. Nudity will not be kosher because it is simply consumed by good women, nor can we deny the pleasure men get from viewer ship because that would be fascistic. (Having said that, no woman wants to be with a man who has an unusual interest in naked pictures. So no need to hide in boy gene arguments.) Discomfort with nudity is legitimate because of the blatant commodification of women's bodies in an economy largely controlled by men, targeted for a male audience, and depicting women in demeaning ways. In a socialist feminist utopia, there would be nudity, but no pornography; the latter is a pictorial industry that markets violence, affirms heteronormativity, seeks to put women in their place, and isn't ashamed of intersecting it with race, class, ethnicity, nationality, age and even war to make it vile and delicious -- hence the fascination with wanting to see an accomplished woman, say, an aeronautical engineer, bent over naked cleaning a toilet -- fetish, Asian, women looking fearful, needy, vulnerable-- porn. In other words, porn will be boring and unsellable in the conventional sense because it doesn't it does play on our guiltiest, basest sex notions of who we are. Perhaps we will have to re-imagine sexuality minus all the "isms" that makes it so exciting for some and all.
But its the naked body of a Pakistani, Muslim woman. Its the mock capital Indian FHM generated by poking fun at our notions of honor. Its debasing our identity as Pakistanis. Its the new cold war, except its hotter.
Yes, from FHM's side - a cynical, deliberate, pornographic exploitation. Its not her naked body that sells. Its the naked body of a Pakistani, Muslim woman that they have, arguably, purchased for a price, and poked fun at our notions of chastity and honor. We wish Veena was making a statement that co-opted and inversed the perverse financial appeal of the shot- but there may not be any. Except by default -- we are now in a Veena discourse of a higher level, and she has provided this space where everyone is tuning in -- to spew hatred, enjoy viciously, but perhaps also to think about things they have never thought about before - perhaps even question how in preserving antiquated notions of honor and jingoism - we uphold a military-industrial patriarchal complex.
Well then, if she posed naked, she should have the guts to face it. Yeh kiya baath hui? Why the token lawsuit when its about your birth suit?
Veena is not the perfect humanist, secularist, feminist we would like her to be. Why impose our notions of ethics and valor on to her? She is subject to her whims and frailities; she could be second guessing, regretting, capitalizing further, or being genuine. Maybe she did not read the fine print. Maybe the nude shot was to be left out. Maybe the magazine was deceptive and purposely unclear on this one provision. And she flew out in a haste without ironing out the details. Who knows? Veena having an ambiguous personal position, by denying or proclaiming full nudity immoral, should not make the political issue murky.
Okay fine- she should have done it for some valiant issue like breast cancer, or against domestic violence and enforced prostitution.
India and Pakistan play a deranged and embittered turf battle on the bodies of impoverished fishermen who inadvertently cross sea territories and are jailed for months at end. Would a progressive magazine carry a cover picture of fishermen's families standing naked for the cameras, appealing for release, and making a powerful symbolic statement? Should. Nudity for a higher cause. But not everything happens in our neat, political conceptualization of the world. Nonetheless, the Pakistan womens' movement should recruit her after they are done feeling squeamish and sanitizing their hands with Dettol.
She is distracting from the issues. We have NATO attacking; we have inflation, and most recently an LBOD peoples's tribunal I bet you never heard about.
But that's an argument whether Veena bares or not. She is not distracting or detracting from the issues. The issues are not considered anyway in our feudal military oligarchy. Its not like political meetings on IMF and World Bank were cancelled because of this new agenda item. Lets talk about it. Lets move on. But lets not all shoot the messenger.