Flash mobs are not a new concept with scores of companies across the globe using such performances to market their brands. The ritual is fairly simple: you gather a handful of enthusiastic performers, transport them to a busy area, shock the c**p out of the poor, unsuspecting bystanders with the sudden, unexpected (and not always pleasant) blare of music, dance till the music ends or someone throws an egg and voila (!) you have a flash mob!
So then, if the concept is not-so-novel and the modus operandi so oft repeated, why is Twitter going insane debating over a recently released video featuring five young women who went into a frenzy of uncoordinated moves at Lahore’s Anarkali Bazar?
Well…the answer is most complicated, much like the concept behind the ill-devised Lahore flash mob performance itself!
While one segment of the society is siding with the fashion brand and lauding its concept of “women reclaiming the public space in Pakistan,” the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are not so impressed.
So what went wrong? The answer is: OH, SO MUCH!
As a woman and self-professed defender of women’s rights, here’s what bothered me about the Lahore flash mob.
Stereotyping the Chaddar
With the burkini debate still fresh, one would wish for people to understand that chaddar or burqa or whatever form of hijab that a woman chooses for herself is NOT an infringement of her rights. Quite on the contrary her rights are infringed when a woman is forced to adorn a certain garment against her free will – which in turn can make both the burqa and the bikini symbols of emancipation or oppression depending on the situation.
Belittling the chaddar is then belittling the choice that millions of women across the globe make out of their own free will.
For the copywriters who came up with the moronic idea of starting the flash mob (or whatever that extremely uncomfortable-looking arm-leg-movement was) with stomping a chaddar: sit in a dark, secluded corner and REFLECT what made you so shallow!
The Choice of Music
Who on God’s earth came up with the idea of picking that song?! I mean I understand that we in Pakistan have not made a lot of headway in women-centric music and granted that a performance on “Hum Maayain, Hum Behnain, Hum Betiyaan” would not have gelled in well with the mood of a typical flash mob but was it really so difficult to pick a motivational song that the great majority of the Pakistani women could relate with?! An edited version of Intehai Shauq or Roshni by Hadiqa Kiani could have done the trick. Both the songs are upbeat and talk of ideals, which when coupled with a woman’s voice give the right messages of self actualization and emancipation.
For the head honchos of the fashion brand: dude you give the word “fraud” a whole new meaning! It is precisely because of people like you that idealism is dying a slow painful death! Don’t exploit feminism to make profits! Find yourself something else to deface – for instance the ugly clothes that you make!
The Performance Itself
I’ve tried watching the – for lack of a better word – performance with music and without music and each time from the deepest, most divine depths of my soul the same profound reaction has emanated: What the f**k. I mean it’s not even a “what the f**k” that comes with a question mark or an exclamation, it’s just a very straight faced, no-none sense, “What the f**k.”
Whatever it is that those poor ladies have been made to do is NOT dance. If I had a gun to my head and had to give it a name, I’d go with “Sad”. No, not dance; I refuse to call it dance. It was sad, just plain sad!
For whoever choreographed that “sad”: I’ve seen 80 year-old aunties do a better job at mehndis they weren’t invited to!
The fashion brand in question needs to understand that an average Pakistani woman knows when something does or does not actually stand for her rights. Your shallow, fraudulent campaign was not just an exercise in futility but one that has deeply angered the woman in me. Never getting anywhere near your wretched clothes again! Ever!