Desire, women’s bodies, & Qandeel Baloch

Qandeel Baloch was murdered in Multan.

UntitledIt’s said her brother strangled her to death to regain the “honor” of the family. To date, though, her family – of humble background – has been living off her earnings as a model and po*n star, so why this sudden desire for “honor”? I’m not going to go into the details of her life, her marriage and divorce, the scandals around her career, the men she shamed because they associated with her and then they spat on her.

I’m also not going to engage in lengthy caveats about how I’m a Muslim who in her personal life is fairly conservative in terms of what I consider physical modesty; there is no need for me to do so. If a man doesn’t feel the need to state that he dresses only in long-sleeved kameezes and his jeans are never tight, why should I explain what my sartorial practices are? Why would you be interested anyway? Why do I need to dissociate myself from Qandeel Baloch’s body practices? She was Qandeel, and I am me. I don’t consume po*n, but I’m sure a good number of men who are now spitting on the corpse of QB have consumed the po*n she produced. So I’ll leave caveats and explanations to these men. For my part, I mourn the terror and horror of her death, and the utter cheapness of women’s lives. I grieve the fact that she found an income in sharing her sexuality with these men, but then it is she and not the consumers of her po*n that is shamed.

So let’s listen to this song from the movie Pakeezah, where the prostitute/courtesan sings:

These are the people who took my scarf away.
These are the people who took my scarf away.
Don’t believe me; darling, go ask the cloth merchant!
He’s the one who sold me the scarf for a coin.
You don’t believe me, dearest, go and ask the cloth-dyer. 

He’s the one who dyed my scarf a pink color.
You don’t believe me. Ask the policeman:
In the open bazaar, he snatched my scarf away.

UntitledPatriarchy turns the bodies of girls and women into objects. They are the objects of desire, and they are hated and reviled for the intense desire they evoke. But everyone participates in this system of objectification and everyone consumes it. It is the woman’s body alone that is reviled for being the object of desire. The male subjects of desire consider themselves free of blame. Any girl or woman who awakens desire becomes an object and is then blamed if she is beautiful, attractive, distracting. A lock of hair that escapes from a scarf, a glance that is too nasheeli,too intoxicating, an slender ankle, a melodious voice — everything becomes blameworthy. A woman who dares to be desirable is punishedVirginity then becomes a commodity that fathers and brothers own and must preserve; chastity is then not a religious practice with any agentic component for a woman, but a banking practice of the male family.

Ultimately this is an endless game. Because the world overflows with beauty and desire.

Payal mein geet hain chham chham ke
Tu lakh chaley ri gori thham thham ke

There are melodies in the anklet, O beautiful girl,
no matter how hard you try to tread softly 

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