Female TV characters in Pakistani dramas have a reputation of being one dimensional. Most of the times a female TV character is either good or bad. The good character has all the desirable moral qualities and the bad character is a rebel, completely opposite to South Asian ‘purity’ standards. Wrapped in a dupatta, which is mostly white, a submissive doe-eyed girl has been romanticized by countless dramas. This ‘dupatta’ look has been made the trademark of the so-called ‘pure’ and ‘moral’ woman, which propagates the idea that women who do not fit this mold are impure or have lesser dignity.
Here are five female TV characters that propagate the ‘sati savitri’ stereotype.
1. Durr-e-Shehwar from Durr-e-Shehwar
Eyes on the ground, listening to her mother-in-law’s savage remarks and still maintaining politeness, Durr-e-Shehwar is a one of its kind TV character and not in a good way. Always fixing her dupatta even in front of her husband, this character sets foolishly unrealistic standards for married women. These standards reinforce the patriarchal trends that are already damaging our society.
2. Khirad from Humsafar
Aah.. the quintessential sati savitri who went from designer clothes to the symbolic white dupatta. Khirad is probably the most popular TV character on this list and for all the wrong reasons. Khirad wore a white dupatta in almost every episode especially after her husband accused her of cheating. As if her dupatta and no makeup look was a proof that she was innocent. Obviously, her ‘innocence’ would not have made sense if she wore something western. #sarcasm.
3. Biya from Baydardi
Biya is a TV character whose entire wardrobe is filled with dupattas. Biya gets AIDS from her husband and has to go through a lot of trouble. Her dupatta attire, however, remains constant throughout, which is supposed to make the audience empathize more with the character. As if a girl wearing jeans is hard to empathize with, even she has AIDS. Now we have nothing against dupattas. But particularly intriguing is how the dupatta turns white when she is trying to prove her innocence to everyone around. Thought provoking, eh?
4. Zubia from Yaqeen ka Safar
Zubia is a highly conflicted TV character. On one hand the writer wants to portray this woman as a strong and bold entity and on the other hand is obsessed with proving her morality. Even the male lead is attracted to her because of her ‘purity’ and ‘innocence’, thanks to the good old ‘white chadar’.
5. Zoya from Kahi-un-Kahi
Another classic tale of rich boy meets poor but innocent and ‘shareef’ girl and is suddenly blown away by her purity. Zoya is a TV character that is the definition of stereotyping. She is a doctor for god’s sake but is only concerned with maintaining her ‘sharafat’ with the help of.. you guessed it, the dupatta.
All of these characters are responsible for making life hard for countless women in our country as they create a mindset in which to prove innocence and purity a woman has to look a certain way. This ultimately leads to issues like victim blaming in cases of rape and abuse. Pakistani writers need to learn to write diverse characters which are relate-able regardless of their dressing.
Do you agree?