Will Pakistani dramas ever let go of reinforcing harmful patriarchal stereotypes in a country that already has the lowest gender equality rate? Not so soon it turns out. The recently launched drama “Chupke Chupke” has been brought under scrutiny for this same reason because of how it portrays the “ghar-damad” in a negative light. In the show Miskeen Ali (played by Ali Safina) is the stay at home husband of Gul (Mira Sethi) who is consistently treated harshly by the rest of Gul’s relatives and isn’t given an arc or a purpose in the show other than the guy who is doing the cooking and the cleaning or is being taunted as “lazy” or “vaila” by the other characters.
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First of all: who is a ghar-damad? He is someone who chooses to stay at home and take care of household duties while the wife is the one who works outside. In a country like Pakistan where television shows scrutinize women for wanting to work or having a personality outside of being their husband’s maid, the show would have been a welcome change had it taken the steps to ensure that the message they were sending to audiences was that becoming a ghar-damad doesn’t make you the center of the joke or prone to insults like “kambakht” or “lazy” but is in fact an empowering and honorable thing to do.
In the show, Miskeen Ali’s relevance revolves around taking care of kitchen duties or he is consistently insulted by his family members for not having a job and being dependent on his wife. For instance in episode three during a conversation around the table at breakfast, while discussing the prospect of looking for a wife for Fazi (played by Osman Khalid Butt), Gul promises to bring a beautiful bride for him to which Faiz responds: Aapa, aik heera tou iss ghar mein pehlay say hi mojud hai. Bas iss kay (pointing to Miskeen) jaisa na ho” and everyone at the table laughs. And when Miskeen reacts angrily to this comment, Faiz further comments on his lowly position in the family as the ghar-damad by saying “Miskeen bhai kabhi office ka chakar bhi laga liya karien. Aap ki shaan mein mazeed kami nahi aye gi.”
Or take another example in episode 4, when Fazi is asked by his grandmother about where he is going, he responds by saying he’s going to work and also adding “Ab har koi aap kay damad ki tarhan khush naseeb nahi hosakta.”
These kind of jabs and insults towards the sole ghar-damad of the show would not have a positive impact of normalizing ghar-damad’s but is reinforcing the shame that prevents men from ever supporting strong-minded independent wives or allowing them to become the breadwinners of the family.
Kanwal Ahmed, the founder of Soul Sisters Pakistan also expressed the same worries when she pointed out that such portrayals only disempower audiences and will actively give men a reason to prevent at homes and allowing their wives to work.
Trust our dramas to disempower audiences by reinforcing problematic stereotypes. Such as here the ‘ghar damad’ character is an object of constant ridicule.
Only yesterday a woman on SSP was asking how she & sisters can manage her old parents as none of them can move in with them. pic.twitter.com/58F51J3Qc2
— Kanwal Ahmed (@kanwalful) April 17, 2021
So guys let’s remember that now we have made great pains to address the fact that women shouldn’t solely play the role of the housewife or the romantic interest of men on television serials, and now we’re diminishing this by making jokes about a man who doesn’t think it’s an insult to his masculinity to have a strong and independent wife. Becoming a ghar-damad shouldn’t become the sole reason why we shame a man by assuming that they have “lost” their masculinity, and “Chupke Chupke” had lost the opportunity to tackle such an important message.