Dear Nadia Jamil, you cannot support Meesha Shafi and stand by Ali Zafar at the same time
Every Pakistani is familiar with Nadia Jamil. Her Twitter bio describes her as an activist, amongst many other roles, and thus far her activism on social issues, particularly child sexual abuse, has garnered her many admirers. She can also be described as a feminist, by her own admission of what she understands feminism to be.
Feminism to me is equal opportunity and equal respect ✊ https://t.co/637NQ0vKNQ— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
I have a lot of wonderful friends who are men. If feminist means believing men & women are equal,have equal rights 2 equal opportunity & RESPECT, have the right 2 choose their paths without undue pressure or bullying,force or societal pressures,then my male friends are feminists! https://t.co/ubsHK9Ljyj— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 21, 2018
Why is this relevant, you wonder? Because it always hurts more when the ‘feminists’ get it wrong.
For the past week, the entire country has been engrossed in the debate over allegations of whether or not Ali Zafar harassed Meesha Shafi. For a country which clearly does not understand what harassment entails, it was obvious from the start that we were all in for a rough few weeks.
You expect men to ask, why now? Why didn’t she speak up earlier? He seems like such a good, decent guy! Why did she take a picture with him? Why was she with him in the first place? Why was she wearing that outfit? What about the lines between harassment and flirting? (On a side note, if you do not know the line between harassment and flirting, you’re probably a harasser).
You expect a lack of understanding and victim-blaming from men. But it is when women make confusing statements and engage in victim-blaming that it hits where it hurts, especially when those women are otherwise feminist in their thoughts and actions.
This brings us to Jamil, whose response to Shafi’s allegations was to support her in her own way, showing an understanding of harassment and responding accordingly.
The #metoo movement empowers women,girls,men & boys who have been sexually abused. When a person comes out w #metoo it is not meant 2 be 4 attention,fame or revenge. Its 2 tell other survivors,they are NOT alone. Its 2 drop a heavy shame that is NOT the survivors! Its 4 Justice✊— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
Just because a man is friendly w a woman & she accepts that show of friendship,doesnt allow him 2 cross boundaries of consent w her,touch her without her permission or make suggestive,lewd comments 2 her,ever. Being friendly is NOT an invite 4 harassment. Men often cross the line— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 21, 2018
She is telling the world she was sexually harassed. She has every right to do that. She is doing it knowing it will only make her comfortable & successful life difficult. She is incredibly brave @itsmeeshashafi Respect and a big hug 🤗 ✊— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 22, 2018
Here it is gentlemen, if you lick your lips while looking at a woman,if you touch your private parts,touch,pinch,grab her body ANYWHERE, without her FULL consent, if you make lascivious sexual remarks 2 her or about her body that make her uncomfortable, you are a sexual harasser!— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 20, 2018
What is problematic, however, is the contradictory nature of her tweets.
I hope to God Meesha wasn’t harrassed. Because I like her. And I don’t want anyone to be have been harrassed. And if she was I pray to God for unequivocal justice. She is a mother. That means something huge to me. Have a good day to. And learn to develop perspective without anger— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
I do feel I should share,few years ago Ali Zafar donated millions 2 an all girls school,2 empower & enable girls from very poor back grounds. His website still supports that school. He has quietly been supporting the empowerment of women & the education of the girl child 4 years.— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
Bravo! Zafar is so charitable; he has been secretly helping girls and women. Does that give him a free pass to harass other women? Does it absolve him from what he has allegedly done to Shafi?
We wish this is where it ended, but there’s more.
Ali Zafar has always been v respectful & decent w me. But this is not about me. Its about Meesha Shafi & other women who are sharing their painful experiences w us. Its a brave & difficult thing 4 any mother,woman 2 do. I stand in support, trust & in strength w @itsmeeshashafi ✊— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 21, 2018
We’re glad Zafar never harassed Jamil, but what does that have to do with Shafi’s case? We call this problematic, because what Jamil’s tweets have been doing is covertly campaigning for Zafar’s character, even though he is the accused in this case.
Accusing a man of sexual harassment can ruin his career,marriage,peace of mind. He better have done something 2 deserve that. I know 2 many men who deserve the consequences of women brave enough 2 expose the truth. But I also know some women who have cruelly lied about decent men— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 22, 2018
Once again, given that false accusations constitute a very small percentage in the overall issue, Jamil stating it just seems like an attempt to undermine Shafi’s accusations.
Off-Twitter, Jamil went on to state on Mubasher Lucman’s show that she chooses not to go to industry parties, which is why she doesn’t get harassed. Being a part of this industry and knowing what men are capable of, she feels the onus of responsibility is on her. The solution for her is simple: Don’t want to get harassed? Stay at home.
Jamil has created a strange sort of antithesis, where she supports Shafi, but also supports Zafar. Where all women should be believed, but some women are known to be liars who make false accusations. Where she believes Shafi, but Zafar has always been good to her personally, and has also supported a school for little girls. Where it doesn’t matter what a woman was wearing or doing, but at the same time, why was Shafi at an industry party, where such harassment is common?
Men are sexual predators across the board. Sadly.— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
I work with children who have been raped by men from every back ground. The rich, very rich, poor, very poor and in the middle.
I have even worked w children pimped off by Aunts, maids, & one by her mother.
I have seen 2 much https://t.co/53auTjZ5QZ
I’m saying I do not go 2 the homes of men who harrass me. I dont party or fraternise w them. It’s the advise I give to all the young actors I train. Stay away from lecherous men. Most men in the industry do not respect women— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
If they harrass you please do come out,expose them. https://t.co/xLPAuICdQK
Men in show business,all around the world need 2 understand a few things:— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 21, 2018
If a woman has let him touch her once,it doesnt mean its an open invite 4 the rest of his life 2 touch,molest or harass her.
A friendly hug NOT the same as a perverted grope!
Be careful women angry CAN lie!
Which one is it?
On one hand, Jamil accepts men in the industry harass openly, and if you go to such parties, you are more likely to get harassed. This is an implicit acknowledgement that Zafar could have harassed Shafi easily. On the other, Jamil can’t stop herself from recollecting what a good guy Zafar is.
More importantly perhaps, what is the point of these observations? Harvey Weinstein was a charitable man and a philanthropist, but he is also a harasser. Bill Cosby was a charming ‘family man’, but he is also a rapist. Aziz Ansari too was a great guy, a self-proclaimed feminist, until we found out that perhaps in the most private moments, when the cameras were off, he was not so much.
After all, men are known to be harassers, which is why women should be careful, and avoid all places where they could potentially get harassed. This is what Jamil would advise young girls entering the industry as well. Is this not problematic? That young girls starting their careers have to step in with palpable fear, and the recommendation to avoid going to parties in an industry that survives on a strong social circle, because apparently it is the only way to avoid getting harassed?
The implication here doesn’t seem to tell women to speak up more, or to band together to try and change the culture of the industry. No, the implication of her statement seems to be that if you stay at home, you’re safe. Step out in this terrible world, and what happened to Shafi could easily happen to you.
What is victim blaming?— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
Who is a victim?Certainly not me. Im a survivor.
Did I learn frm wht happened 2 me? Yes. Will I hand that knowledge of how 2 stay safe 2 other young actors I train YES. Children r THE most vulnerable. We teach them how 2 avoid perverts,protect themselves
How is this not victim-blaming? Jamil prefers to call herself a survivor, not a victim. But how are women to survive, if we are meant to avoid all obstacles? What exactly are we surviving by simply staying at home, while men are free to harass women like Shafi, who dare to go out and bear the consequences? Is this not the same “men will be men” mindset that puts the burden of responsibility entirely on the woman?
If Meesha Shafi has been sexually harrassed by Ali Z, I will stand by her till the end. & I will never speak to Ali again. I will stand by the demand 4 justice!— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) April 23, 2018
I will also advise her as an older friend to keep the hell away from his house & parties if has been harassing her.
What makes this more painful is, of course, to see a woman who understands abuse, who has been abused herself, to yet go about showing the same lack of understanding when it comes to talking about harassment. Jamil’s position right now is so confusing that one would prefer she come right out and support Zafar openly. It would be clearer if she declared she doesn’t believe Shafi, rather than releasing contradictory statements where she believes Shafi but also suggests she could have prevented her harassment by not hanging out with Zafar, while remembering what a good person the latter is.
This is not even the first time Jamil has come under fire for supporting a ‘friend’, despite the controversy they are embroiled in.
Earlier this year, Fasih Ahmed, one of the founders of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), went on to tweet quite problematic things about child sexual abuse after Zainab’s murder shook the nation. Given the sensitivity of the matter and the insensitive way Ahmed handled the situation, Twitter was in a frenzy, and rightly so. When it comes to matters of child sexual abuse, there is a very thin line between satire and rape jokes. Sadly, Ahmed was too far off from that line.
One would think Jamil would call Ahmed out on how his ‘humour’ was in bad taste. However, despite Jamil’s constant activism when it comes to children’s issues, friendship took precedence. At first, she found it hard to believe it was actually Ahmed who tweeted the insensitive jokes.
This doesn’t sound like Fasih Ahmad at all. I’m pretty sure his phone has been hacked.— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) January 23, 2018
However, after Ahmed himself clarified his account had not been hacked, Jamil went on to support him. Which brings us to the question: If Jamil didn’t think the statement was problematic, why did she initially believe his phone was hacked? Later on, as she sided with her friend, it became clear that despite the industry being full of harassers, everyone still protects their own.
You are all my own. I do not condone anything Fasih said that was hurtful. But when soneone hashtags #MeToo I listen under the anger for pain.— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) January 24, 2018
It is deeply saddening when people who call themselves activists renege on the values they supposedly hold dear. Similarly, it is distressing when feminists like Jamil, who talk about abuse and the importance of believing those who come forward, also make backhanded comments about women who lie and make false allegations. We have come to expect such disappointing responses from people like Hamza Ali Abbasi, who never fails to surprise, but the same was not expected from someone like Jamil.
Your activism and feminism cannot end when you are confronted with difficult situations impacting your personal life.
You cannot be an activist until your friends are called out for their actions, and then choose to support them.
You cannot offer complete support to the accuser, but also stand by the accused.
It is either one or the other; being both just makes you a hypocrite.
All photos: Screenshots