While there’s nothing specifically wrong with superheroes abroad, there is the fact that they are not really ‘Pakistani’ looking; their attire is completely out of place. We don’t wear swimsuits or knee-length skirts here, do we? No matter how hard I try, I just cannot imagine a Pakistani superwoman fighting the Taliban, let’s say, in Sohrab Goth, wearing these clothes.
Recently, though, I came across an incredible video for a brand new female superhero for the 21st century distressed Pakistani. ‘Burka Avenger’ is the name she goes by.
The first thing that came to my mind was, “Oh my God, this is excellent animation! Finally our artists are starting to go mainstream. Oh, the quality!”
I was in raptures. I immediately shared the trailer on my personal social media accounts and clocked in a reminder of when the show would air. But what happened next broke my heart. I came across innumerable, disdainful tweets criticising the disguise of this local superhero. “Burka! Burka! Bad burka! No burka! Why burka? This burka and that burka”.
But wait, isn’t this really good animation, very creatively produced with a positive idea promoting education? No, the highlight of this great breakthrough is the fact that the main character wears a burka.
What’s so wrong with a burka anyway? And if it’s okay to call a veiled girl a ‘ninja’ after superhero cartoons, why is it wrong to name a veil clad superhero ‘Burka Avenger’?
This superhero is inventing a new type of martial arts. She looks like a ninja and fights crime wearing a dress that helps in hiding her identity and blends into the crowd simultaneously. The character itself, the ‘ordinary’ girl behind ‘Burka Avenger’, is not hijabi. Her superhero costume is just that — a costume.
I’m a feminist myself and I believe in giving all due rights to women. But I ask again, what has a burka got to do with freedom and how can this piece of attire restrict freedom?
My colleague who sits next to me wears a burka. No one else in her family does and according to her, this choice has nothing to do with religious reasons. She wears the burka because she’s “too lazy to dress up every morning”. On other occasions, she chooses not to wear the burka and dresses differently.
My mom wears a burka occasionally; no one forces her to. When she’s cooking in the kitchen, still in her night-suit, and needs something quickly from the nearby market, she’ll pull on her burka and be back with her stuff within 10 minutes. What’s wrong with her being comfortable with this practice? I highly doubt she feels oppressed or restricted by this habit.
I’m all for freedom and I believe that the burka is not the opposite of freedom. I agree we live in a patriarchal society where women get negligible rights. I have seen this phenomenon with my own eyes and I have gone through it myself. However, creating hype about non-issues like burka-clad animated characters, when we have real issues badgering us every second, is not going to help.
Condemning ‘Burka Avenger’ does not make anyone cool and liberal. I think this innovative cartoon series is an excellent effort. It’s unique, it’s Pakistani and children will be able to relate to it. I highly doubt that any girl will feel compelled to wear a burka after watching a cartoon character that wears one. Stop criticising just for the heck of it. She’s fighting all the bad men — the ‘Vadero Pajeros’. Appreciate that.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.
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