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Bol: An ideal Feminist movie?

Never have I ever liked Pakistani media and it’s irrelevant morals, but “Bol” was the first movie after “Khuda ke liye” that caught my attention. In a society like Pakistan, media plays an important role in spreading awareness, and educating people about basic social surroundings and the problems with society. Bol is one of such iconic movies that got the world’s attention, and mine too in particular.

Women representation, in a patriarchal society with misogynistic mindsets, was a big step taking by the producers, despite being men. The movie was based on a household of a religious “Hakeem” who had seven daughters and an intersex child who they raised as a son. All the women in the movie were conforming to the traditional gender roles of being caring, the ones who used to cook, they didn't have a say in the decisions made in the household, so should we take this as a portrayal of how women should be, or how these women are in the society and how to change these roles? Well, the movie in the end shows them having a business of their own, and being free of the oppression they faced when their father was alive, so in my opinion, it was a representation of how women are in the society and how modern roles that promote equality should be adapted by the society. The daughters, along with their mother, were oppressed by a single man, why? Because the society has empowered men in such a way that even if there are more women present in a household, the main say will always be of men. The Hakeem also has a son, but that son is effeminate, so the Hakeem always bullies Saifi, the intersex child, for not fulfilling the male gender stereotypes that the society has attached with each sex. The father is shown obsessed with having a son, which in my opinion is the actual depiction of an average household in Pakistan, so that they’re lineage is furthered.

Furthermore, the movie also shows the carnal instincts the Hakeem’s friend has towards Saifi, which shows that the people near you are also a danger to you, and many statistics in Pakistan has shown that people who go through sexual harassment in their childhood are the victims of people they know or relatives.

Religion card that is used in many Pakistani household in toxic patriarchal manner is also depicted through the Hakeem’s character. Society’s negative pressure causes the father to suggest infanticide when an intersex was born in his house. Moreover, the Hakeem also partakes in domestic violence against his wife and children, and murders Saifi too after he gets raped, because being raped is a scar on the family’s reputation meanwhile the rapists are free in this country. This can be linked with, in my opinion, when Zia enforced the Hudood Ordinance in his regime with the misogynist rule of presenting 4 male witnesses of a rape of women, and due to the lack of evidence, the rapists were free. The murder of the intersex child shows the lack of acceptance they get in the society, and are always thought of some less of a human, or frowned upon. The movie did provide a transgender representation, but at what cost? The Hakeem is the most toxic masculine person that this movie shows who has a wrong impression of religion and is following that male-taught Islam that only benefits them.

When I watched this movie as a child, I never knew that Saifi was raped, but recently when I rewatched it, I just thought that such things with young audiences viewing it are things that are too graphic for such age, but like I mentioned, I never knew that he was raped, the movie wasn’t so illicit on its depiction and still showed the adult audience the harsh realities of this society. The murder of Saifi was also something I didn’t notice in the movie as a child, or my mind just blocked that imagery because of it being too violent.

This movie is an amalgam of social issues that are presented in the society, including, imposition of religion, infanticide, harassment, rape, murder, the growing population with increasing poverty, girls born in a desi household being a problem, the toxic masculinity, corruption, the lack of education, prostitution being glorified. But in the end, when the male of the household does not remain the head of the household, things get better for the women because they are free from the toxic masculinity that they’ve been facing their whole life. They find success and start living a better life.

One problem that I feel was that this movie showed that it’s a man’s world—the Hakeem wasn’t given an official punishment on the murder of his intersex child, but the daughter, Zainab, was hanged till death on the murder of her father to save her half sister. Hunger is portrayed as the main problem in Pakistani society, meanwhile the biggest problem in my opinion is the negative use of Islam by men to do things that empower them and subordinate women. Islam gives rights to women to be educated, to work, financial independence, but all these things are ignored in this society. The Hakeem felt okay to have a daughter with a prostitute but it was problematic for him to allow his daughters to work to earn some money, while looking down upon the thing that they are not educated so they will turn to prostitution to earn money.

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