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Churails: reclaiming witchiness & other swear words


Churails is a Zee-Tv show starring Sarwat Gilani, Nimra Bucha, etc., about four female leads who set up a detective scheme to expose lying and cheating husbands. The show handles themes like sexual assault, forced marriages, and ideas of 'sisterhood' as all the leads come from different socio-economic and religious backgrounds. While the representation within this show is significant to discuss, I would love to hear your thoughts on it e.g. like did the show handle class differences effectively? I wanted to focus on how Churails reclaims derogatory language aimed at women.


To talk about the show's title itself first, "Churail" has predominantly been used to refer to "Witches" as women who pose problems, act uncontrollably, and are sexually promiscuous. By actively making an effort to call the gang "Churails," they take back the power that men have associated with the word, making it their own without any shame. Additionally, a lot of the female leads frequently use swear words like "fuck," "shit" and "bitch" especially Jungu and Sara. This is not only empowering because women have been looked down upon for "profane" language and are considered to be "vulgar" and of "bad character" if they are to swear -- but also because most swear words, including those in Urdu and Punjabi have to do with sexualizing/targetting the female body.


Just think of all the swear words you know and you'll start to realize that most of them have to do with some connotations of womanhood/or of being a mother. Just an example:

"bitch", "cunt", "randi," "kutti," "uluki pati" "Bhen ke laude", "Madarchod," "Bhenchod" etc just to name a few.


These words are so normalized in our everyday language that we often do not think of the sexist connotations they imply. So, to leave this up to discussion, do you any similar resistance happening in other tv/movie shows? what other ways do you think the "churails" reclaim or defy femininity, and does the show play an apt role in presenting itself as a "feminist" show?


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Churails was indeed a game changing for the Pakistani media. Women shown as progressive and strong is something that Pakistani media has failed to show over the years. We've only seen them as vulnerable bahus who are to say yes to their husbands at any cost to survive in the family. The theme of churails was very different since it clearly focused on catching cheating husbands which by the society's values are not seen as 'bad men' but rather the wife is always blamed for their behavior. It makes me wonder why not ARY or Geo Tv took over this series or should have shown this on TV so a much larger audience could see it. The answer lies in…

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The show is in some ways is truly the feminist depiction Pakistani's have been waiting for. The show highlights the agency of these women who take the lead in patriarchal wrongs that are done in society. Yet while for the younger audience the show rings as the way they want their problems to be explored and highlighted among which are homosexuality, transphobia, child marriages and abuse. However, considering the audience for which this show is made i.e. the average Pakistani housewife, the use of vulgar swear words and the lack of emotionality when presenting these issues are what hinders the shows ability to highlight the above issues and raise awareness as well as think critically think about them. However, for…

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Iman Ahmad
Iman Ahmad
Dec 11, 2022
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You're definitely right and I could see how many Pakistani women wouldn't be able to relate or digest the themes that are in the show because of the lack of emotionality that is expressed throughout Jugnu and Sara's characters, since they are also from the upperclass and do not face many of the same issues as the others. I think it would have been better if the show focused on specific issues rather than having every episode address a different issue because I feel like some episodes did lack emotional depth and understanding, like the one Maheen mentioned below. The show does try to tackle a lot by focusing on smaller scale issues (i.e. women not being able to swear,…

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24020242
24020242
Dec 10, 2022

Churails was, when it was released at least, talked about like it initiated a new feminist awakening in the realm of Pakistani shows, in the sense that it represented a number of social issues at the same time. However, I remember one criticism of the show being that it was very evident that it was written by a man in the way that these issues were not just dealt with in a very hasty manner, but also because it read like a checklist for whatever's considered "politically correct". I felt that to be true while watching the show myself, with it bringing up issues of homophobia, racism, abuse, pedophilia, colorism, sexism, transphobia etc. What this also meant was that the…

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Iman Ahmad
Iman Ahmad
Dec 11, 2022
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I strongly agree! especially with the class differential part, because in the beginning of the show they actually start the whole operation to earn some money. It's never shown that they start the shop because they actually want to help less privileged women. Infact, Sara and Jugnu are actually confronted by Batool and Zubaida for not accepting cases from women who are in more troubled situations/don't have the money to pay for their services. In some other instances you also see how privileged Sara and Jugnu are compared to the rest of the women in the show because they still have certain freedoms e.g. having their own businesses, even being able to have househelp, being able to drive their own…


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I have a vivid memory of “Churails” being banned in Pakistan a mere months after its release due to its “unconventional’ representation of Pakistani or more importantly, Muslim women. I resonate with your argument that empowering a label such as ‘churails” that is normally used by men to outcast a female as evil, is a reclamation of themselves and their actions. I do feel that churails was a much needed feminist series in the Pakistani media industry to reflect in female power to tackle their own issues correlated to patriarchy or personal issues. However, does using gender directed abusive language really empowerment or a way to normalise those curses that demeans women at the disposal?

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Iman Ahmad
Iman Ahmad
Dec 11, 2022
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i totally agree! i mentioned this in response to mahnoor's comment as well but I do feel like what women find empowering can differ, and while a woman reclaiming herself as a "churail" might find it to be a way to redefine sexist language and take back that power from men, I also can see how many women want to completely abandon this language because after all, it still has sexist undertones even while being used by women. My point really was to highlight the ways in which we should pay more attention to the way even language can be gendered and the different ways we can revert these connotations.

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Mahnoor Mannan
Mahnoor Mannan
Dec 09, 2022

I haven't seen Churails yet, but the point about swearing really had me thinking. Is it progressive to reclaim insults that are used as the cost of women? Growing up, women are told not to swear and keep their words clean, yet men often swear without a second thought.. Swearing is considered unfeminine and rowdy, so I really love that Churails delves into this territory and has women that swear often. Women partaking in something that has been male dominated has always been incredibly empowering but I cant help but wonder: Is conforming to sexist language still an act of empowerment? Especially when broadcasted via media? I think about Rosalind Gill's and Angela Mcrobbie's definition of postfeminism, and how its…

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Iman Ahmad
Iman Ahmad
Dec 11, 2022
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hey! you've actually made rethink my own ideas of empowerment and how they may be shaped by very neo-liberal feminist takes. I think a lot of the times we associate feminism with only the act of rebelling against the norm, when in actuality, feminism also comes with subservience to norms as well. I remember in a previous class, professor Hasham mentioned Saba Mahmood's critique of western feminism and how they only associate heroic feminism with those who actively resist as being "empowering," but again -- everyone has different ideas of what they find empowering. So, while some women may believe that reclaiming these specific swear words as their own is their way of "rebelling," I can totally see how other…

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