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Gender & Late-Night Pakistani TV

Every Friday night, my father, without fail, starts switching between the 11.00 pm news channel shows to amuse himself. Shows such as "Khabardaar," "Hasb-e-Haal," and "Khabar-Naak" may cloak sexism and stereotypes as humor. Though watching these shows portrays this sense of learning, with random facts thrown about here and there to "educate" the show's viewers on some issues, one can question whether this information is being relayed is authentic and unbiased.


One constant occurrence in the shows listed is cisgender heterosexual men dressing up as women to ridicule them. Since they air on popular news channels, the shows' humor circulates political personalities; one constantly under fire is Firdous Ashiq Awan. Though the politician is not a saint by any means, these shows take the liberty to fat-shame her and ridicule her accented English. Her caricatures are almost always played by men, who refuse to acknowledge their privileged criticism against the personality. The male-dominated panel of such shows find such bits hilarious; one recurring skit on Geo TV's "Khabar-Naak" was when one of the comedic panelists mocked Meera, the actress, through constant jabs at her way of speaking and her Television History. He'd act highly feminine only to be ridiculed by the comics sitting there.


One can see that this is heavily rooted in transphobic and fatphobic tendencies that dominate throughout the population of Pakistan. These shows are mostly catered to middle-aged Pakistani men, who mimick women with exaggerated features and voices. How is this transphobic? The instance mentioned of Geo TV mocking Meera, as mentioned, is done by a cis-gender man. Multiple examples of the show clips show the panel calling him a common local trans slur and being disgusted by him. Hall's study of representation as a form of language interpretation holds up here in the sense that overly feminine features being portrayed by a masculine figure are considered mainly deviant, to the point where people resort to slurs to display their disgust—pointing to the deep-rooted prejudice existing for trans-people. Fatphobia mostly takes form from the portrayal of fat "villainous" women. AshiqAwan is not the perfect politician, yet she is reduced to her physical appearance, like most women being criticized for something completely unrelated.

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I agree with your analysis, these talks shows are often discriminatory and sexist in nature. However, there is one thing that I've always wondered about talk-shows, regardless of society is how only men host these type of shows. Every late night show, whether it be American or Pakistan always has a male host and I always wonder why? Are late night shows only catered to men?

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This is something that I also observed while watching these late Pakistani shows meant for entertainment and found them quite disturbing as well. Serious topics including harassment, sexism, stereotypes are reduced to the idea of comedy defusing the sensitivity with which these topics must be addressed. This could be analyzed using the idea of male gaze in the feminist theory. It means to depict women from a masculine, heterosexual perspective reducing women for the pleasure of the male heterosexual viewer. (Feminist Aesthetics, 2012). This helps to understand why these shows depicts women in this light by ignoring their credentials and contribution. Instead, they make fun of notable personalities under the guise of criticism as mentioned in your post. Mulvey (1973)…

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I have also found late-night tv shows to be incredibly sexist and use humor to get away with making offensive and misogynistic remarks. I am particularly disturbed by the show Mazaaq Raat on Dunya News. They usually invite one male guest, often an older politician and a younger female actress or model. The questions asked to both guests significantly differ, and the comments made towards the woman are often condescending and belittling. The show follows a pattern where the comedians tend to ridicule the woman if she fails to answer questions about politics or the economy. This infuriates me as the power imbalance between the two guests mimics everyday life where women are not taken seriously and are often mansplained…

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I completely agree with analysis. I happened to watch this show a few days back, and there was a discussion going on about a case where the husband was threatening to leave his wife for not providing him hot meals. The host of this show was in the favor of the husband and he was saying things like "ghar bachanay ke liye tum khana nahi garam sakti". This is such a ridiculous thing to stay that you have do these things to keep your marriage from falling apart and one's marriage should not be based on such petty things. And to say these things on a national television, without facing any backlash is reflection of the power dynamic in our…

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Gill talked of how we have allowed the media to mock the word “sexist” because no one wanted to seem humorless. I think your analysis perfectly coincides with this idea. At this point, it has been normalized to a certain extent which makes it all the more inappropriate and sickening. Also, the obsession to ridicule Meera over her accent is completely bizarre and it just shows how we, as a society, are still under the spell of the colonial times. Even though the government can make efforts to move towards Urdu, it’s pointless because of how deeply integrated the gora complex has become. Language and culture are definitely related, and I think we have allowed the English language to form…

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