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Who a ‘Good Woman’ is According to Pakistani Dramas.

Updated: Nov 23, 2021


When you turn on your television to watch a Pakistani drama serial, there are some things that you will observe common in all of them. This is their definition of what a good woman should be.

They usually show the main character of the drama to be an innocent, poor, humble girl who suffers at the hands of society due to her circumstances. She is then saved by a man belonging to a rich household but her struggle does not end there, it merely begins when she encounters the hatred she faces from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. However, she remains silent, says little, always keeps her gaze lowered, and loves her husband unconditionally.

This representation not only reflects the mindset of the Pakistani society regarding the ‘ideal’ woman but also plays a huge role in reinforcing such mindsets. People begin to associate goodness with silence. A good woman is one who suffers in silence. Thus when women do speak up, they are regarded as ill-mannered or “badtameez”.

It is alarming when a society associates the voicing of one’s opinion with a lack of manners and a bad character. On a larger scale, this then produces the consequences that are produced from ‘Aurat March’. People associate the women who speak up for their rights with women who have no character because how dare they speak up against their oppression? How dare they voice their opinions? How dare they not lower their gaze and suffer in silence like the ideal woman shown in our dramas because if they do not fit that image, there is no place for them in society. Deviants, rebels, castaways. That is what they become.

We do see a shift in the media narrative of the representation of women from shy, quiet, and innocent to strong, confident, and demanding. However, this needs to be further defined and broadly applied in a great number of other Pakistani dramas in order to bring about a social change regarding the perception of females.

-Aimen Imran Jafri

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6 Comments


Khubaib Riasat
Khubaib Riasat
Dec 11, 2021

I think that being told to be silent in front of guests and relatives at a young age does more harm than good. Silence is a good tool, but one should know when and where to speak for their rights. Sadly, these kids who counter every problem with silence, become the victims of society’s game and are awarded the title of an ideal woman for being silent, even when oppressed. In a nutshell, society likes robots who don’t complain and just work, work and work until their parts are worn out. I believe this will not be the prevailing issue with the upcoming generations, as we would have morphed into a society that appreciates strong, bold, and confident women.

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I totally agree. Not just drama serials but even the elders of this society have taught the young that staying silent makes you 'good'. This can be imposed through negative sanctions such as scolding a child when they speak up or talk back. I agree with you that sometimes this silence is beneficial but sometimes it can also be highly dangerous and kids need to be taught the difference.

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Your analysis correctly points out that our storylines are still evolving and we still have a long way to go to put forth content that inspires. Even if we consider the drama "Sabaat" in which the female protagonist Anaya (played by Mawra Hocane) is shown to be pursuing her education/building a career and is apparently "empowered", the storyline still contains the typical element of the evil sister-in-law who becomes the antagonist and tries to ruin Anaya's life. Thus the idea is that the nature of the family drama portrayed in these shows is unfortunately almost always directed towards women becoming victims to such hostilities.

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And we really need to wonder why a woman who is suffering and silent about her sufferings is seen as a 'good' woman. Here comes the narrative that the wider society holds and Pakistani drama serials reflect that struggle and suffering in silence is what makes a woman 'good'. This not only gives women in society a reason to accept their conditions but also makes them feel as if they are helpless because they are never even made to believe that they have the option to speak up. As these drama serials also portray, the helpless woman is always helped eventually by karma or any other sort of working by God. This also gives women in society the idea that…

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This image of obedient and submissive ideal women is purely patriarchal, and the division between "good women" and "bad women" can lead to a slew of issues. Most of the time, the media reinforces this divide through a female victim in dramas who can do nothing but cry. As we have seen in the course, individuals in positions of power produce knowledge. And, as we all know, Sunni males are the ones who gain the most from this perfect woman concept in Pakistan. The directors and producers are almost always Sunni men. Also, because no one wants to be perceived as evil, this differentiation creates a split among women, making it easier to enforce this concept.

Similarly, most women especiall…

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Your point also relates to something we discussed in class and also read in a course reading regarding the role of women in media. Women are often times seen as characters who only add more meaning to the male characters in media. For example, she will either have the role of a villain like you mentioned trying to bring down the male hero and the male hero will emerge out of the struggle successful. Or, she will be a love interest for the male hero who will struggle to attain her and in the end, eventually will. Even other roles like that of mothers and friends in television are most of the time only there in order to make the…

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