You are the brave young woman who was shot in the head when
you were fifteen in Pakistan because you wanted an education
and who was rescued, both medically, economically, educationally,
and in every other way by the Brits; and then awarded a Nobel
Peace Prize by the Scandinavians. But now you’ve decided
to criticize Western filmmakers for failing to use South Asian
actors and staff because they are “too brown and too
many white people star in Bollywood films?
this a bit like biting the hand that fed you—and just
in order to please the politically correct crowd that now
seem to run things in the West? Of course, I understand, you
may also want to use your celebrity power to help other “brown”
enough—but now, you have produced a film titled Joyland.
You say that you view film making as another form of “activism…in
which we challenge the social norms that deny women their
basic rights, their dignity.”
Joyland about girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
About honor killings, forced marriage, polygamy, wife and
daughter battering? Or about the trafficking of girls and
women? It most definitely is not. The daily massacre of women
in the Punjab and in Kabul are not what your film is about.
Author and activist Yasmine Mohammed agrees. In an email,
feel like Malala could have lent her voice and her influence
to the women in Pakistan fighting for their basic rights.
Perhaps she could have supported a movie to show how the
feminists in Pakistan and Afghanistan are risking their
lives to live as autonomous human beings. How girls are
banned from school and university and even parks in Afghanistan.
How women are scared to go to parks in Pakistan because
of how common it is to be assaulted in public. There are
countless women’s issues that need attention and
addressing in those countries. It felt very performative
to me that she would jump on the popular bandwagon of
supporting men who want to transition to being trans women
while ignoring, along with the rest of the world, the
women who are being persecuted because they were born
feminist activist, Mandy Sanghera, pointed out that “transgender
women are well known in India and yes, they are usually rejected
by their families.”
India and Pakistan, transgender women are known as khusra
which Pakistanis translate as a eunuch, though the meaning
is broader than a castrated man. Besides transsexuals, it
also includes hermaphrodites, and people with both male and
female genitalia. They are also known as hijra and
are recognized as a third gender.
is true that transgender women in Pakistan and India are demonized
and exiled by their families; many have to become sex workers,
(or choose to do so happily), as the only way they can economically
survive. Some are initiated into hijra tribes.
is also true that Afghan warlords kidnap or buy young boys
and turn them into sex slaves and “dancing girls.”
If they survive the prison-style rape/sex, such boys often
grow up to buy, kidnap, and train new young boys in the arts
of such dancing.
Afghan warlords are also married and the fathers of many children.
They just do not like women all that much except as domestic
servants and reproductive beasts of burden.
I lived in Kabul, I saw men walking down the street, holding
hands, with a rifle flung over each man’s shoulder.
One might have a flower in his hair. When I told my Afghan
family what I believed I’d seen—gay men—they
laughed at me and said that Americans don’t understand
were both right. Male homosexuality is omnipresent in most
Muslim countries but it is not considered “gay”
in Western terms. It is just something that men do but do
not discuss. If you are the do-er, the taker in the relationship
you remain as manly as every other man. If you are the “bottom,”
you may end up as the main character in author Khaled Hosseini’s
Kite Runner, a tragic narrative about the gang-rape
and shaming of a Hazara (Shi-ite) boy by other Sunni Afghan
one is claiming that the transgender women of Pakistan/India
or the dancing boys of Afghanistan are accepted by society
or that they can rise and lead dignified lives filled with
love and approval. (Anyway, how many of us can?)
question to Malala is this: Why have you chosen to join the
cast of Harry Potter in the belief that transgender
women ARE women and that they, too, are persecuted for whom
they love and how they dress? Your film is about transgender
love (born male, identity female) in Pakistan. You call it
a “queer love story” and you are “grateful
that the trans role was played by a trans woman.”
I were aggressively mischievous, I would challenge you for
being the executive producer of this film—even though
you are not a transgender woman.
immediately banned your new film but then, with some edits,
allowed it to be shown, but not in the Punjab where it is
set. It is available in the UK.
you are a woman who knows how to live dangerously. Haven’t
you heard about the recent near-assassination and serious
wounding of Salman Rushdie? Perhaps you’re so privileged
or well-guarded that you feel invulnerable, easily able to
go out on a limb for what you believe is a human right wronged.
above, makes an excellent point about the fact that there
are actually many feminist groups on the ground in Pakistan
fighting for women’s rights and researching women’s
wrongs. There are several groups, (the Aurat Foundation is
among them), that have done an excellent job of counting the
number of honour killings in Pakistan and in the Punjab and
their work is very important.
hope that your next film is about an honour killing in the
Punjab, one which shows that the transgressive man can buy
his life and his freedom but that the woman must die.