Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy just can’t seem to please Pakistanis.
Bringing two Oscars home didn’t help and now, speaking up against inappropriate behavior and harassment ─ a complaint women in Pakistan are actively told to never register ─ landed her at the heart of a rather fierce social media debate.
Last week, the filmmaker shared on Twitter that her sister was taken to the emergency room at Aga Khan University Hospital and received a Facebook friend request the next day from the doctor who had examined her, an incident she termed as ‘harassment’.
Since then, she has faced considerable backlash on social media, which is what we’re guessing prompted her to release a statement about the whole fiasco yesterday.
While sifting through all the responses on Twitter and Facebook, we’ve come to realise that the internet is a scary echo chamber. But voices of reason also cropped up every now and then.
Here are some of the smartest AND dumbest reactions we spotted on social media:
1) Smartest: When a lawyer shed light on whether it was harassment
As everyone seemed to fixate on what the term means (or does not mean), a Pakistani lawyer Abira Ashfaq laid it out in very simple language: violating boundaries in a doctor-patient relationship is dangerous, and it could be interpreted as harassment under the Pakistani law.
“A Facebook request could be such a communication given the nature of the illness and the doctor-patient relationship. It must, in addition, create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
See, it really wasn’t that difficult.
2) Dumbest: when people thought it would be a great idea to spam Sharmeen Obaid with friend requests
Yep, they went there. Here’s a Facebook event that was formed specifically to spam SOC with friend requests.
People rallied online to harass a woman only to prove she wasn’t actually harassed.
The irony hurt our heads.
3) Smartest: when this man dropped some truth bombs about the medical profession
Pakistanis en masse, almost as if habitually, dismiss women’s complaints; it threatens the patriarchal power structure that has worked in their favour for centuries. Women become their front line defenders, assuming that aligning themselves with their oppressors would help them survive.
So when a guy ─ a male health professional at that ─ spoke in support, some serious truth bombs were dropped:
Moiz ended his post with a powerful note to men in the profession, and said, “Do not pretend this doesn’t happen.”
4) Dumbest: when this clinic boasted it would hire a doctor who was under investigation
In a twisted bid to earn brownie points with the public, these businesses did what only companies in Pakistan would do: offer to hire an unnamed man who may be under investigation over claims of harassment and professional misconduct.
We just wanna ask: really? Reallllyyy? Do you really want to be known as the medical institution that hires doctors who may be under investigation for professional misconduct?
5) Smartest: when this guy broke down cyber harassment
This one’s for all those cribbing about how it’s just a friend request and she should have just ignored it.
And for all those saying that clubbing a friend request with harassment takes the focus off of real victims… we think telling someone how they should categorise a feeling at the hands of someone else’s transgression is belittling harassment more than anything else.
6) Dumbest: when Hamza Ali Abbasi gave his two cents on the matter
Of course it was only a matter of time until the actor spoke up and as usual, it wasn’t an argument rooted in logic.
Firstly, Sharmeen never said it was sexual harassment, just harassment. Yes, taken in context, you could imply that she meant the former but let’s be really clear on the fact that she didn’t say it.
Also, maybe men don’t usually feel harassed by supposedly trivial things like Facebook friend requests because they’re usually not the ones feeling vulnerable, online or offline. I don’t know, just a thought.
7) Smartest: when this guy pointed out the obvious…
People were really fixating on the word sexual and taking it quite literally too. The friend request and comments on her sister’s pictures came after a “very private examination”.
Do you think that would feel platonic or professional? It’s downright creepy and even if it isn’t sexual harassment by your restrictive approach, it’s still harassment, plain and simple.
Good to know some sanity has persevered.
8) Dumbest: when Shehryar Taseer actually believed this fake post was written by Sharmeen Obaid…
It was so obviously fake. Oh man, we’re cringing on his behalf.
But okay, let’s give him props for doing his homework, albeit late.
9) Smartest: this man telling other men how NOT to be creepy
Like he so eloquently put it: “Fareeda with a dislocated collar bone is in dire need of medical care not your 3rd class pick up lines.”
Here’s to better male allies.
10) Dumbest: this lady brainstorming ideas for Sharmeen Obaid’s next
To answer her question, no, she probably won’t because she’s got her hands full with the horrific stuff that happens in our own backyard.
Plus, we bet even if she did, they’d just brand her a Pakistan hater and say she’s shedding light on the ills of other societies and ignoring her own. She just can’t win.
11) Smartest: when Ushna Shah urged you to look at the bigger picture
The actress highlights why something that people want to brush off as a mere friend request felt like such a violation of privacy.
Call it an abuse of power on Sharmeen’s part all you want but try not to forget that both parties come from places of privilege in this scenario: Sharmeen and the doctor, who is evidently benefitting from male privilege. How else do you justify people defending a “father of four” reaching out to a patient in a totally inappropriate manner? Speaking of…
12) Dumbest: when people started using his kids as a shield for his unethical behaviour
Like being a father automatically absolves him of all accountability.
Let’s stop making the perpetrator the victim, shall we?
All social media posts used in this article were public at the time of publishing