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A woman walks into a bar …

  • Published at 05:43 pm January 14th, 2018
  • Last updated at 03:41 pm January 15th, 2018
A woman walks into  a bar …
Say what you will about Donald Trump, but I will be eternally grateful to the blowhard for allowing me to use the word “shithole” in a newspaper article without receiving an angry email from my editor the next day about editorial standards and practices. And whilst I realise that I just delivered the main hook of my punchline before the joke even began, I guess an engaging set-up is a decent trade-off for an overall diminished impact. Pathetic attempts at a cold open aside, anybody watched this short film that’s been making the rounds on the internet as of late? It’s titled Boishommo -- which translates to “discrimination” -- and it is the harrowing tale of a relatively young-ish looking man wrestling with the harsh truth that, yes, women also have as much agency in this world as their male counterparts. Written and directed by an up-and-comer named Hayat Mahmud Rahat, the film offers some fascinating, nuanced commentary on gender dynamics within Bangladeshi society, a narrative told through the lens of an everyman, and shot with the same level of expert subtext and visual language that put heavyweight European auteurs such as Béla Tarr and Ingmar Bergman on the map. Of course I’m being sarcastic -- it’s hot trash. Spiteful, mind-numbingly self-indulgent, flat-out misogynistic hot trash. And yet it’s all true, or, at least, isn’t very far off from the reality within which our society operates. Encapsulated within the film’s 12 minutes and 41 seconds runtime is a frighteningly realistic (albeit poorly acted) depiction of the general attitude that Bangladeshi society harbours towards women, which is that they are expected to be modest. Seeing a girl holding a lit cigarette between her index and middle finger is as unnatural and poisonous to the average Bangali mind as watching a creature from the fifth-dimension rip open a person’s cranium and pour chlorine down his exposed brain matter. But you probably already knew that.
As horrendously acted as it is, the film points to a fundamental shortfall within our society when discussing women’s issues: A lack of any semblance of self-awareness
Mid-point in the film, our knight-in-shining-armour egalitarian-of-a-protagonist walks up to a girl smoking by herself and lets loose his righteous wrath over her for her great transgression, all the while bellowing choice zingers as, “apni cigarette khaan taate amar kono shomoshya nei -- kintu publicly kano khachchen?” and “hae, ‘shadhin desh’ -- arr eijonnoi toh meyeder shob jagaye ato shubidha.” But the clincher has to be the last two minutes of the film, where our hero breaks the fourth wall, addresses the audience, an emotional violin score in the background, and yells at the camera “ami chai na amar ma graam theke eshe eikhane akta meye-ke cigarette khete dekhe, Dhaka’r prottekta meye-ke kharap mone kore!” before literally asking people, PSA-style, to record any woman they find smoking out in the wild, and post it up on Facebook. I feel like I’m making this quote-unquote film sound more engaging than it deserves to be. To reiterate, it’s trash, and it was probably the first time that I ever found myself reporting a video on YouTube, if not because of the obvious attempt at inciting the harassment of women, then surely due to the sheer amount of calcium I lost in all that teeth-gnashing I engaged in while I watched it. As horrendously acted as it is, the film -- especially the choice scenes I described above, in particular -- points to a fundamental shortfall within our society when discussing women’s issues: A lack of any semblance of self-awareness. Whether it be milquetoast moderate-Muslims at dusty Dhanmondi 8 (such as our protagonist) preaching about how women smoking in public is anathema, or self-proclaimed male feminists at a swanky Gulshan cocktail party discussing how women need to be “treated,” there is no difference. These people, from both ends of the socio-political spectrum, have already decided that women lack any sort of agency, and that only they know what’s best for their womenfolk. And, yet, they become bewildered at even the remotest sign of hesitation from any woman who wants nothing to do with them. It’s a bit like that old joke I just came up with about 15 minutes ago: A woman walks into a bar and asks the bartender about the giant neon-lit “no women allowed” sign outside near the entrance. Taken aback, the bartender looks around his establishment a bit, before finally speaking up: “Is that why I never have any women visit this shithole?” Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.