Never in my wildest, most spit-fired dreams had I ever imagined that I would one day be defending Qandeel Baloch.
That I would feel a militarised outrage so pure and renegade in concentration that it would need a battle-axe to grind against the Machiavellian pact our patriarchy has struck between murder and male privilege.
That one day, we’d all be shocked and disturbed because of her one last time.
Known for her raunchy publicity stunts, play-the-flute selfies, suggestive social media declarations, promises to ‘liven up’ a cricket match and a propensity to tick off the sanctimoniously smug, Qandeel gave us a little something to look forward to, laugh at, be amused by and, most importantly, learn to accept.
Qandeel made a lot of us root for her because she was so unbelievable we almost thought she was invincible.
Whilst her curvaceous brand of feminism wasn’t one I usually give the time of day to, her heart was in the right place and her mind had that raw, spunky energy every feminist pushes forward because, at the end of the day, a woman has to be more than just a submissive orifice, a veiled and abused plaything: she needs to be the governor of her own sexual expression.
That is the first hurdle and that was one QB was crossing very defiantly.
Qandeel was only just leap-frogging across the very basics of freeing her own franchise when her life force was spluttered and gagged out of her.
The very first step is dismissing the dregs of traditions past and cultures best left forgotten. Women need to own their own sexuality and regulate their own bodies in their own homes before they can go out into the big bad world of men.
They need to know when to say ‘no’, believe that consent is an integral part of when they say ‘yes’ and express who they are, whilst shrugging off the residue of a suffocating patriarchy bent on preventing women from doing all of the above.
Qandeel was married off at 17 in a marriage she did not want. Like many before and after her, she was made to spread a welcome mat between her legs for a man she did not want, she had a child she wasn’t ready for, desperate economic inevitabilities and a future ready to be spent in pathological frustration because of the path cemented for her by the men in her family.
What made her different was the fact that she said ‘sod off’ and told the whole country just as much.
What she did was give other women ‘ideas’.
She was on the cusp of altering just one facet of the patriarchal prism through which we ogle at our womenfolk. And that, my friends, is enough to neutralise any notions of ‘respect’, ‘honour’ and ‘freedom’ we women might stupidly harbour.
Her brother, meanwhile, grins moronically at the camera and declares he has “no remorse” as though having some were as useful as screen doors on submarines.
The social media that made Qandeel viral is now in a chokehold with a large, unenviable lobby (many with Abdul Sattar Edhi as their profile pictures) throwing curveballs on how “she asked for it” or “what else was a brother to do?” and the more indistinguishable keyboard battalions dodging these machinations with sanitising lessons on how morality is no one else’s business but the subject’s.
None of this works. Nothing that gets trended on social media will be as important and as necessary as women simply wrestling back the control men like Qandeel’s brother would kill to preserve.
Female sexuality in Pakistan is like that lonely outpost on an unexplored stretch of the Milky Way far beyond the international space station. It is so far off our radar that it does not merit an expedition.
Qandeel Baloch went where many others wish they could go but fear to tread.
She manned her own mission and cast off her detractors with the disdain of the damned. Yes, she could be crass, loudmouthed and overtly sexual, yes she could literally be the ‘woman on top’ and she did it by ‘manning up’ in our putrid practices of patriarchy.
She had questionable taste and she openly mocked our outrage but she made a lot of us root for her because she was so unbelievable we almost thought she was invincible.
She de-sensitised a lot of us by riling up our sensitivities, she preached in the language of a more liberal outlook towards sex, the female body and how to use it but we hung on to her every move because we have become so tired of this assembly line of misplaced morality, exhausted by the controlled coitus between sanctity and shame, piety and perversity.
However she did it, she made it alright for women to have a sexual voice in this country and for us, that really is a first.
She was the queen of first times, rupturing the thin veneer behind which lie all our base, primal urges.
She made it okay for women to want to take their clothes off in a society that has shrouded them in fear and make-believe.
She made it a virtual norm to tease the teachings of colourlessness in our social canons and she whipped provocation into her corner more effectively than anything seen in congress.
How many women have used campiness, sex and innuendo in this country to make a point like she has? Not many and, one fears, we may never see someone quite like her again.
Men of the more traditional persuasion see overt female sexuality as a marker of their own oppression and they cannot stomach the tables being turned on them.
There is a method to this madness and it is called the desires of men — Qandeel saw that and she used their own power against them.