I had a respect in my heart for Sharmeen Obaid due to her contributions for highlighting some of the grass root issues of Pakistan globally. She brought home two Oscars and made the nation proud—despite the fact that many believed her stories were fabricated, tabloid and exaggerated in order to get global attention and flared conspiracies and contradictions across the board. She has been an inspiration for many young Pakistanis especially girls. But here recent twits about a doctor at Karachi’s Agha Khan University (AKU) Hospital harassing her sister by sending a friend request on Facebook has led me to conceive a different image of hers—which is unfortunately—not that positive. The doctor, who was treating Sharmeen’s sister, ended up fired from his job.
I have around 3200 friends on Facebook and half of them are women. Whether I send them a friend request or they did it, I believe that about ¾ of those women are those whom I never met personally. We got to know each other through different channels such as shares a common interest, met in any gathering, or traveled together, need any help or information and we ended up adding each other in the friend list. I have rejected hundreds of the friend requests by unknown—and sometime acquaintance—women and got rejected by even more women over the period of nine years of using Facebook and other social media portals.
I number for women who I have never met send me messages on Facebook and so do I, because we need each other’s help. For example Pavlina Proevska, a New York based filmmaker contacted me a year ago and she need some help from me for her documentary project on perfume and we got connected through Facebook. Alina Sztankovits, a Romanian lady is among those people who reacts almost all of my posts and usually first or at least among firs few people to like or comment on my posts. I don’t remember which one of us sent the friend request first.
I have received friend requests from those women whom I met in any public gathering or even we never met but we have any mutual friend but any of my post attracted her. And I have done the same by sending request to many of women who I met for a while, know a little but never met, or even don’t know but attached by any of her idea or post and dent her re request to make sure to get her posts in future.
We all are doing the same on social media every day, sending and receiving unwanted messages, requests, following people without their consent or being followed by others without our consent. We don’t like all comment coming on our posts neither we like all replies to our twits. But it is social media—not our personal space. We also have unlimited privacy options available on every portal, and above all we have an option not to accept a friend request rather than complaining “harassment.”
If sending an unwanted friend request is “harassment” than I have harassed almost 1500 women so far and many of them have harassed me too. But as I believe, it is not harassment unless it is repeated despite a strong and clear “no.” Yes, I accept there is harassment everywhere in this society and women, especially working women, have to face it every day but such type of interaction is not a kind of harassment. For God sake, don’t use your position and fame for negativity. Don’t harass people in the name of feminism and in the name of harassment.