So a famous Pakistani show has garnered huge online following because it is about a cheating spouse. And let me spill the beans before intrigue takes over, it’s about a cheating wife.
In a world where cheating men are almost always forgiven by their wives, a woman isn’t usually considered forgivable. Her relationship with her spouse and kids is never considered salvageable. She is never given another chance.
Cheating is bad. All the stereotypical ideas associated with cheating further make it a big deal when a spouse steps out of his or her marriage. Cheating is almost always considered a moral failure. And may be it is. I can’t say. I think it happens when people are unhappy. Whether with themselves or their spouses is probably what needs to be unpacked. What usually is discussed about a marriage where cheating was involved is how this person is setting a bad example and how they’ve tarnished the moral fiber of our society.
But this particular show cashes on a twist. A woman has cheated. I know! I cried gimmick too. The writer has found an angle that he can milk for commercial success.
The husband is shown to be a middle-class, minimum wage earner who has a lovely wife. Not only is this woman beautiful, she is also shown greedy for more. She wants all the good things in life. Jewelry, a nice home, a husband with a spine. All things that are considered a luxury in a standard edition Pakistani marriage. How dare she! She’s a morally corrupt person just by this description, cheater or not.
So she cheats on her husband with a man who is powerful and rich. He also has loads of personal charisma. He chases her and she falls in his lap. It’s mutual and he has been persistent. It’s consensual except she doesn’t know what she’s consenting for in its entirety. The typical story of consent. Not explicit. Never mutual. Almost always screws the woman.
Her husband hands her over to the other man. He even asks the lover of his wife if he’d like to have tea before he takes his wife from their marital home. The husband is a morally strong and upstanding person. But is he?
The framework of this show is patriarchy and how it dictates our lives. A beautiful woman marries a man who was her college sweetheart. She then cheats on him to get some material things. After the divorce her ex-husband, in a fit of righteous rage makes a bunch of successful business deals that make him an overnight millionaire.
But while married to her he had always instructed her to practice gratitude and fortitude. He had always expected her to be content with what they had. It seems that he had the potential to make her happy beyond her dreams but chose not to. But when she left him, the show has worked tirelessly to label her as a woman with a scarlet letter on her chest. Why?
Men don’t cheat in patriarchal systems. They falter. They are forgiven for their mistakes. Their transgressions are considered immaturity and impulsivity. “Boys will be boys” is actually a bias that we have towards men. We find them forgivable under all circumstances. We always find them cute.
But when women cheat they’re considered morally corrupt. They’re not treated with the same tenderness that is reserved for men. Like on this show! The woman has cheated on her husband with a married man. Her lover’s wife has given him the third degree in a very different way. Society has not raised a finger on this man. He walks around Scott-free.
The moral high ground that the male protagonist of the show walks on isn’t because he’s the better spouse of the two. It’s because patriarchy affords him that moral high ground. Patriarchy gives men complete control over their marriages thereby making unhappiness in a marriage a woman’s lot. Patriarchy helps men create a marriage of their convenience. The marriage isn’t created to convenience the woman. So what does she do? She lives in a bad marriage. If she really wants to live, she cheats.
Men think that women cheat in marriages because they give in to their temptation or because the devil takes over them. But most women don’t cheat in happy marriages. Women value their marriage a lot more than men, just estimating by the number of men who cheat and are forgiven by their wives to keep the family together. Women worry about the dissolution of their marriage more than men. They know that patriarchy doesn’t watch out for them .
So whatever people might say about Meray Pass Tum Ho and however this show might end, Humayun Saeed has the privilege to walk the moral high ground by virtue of being a man. He set the tone of his marriage. He set expectations for his wife. He created a system that suffocated his wife while keeping him very comfortable in his zero attempts at working for a financially better life that his wife wanted. He was afforded this privilege by the society that works for men. His child likes him more because “mom left us”. So what is a woman to do? She could either just suffer in silence or cheat. And when she cheats, well, all hell breaks loose.