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Fame: The Currency of Methila and Other Harassers

Tangia Zaman Methila, Miss Universe Bangladesh 2020. Photo: Courtesy of Miss Universe Bangladesh


N A T I O N A L


Nawal Naz Tareque


Tangia Zaman Methila has been crowned the winner of Miss Universe Bangladesh. 

The Miss Universe Bangladesh lineup meant nothing to me until this year when a friend of mine became a contestant there. So naturally, my eyes glossed over the name Tangia Zaman Methila, unable to comprehend the swarm of less-than-wholesome reactions on her photos. I had presumed it was because she was already an established model — fame turns you into a cauldron of envy for many. It took one Instagram post to remind me where I had heard that name before. 

Watching the video where she and her friend, Samira Khan Mahi, publicly admit and laugh about recording a man in a bathroom stall without his consent made my blood boil. The original video was taken down from YouTube by the uploader, Asif Bin Azad (because of course, it was). But a version of that video still remains on the net. 

The number of apology posts made by either of the two models? Zero. 

The number of times they have apologised to the victim in question before it resurfaced? Zero.

If you’re smart, you’ve already caught on to their response now that the whole matter has resurfaced.

So yes, I, along with many others, am justifiably enraged. It is not an everyday incident for a harasser to win one of the most important beauty pageants of the entire world, even.

To make you understand the gravitas of their crime, let’s get two things down:

  • They recorded someone without the party’s consent. The time, place, context, circumstances — none of these matters. Recording someone without their consent is a violation that deserves to be called out.
  • They recorded someone while they were possibly naked. It doesn’t matter if it was in the name of a prank. It doesn’t matter if it was a joke. That man was harassed by two adults, one of whom will be graduating with a degree in law. 

The irony is not lost on me, folks.

Sadly, many people who fall within the “Feminism is Cancer” community and do not take the movement seriously lamented how this would be a nation-wide sensation had the genders been reversed. It is important to note that that statement is once again an attempt to jeopardise conversations around women being harassed by bringing up the age-old wolf cry, “See? Men go through this too.”

What most people fail to recognise, despite being told time and time again, is that bringing this up right when women are speaking up about their stories is a way to deviate the conversation from what’s important or relevant. But drilling this concept in people’s minds will be an exercise most women will have to go through for the rest of their lives, unfortunately.

How often do celebrities get away with crimes?

In the world of Hollywood, many people have gotten away with heinous crimes, while many have been rightfully stripped of their accomplishments. Interestingly, the bar for getting their reputation destroyed permanently is very high and usually involves either receiving a very harsh criminal sentence (in the case of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby) or having their dirty laundry revealed during a time when a movement is gaining momentum (e.g. the #MeToo movement).

Singer Justin Bieber was arrested as he was suspected of driving under influence — he himself confessed that he had drunk a beer and was smoking marijuana the whole day. Usually, the consequences would be at least a 4-day stint behind bars, a $1,000 fine, and said person’s driving licence being taken away.

Instead, Justin was released mere hours after his arrest after paying a $2,500 fine, and he had to attend mandatory anger management classes. This shows how even with felonies, celebrities receive way too little backlash due to being at the top of the power structure.

Why has Miss Universe taken no action against Methila?

In fear of having her reputation tarnished, Methila posted a public apology on 26 March, and Mahi posted a similarly worded statement on 25 March, both on Instagram. Mahi’s statement is given below:

“As I mentioned just now, whatever we did was most definitely not right and we deeply regret whatever we did that day with that man (who was my friend and it was just a prank). At the end of the day, it was not right to go into the men’s washroom and record, although it was a friend who knew we were just having fun. Nevertheless, my friend and I did make a grave mistake but our intentions were NOT ill, we never would’ve considered for a split second to harass someone and we did not (technically). 

Therefore, we’re being apologetic towards anyone who had been offended by that act. I know most of you want us to send our apologies to that person but he is our friend and he was fine with it at that time when we pranked him. We just want to clear out the air for anyone who is thinking we “harassed” someone. We do not want to become individuals who harassed someone, especially when we despise people who harass in the first place.

Lastly, I hope you guys do not misunderstand me or any intentions or even how I am, just for a mistake that I have made long back. Also, again I want to let everyone out there know that I have realised it was very stupid to do so and I, myself, do feel guilty.

No one should be defined by a mistake that they’ve made in the past.”

Let’s break down a few things:

1. The man in question was, when they had initially confessed, a complete stranger. So it seems like a blatant lie they’re making up to lighten the entire matter.

2. The “childish” behaviour they’re talking about did not happen 10 years ago — it happened when they were in their 20s, old enough to understand that such “pranks” are unacceptable.

3. They’re both trying to play it off as a prank. Let me remind you that they recorded someone without their consent, especially in a compromising situation. None of this can be excused under the guise of it being a prank. 

4. The timing of their public statement coincidentally happened to be when Methila was in the finals of Miss Universe Bangladesh, right when she knew she had a lot to lose. Yep, just a coincidence. Nothing more than that. 

5. “No one should be defined by a mistake that they’ve made in the past.” This statement is only true for people who have redeemed themselves and taken responsibility for their actions. Without proper accountability, it is absolutely fair for them to be defined by their “mistake” — the mistake of harassing someone in a washroom.

Suffice to say, all of this seems like a PR stunt to reduce collateral damage. And it seems to have worked.

Final thoughts

Methila and Mahi won’t suffer any consequences. Because it’s Bangladesh. The world is cruel and unfair as is. Expecting Bangladesh to be a moral sanctum and to have these people pay the price for what they have done is wistfully optimistic.

Methila starred in a Bollywood film called Rohingya and has had brand endorsement deals from TRESemmé in the past. Textmart, O2, Sailor, Ecstasy, Pride Girls, and Banglalink are some of the main partners that work with Mahi. Now that Miss Supranational 2019 has become Miss Universe Bangladesh 2021, it’s all the more reason for the fashion industry to put her on a pedestal and forget her crimes on her journey to stardom.

 


Nawal Naz Tareque is a depressed 20-year-old hoping to indoctrinate people into an Arctic Monkeys cult. When she’s not busy rewatching episodes of Bojack Horseman, she scribbles down her thoughts on life and more. You can rage against patriarchy with her by mailing her at [email protected].

 

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