Newsweek Pakistan: Shaking Pakistan with lipstick?

Newsweek's list of 100 women who shake Pakistan shows being pretty is more important than human rights.

Nabiha Meher March 25, 2011
Newsweek Pakistan has outdone itself with its list of the 100 Women who shake Pakistan. I must concede, never has such an extraordinary list been created.

Some of the women listed here have “shaken” Pakistan on such a grand scale that it’s a wonder they haven’t had a street named after them yet.

The most commendable of the lot, also well known to all Pakistanis as our very own Estee Lauder is Mehrbano Sethi, who introduced Luscious Cosmetics in a country where makeup was largely unavailable. Let’s give her a round of applause, since her contribution to Pakistani womanhood is unparalleled.

Incredibly, Sethi has shaken Pakistan with lipstick unlike the un-made up Hina Jillani who was left out of the list because her life-long, country wide, feminist struggle pales in comparison to how empowered women feel after applying layers of foundation - nothing feels better than sticky lip gloss which gets stuck in your hair and nothing is more empowering than nail polish. Pretty hands stand above and beyond women’s shelters and justice.

Only a “jealous” non-elite fool would deny that.

Women from all over the country travel to major cities where it is available in droves, cleaning up shops as they go along. News of Luscious has spread so far and wide that products are being memorised in order to advertise to the illiterate.

Women in Thar dance to the tunes; activists have volunteered hours of their lives to translate them into all our national languages. The ad jingles are so powerful that Abida Parveen herself wouldn’t be able to do them justice.

Near Eid, our shopkeepers can hardly keep up with the large demand. Medora, Swiss Miss and all the other local beauty brands are seriously considering shutting down.

“Even though we’re poor, people are more than willing to spend money on a product that puts Estee Lauder to shame,” said an employee with tears in her eyes.

“It’s true,” said a woman in a store in Peshawar who had come all the way from Waziristan looking for things she could use to empower the oppressed women of her area. “We are willing to spend more. Medora nail polish chips in two days whereas Luscious lasts me 2.5 days.”

In front of my very eyes, she bought everything in the store. “This is the best present I could give to the women living under the Taliban. I don’t care about these rights groups or shelters. Women aren’t interested in this funny concept of freedom or equality! They want to look pretty. Don’t you know that’s the only way to feel good?”

I hung my head in shame and instantly decided to get a manicure. It didn’t make me feel better, so I wondered if I should get my sex changed.

In all seriousness, although what Sethi and the other women who shouldn’t be on this list have achieved is commendable and should be lauded, they are not a patch on the worthier ones who were left out.

I admire them for their resolve, but they are not known to most Pakistanis. The only ones who do know them well are those who are catering to their own elite crowd through a publication. It’s something we’ve all witnessed before: sycophantic elite self-love, giving each other way more importance than necessary and making an erroneous assumption that they can speak for Pakistan without knowing the ground realities.

How many people even know who Selina Rashid is, for example? I do, but only because she happens to be related to me and knows the same tiny circle.

As much as I admire her for creating a company that is definitely praiseworthy, I do not think she has “shaken” Pakistan. Her market is a tiny elite circle or those who can afford her services. While I sincerely hope more women follow in her footsteps instead of sitting home, I object to the fact that too many worthier women who actually represent Pakistan were left out.

I often wonder what planet our elite live on in general, but that’s another story.
Nabiha Meher A teacher at Aitchison, LGS, NCA and LUMS.A graduate from the United World College of the Atlantic,with an undergraduate degree in women's studies from York University and a masters degree in creative and critical writing from University of Sussex.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Hina_A | 13 years ago | Reply I think Hina Jillani would care the least about being on this list - because to people like her who are so devoted and committed for improving the social status of women in Pakistan - getting results are more important than being "branded" - I think we women have different issues at different levels - but what matters is what solution is required and the unity of women for any cause that supports women in Pakistan. Whether a makeup company makes women feel more beautiful or a social activist working for women issues, we as women need to unite to complete the cycle of women empowerment. So I would request everyone who have commented and who read this article to support and respect all the work which is being done by women at all level and causes - those looking for applaud of their work can have that - all we want is change and empowerment.
Cheryl | 13 years ago | Reply Meharbono and her friends are attacking the author viciously. whatever happend to freedom of speech and bottling fair and lovely formula and selling it for 300 percent more to theit own people does not any ethnocentric entreprenuer make. u outsource the goods ,what abt quality control. do u have labs here in Pak to check that. Sadly you do use your fathers money and contact to gain foothold by marketing to aunties and richie rich kids who get easily impressed
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