By dressing as a man to make a statement, Ayesha Gulalai has only belittled countless dynamic women of Pakistan
No one said it was easy being a Pakistani woman. We fight misogyny, chauvinism and harassment on a daily basis in our schools, workplaces and for some, even homes.
We are daughters, sisters and mothers but those relationships are not unto themselves. We populate the corporate world, lead movements, teach impressionable minds and raise little people. There is very little women cannot achieve and that forms our identities.
It is a small mind then, in my opinion, which tries to fight misogyny by fitting into a box shaped like a man. A mind that has no business representing the multi-faceted and peerless entities that we are.
Much has been said about the shocking accusations of sexual harassment MNA Ayesha Gulalai hurled at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. While sexual harassment is not a matter to be treated lightly, the accuser seems to be doing herself no favours in way of establishing her own credibility.
From refusing to resign from her PTI-reserved seat, to walking into the National Assembly (NA) in a tribal headdress and garb, costuming herself as a man, has done injustice to countless dynamic women of this country, not to mention, herself. Women who did not have to compromise on their femininity to acquire dignity, justice and respect.
In order to comment on Gulalai’s attention-seeking gimmicks, we must remember the strong female icons of our country who stood up for their rights without having to dress like the opposite sex.
Benazir Bhutto, who despite all and any political leanings anyone may have, was undoubtedly the lion heart of bravery. In 1990, an international publication, People Magazine, named her as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. She stood alongside men and women alike without masking her womanhood to be recognised.
Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousufzai has continued to persevere in education after being shot in the face for wanting to study; her youth and girlishness a refreshing foil to her core of steel.
Several dignified politicos have marked this evolutionary map without the crutch of histrionics – Dr Fahmida Mirza, first Muslim woman to be a NA Speaker; Shahnaz Wazir Ali, former Special Asisstant to the prime minister; Abida Hussain, conservative politician; Nasreen Jalil, who has been a prominent politician and senator; Bushra Gohar, an MNA; Khushbakht Shujaat, and countless others.
Prominent poet GD Anderson wrote,
“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
While every woman is free to define her strength as she wills, I am sceptical it involves dressing in masochistic tribal headgear, representing men from only one area of a country. When you maintain a seat given to you in the NA to speak for the rights and identity of the women of the whole country, you have some added responsibility.
If this was not disgraceful enough, Gulalai took to the floor of the Assembly, rambling on about Imran’s sexist political statements, and how he assumes that Pakistani men are not real men but belonging to the transgender community.
According the Gulalai,
“What does he think? Are the men who come to his rallies with women transgender? [Is] that [why] Imran Niazi addresses them as ‘our women’,” she questioned.
“Does Imran Khan think our men are [transgender]?” she said.
Not only was she incredibly hurtful and insensitive to people of the transgender community, but belied a completely unenlightened, unintelligent approach to minorities of all kinds. While the transgender community has spoken out in protest of her insensate remarks, they should be assured that Gulalai is belittling her own gender far more effectively than theirs. Frankly, if nothing else, PTI should be penalised for even giving her a seat to begin with.
Pakistan does not need this. Sexual harassment concerns aside (but not dismissed), people of this calibre and thinking have no business representing the women of my country.
We do not need to dress, speak, look or act like men to be equal to them. We do not need to be equal to men at all; we only require equal rights. I believe strongly that with the strength, stature and endurance that thousands of Pakistani women display each day, we will achieve all that and so much more. What is clear, however, is that Gulalai’s histrionics will not get us there.