Politics — the women monologues

Published: December 31, 2010
The writer is a lawyer and hosts “24 Seven” on Business Plus

The writer is a lawyer and hosts “24 Seven” on Business Plus ayesha.tammy@tribune.com.pk

The period of soul-searching continues and, of course, I have realised that the task is not simple, the method not straightforward and the work is endless, but I also realise that it must be done. And to do it one must have no illusions, or delusions, of ones self or those around you. A major part of the problem that plagues us is expectation.We don’t just expect, we demand that which, for any of several reasons, cannot be delivered.

As a woman who is interested in politics and working towards engaging in the political process, the whole dynamic of women in politics is something I need to take a close look at. There is a belief, misplaced, that women are better suited to soft jobs like art and culture, tourism, education and women’s development. No one thinks the most qualified, most capable person is the one who should get the job. Jobs are largely handed out based on gender and not merit. And while that seems like the least of our problems, it goes to the core of the problem — the stereotyping of women. Stereotyped if you do and stereotyped if you don’t.

Television has taken all that we knew to be true and brought it out in to the open. There is no retracting now. The naked, ugly truth is out there, immortalised forever on digital tape in your own words.

Scratch the liberal surface, and all the bigotry lurking beneath rears its very ugly head. All it takes to hit the soft target a serious body blow is for political parties to decide to attack one another. Heaven forbid that there should be a discussion on policy. No, far from it. The attacks are always personal; it’s as though our political forces exist in a world free from political thought and policy. So it’s: I give you drunken men, I raise your drunken men and give you bald men with hair transplants and men who are serial monogamists. But then we know that won’t fly, as in this country a married man is a man’s man and a thing of envy and no one cares whether you have had a hair transplant or not. It’s looking bad, you are looking desperate and in the absence of anything that makes any kind of political sense like ideology, governance or performance records, the attack shifts to women.

Inevitably, the debate shifts from ‘your leader is more debauched and disgusting than mine’ to ‘the women in your public space are of no moral character and are therefore fair game and should be paraded on the airwaves’. What is the difference between those who should out this kind of abuse and those who gang rape women, those who strip women naked and parade them through the streets? Nothing, as far as attitudes are concerned, women are, after all, soft targets and it doesn’t end with abuse or assault. Imputing the chastity of a woman is to cast aspersions on the honour of society and we know that the rule of thumb is to get rid of that which brings dishonour to society.

The kind of sexism and abuse women in public space have to deal with everyday is astounding. No, it is not true that the worst detractors of women are women. What is true is that there is a transference where women are expected to conform to the male code and it becomes a case of: if she’s attractive she has slept her way in. The discussion focuses on the amount of eyeliner used or the colour of her lipstick. What has internal security, inflation, foreign policy, education or health got to do with anything — that’s for the boys. No wait, they are the ones focusing on drinking habits, wigs, bad dietary habits and what lurks under the bed. If that’s all everyone is interested in, then who’s running the country? Scary or what.

Perhaps what women really need to do is to live up to this reputation and harness that power to bring society to its knees, it surely can’t be much worse than the world we live in now.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Dec 31, 2010 - 2:35AM

    Dear ET team,
    Ayesha Tammy Haq is no doubt a good columnist but I think her articles should be given space in Art & Culture/Life & style section of your esteemed paper. You know, having read excellent articles by Hyder and Salman, this piece looks too soft. Well, no offence meant, just a thought. Best regardsRecommend

  • SharifL
    Dec 31, 2010 - 12:18PM

    I tend to agree with author’s intentions of bringing about women’s issues, but have a feeling the article is relevant to a very small % of women. Women who go to work, are in touch with the outside world. I know there are millions of women who are not allowed to step outside their homes, have no contact with men outside the family and are therefore living a life of prison, unable to cope with the world you describe. I saw a film by a turkish director in Germany, who brings such a wife from some turkish village to Germany and expects her to remain inside her flat and could step out of the home only in his company. Suddenly he dies. The film showed the truam of this woman, unable to talk to other peopel or speak the langiuage. She was like a child forced to cope with hard realities of adult life. No wonder that women are left alone in Pakistan, they are expected to be ‘protected’ by men. Unfortumately, this woman has many sisiters in Pakistan. Ayesha doest not include such women; only the ones who speak engish and represent not more than 4% of the total population.Recommend

  • Mir Hassan
    Dec 31, 2010 - 3:07PM

    good piece and true it is … Recommend

  • Fahad
    Jan 1, 2011 - 2:16PM

    Agree with Sharif L – this is like a “dear Aunty” advice column – except directed to what the author feels are problems – so totally limited to the well connected aunty crowd.Recommend

  • Sanya
    Jan 1, 2011 - 2:26PM

    A rather inane piece – nothing we all didnt already know.Recommend

  • Hassan
    Jan 1, 2011 - 2:32PM

    Rather mundane and confused.

    “if she’s attractive she has slept her way in. The discussion focuses on the amount of eyeliner used or the colour of her lipstick. ” So what do they say if she is unattractive?
    Men generally dont discuss eyeliner or lipstick – esp the chauvinists.

  • Sahar
    Jan 28, 2011 - 6:24PM

    The comments reveal more than the article itself: they completely miss the point. Male #$% is quite astounding in our part of the world – abetted by culture and religion and history. It’s in the homes, it’s in the public sphere – it’s everywhere. The paant? Well, the point is that “what are we women afraid of, since the worst is already upon us!”

    Defending ones virtue is like sanctioning and reinforcing its sway over all else. Why play into their hands and do it then? It’s none of any donkey’s orifice’s business anyway! And lo, these are shallow posturing substance-less cowards at heart. Make their slander irrelevant by taking it out of the argument. Stand strong in their face and you’ll see the said orifice growing a tail. And, let me tell you, it’ll bring you respect. These cowards live by fear and bullying and will respect it in turn. We can do it without actually doing it – all we need to do is make them believe it.Recommend

  • Sundas
    Feb 6, 2011 - 2:11PM

    @Khalid Aziz and @Fahad:
    So an opinion on the problems women face belongs in the arts & culture or advice column? Pure and simple irony, you just proved what she was saying all along. The people in this country need to wake up and realize that “women topics” do not in fact belong in the “soft sections” of advice columns, or art & culture, but are just as politically, economically and socially relevant, if not more, as national security and the new world order or whatever else you like tastefully discussing in your drawing rooms. The woman problem is very much political. It is very much economic. Women are, after all, the invisible 52% whom the rest of the population believes as rightfully belonging to the arts & culture and advice column sections. Recommend

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