Veena Malik does not represent me

Much has been made about Veena Malik’s “behaviour” in the Bigg Boss House from the twin flirtations she struck to the short clothes she wore. To me, this spells Veena’s victory. Out of 14 housemates — including a global star, Bollywood actors and Bhojpuri film industry’s Shahrukh Khan — Veena managed to make an impression.

While she was busy inside, the world outside was delirious with anger: how dare a Muslim, Pakistani woman conduct herself like this in, horror of horrors, India! The other side was also quick to retort: Veena is representing the ‘modern woman’ of Pakistan. For good measure, they threw in a comment or two about people completely irrelevant to the discussion such as, why aren’t Pakistani, Muslim men criticised for their behaviour while in India? And the answer to that could be that perhaps because we have yet to read about a similar controversy regarding, say, Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan or Ali Zafar.

As for me, I am neither the ‘moral brigade’ and nor am I part of the ‘immoral brigade’, so to speak. But I am the modern Pakistani woman, the girl who Veena was supposedly representing.

As I observed everything and listened to arguments from both sides, I found one essential thing missing from both arguments: Veena Malik does not represent me. I do not relate to her and our similarity ends where it begins: like me, she is a woman, a Pakistani, a Muslim and she wears heels. And for some women, the latter two don’t hold either.

While I appreciated Veena at some point, especially for the proper Urdu she spoke, she is insignificant because there are much better rolemodels out there, people who I can actually relate to and look up to.

One such woman is Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. An award-winning filmmaker, Sharmeen has worked with refugees, women’s advocate groups and human rights defenders in over ten countries. (More detail about her work can be found on her website.) Another woman who represents a woman like me is South Asia’s fastest woman — Naseem Hameed. A resident of a locality in Karachi populated by middle-income families, Naseem started her sporting career in school and was eventually spotted by army coaches. The rest is, as they say, history, with her winning a gold medal at the last SAF Games.

Apart from individuals, the modern Pakistani woman is also lucky to have a whole team of good rolemodels. One is referring to the Pakistan women’s national cricket team which recently won a gold medal at the Asian Games.

To me, Veena Malik’s dresses, men and stilettos don’t matter because she does not represent me. The modern Pakistani woman goes out wearing whatever she wants — baggy pants or running shoes — and carrying whatever she wants — a tote or a camera bag. The modern Pakistani woman is a success story who does not flirt with men to show to the rest of the world that she is good and has potential.

I am a modern Pakistani woman who has a job, pays her taxes and drives around town. And I don’t need a Veena Malik to represent me — not in India, not anywhere in the world.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2010.

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