What women want

It would be amusing if it weren’t so inefficient and downright derisive.

At the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, the extent of bifurcation of passengers seems to be on the basis of gender. This is why, before I could even make it to the check-in counter, I had to wait in line a full 20 minutes to go through the first security check. Apparently in the imagination of the officials at AIIA, women cannot be travelling in a hurry and with only hand luggage. They must always be accompanied by children, if not a husband who can stand in the men’s line, and always have a trolley full of luggage as if they are going on holiday.

Since I had gotten to the airport 45 minutes before my flight, I was quite panicked. But my trip was a short one and I had only one trolley-bag, so I figured that I could take the liberty of walking in less than an hour to my flight and would still be there in time. It stands to reason then that as I walked in the domestic departures gate, I chose the short and relatively fast moving line.

“The line for the ladiss is that one,” a porter tells me.

What?! Why would I want to stand in the longer line JUST because I was one of the “ladiss“. Too harried to argue, I switched lines. There were four women with full trolleys waiting in line before me. I tried to calm myself down, all the while looking at my watch. Then, one of the women started putting her luggage onto the belt – it was obvious to everyone that the width of her luggage was longer than that of the belt. Not to her though, it seemed, as she first put it width-wise, then tried to figure out why it wouldn’t move. Finally, with the help of the same porter who had directed me to stand in the women’s line, the suitcase was put properly and the process resumed.

It was then that I realized I would never be able to make it in time if I waited for this line to move. I went back to the “men’s line”.

This time it was an official who informed me of my place. “Mujhe jaldi hai, udhar bohot time lag raha hai,” I told him, defiantly.

Nahin ji wahin kharay hona paray ga.” Some of the men in the line snickered.

Ek to mera bag hai yaar. Aur itnay maslay kar rahe hain aap,” I told the official. This time, I couldn’t help myself any longer and had to tell them off. Eventually, I was told to cut the line and put my luggage before another waiting woman.

That’s something I never like to do. If there is a line, you stand and wait not cut it off like it’s your birthright to. But, this time, I really had no choice and had to do it.

To the men who will read this blog and argue that women get the privilege of “cutting lines” just because they are women, I say I am a woman and I do not like cutting lines. I do not think I deserve any extra privilege or treatment on the basis of my gender (which is not the same as chivalry, though, and I don’t have much to say about that). But when members of our society, men or women, make it difficult for women to get the same kind of treatment as men, I think it is only fair that women play the game by the society’s rules and win it.

That’s the reason I cut the line – because a man in the men’s line whose flight was the same as mine and who had hand luggage did not have to wait 20 minutes like me as if his time was more precious than mine. To me, this is symbolic of deeply-entrenched dismissive attitudes towards women – oh hey, they can wait, it’s not like they have to be somewhere important.

These attitudes need to change, especially in public places. Women are increasingly juggling with high-powered careers and, if anything, they require additional support from public infrastructure. If you can’t provide us that, at least don’t make us battle against a regressive attitude that still considers us inferior in some form to men. In the big picture, it is the small things that matter the most.

P.S.: Spotted at the Lahore airport – a separate counter for parliamentarians, whether or not they are travelling.

Parliamentarians counter at Lahore airport


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