Media Malika-e-Jazbaatis

Knowing that Sana Bucha is one of my favourite TV anchors, my mother sent me a link to Maheen Ghani’s interview with Sana Bucha for Newsline Magazine. As a young woman who aspires to have an impact on the world, I see her as something of a role model. Yes, I read the fashion and entertainment news also, but what inspires me about Sana is that she reports on serious topics and does not allow herself to be limited by gender stereotypes. I was excited to read the interview, but while I was reading it, my heart sank. Not because of what Sana said, but because of what Maheen asked.

Sana did a great job of explaining that professional and successful women are not some Western creation, either, but come from all parts of society. She also explained that just because talk shows were mostly hosted by men, she did not accept that it was out of her reach to be a successful host herself only because she is a woman.

I have never really thought ‘I’m not a man, therefore, I can’t do something.’ Actually, in our society, there are many fields more dominated by women than men. There is a perception, for example, that modelling is a women’s profession, not a man’s.

As I said, the interview was inspiring me. But then the question came that made my heart sink.

Q: You have covered some extremely emotional stories like the one on the Sialkot lynching. Being a woman anchor, was it difficult for you to hold your emotions in check or did you manage to keep your cool?

Being a woman anchor…? Why would it be any more difficult for a woman anchor to hold back her emotions or manage to keep her cool than a man anchor? In the midst of an inspiring interview about how women can break down the barriers of sexism, up comes an age old sexist stereotype that women are “emotional” and can’t keep their cool in difficult situations. It’s not just women, however, who sometimes let their emotions get the better of them. Actually, looking at high profile journalists, is it really the women who lose their cool?

Since Twitter has gained popularity, many high profile journalists have joined and use the social media site daily. These guys have filled their Twitter feeds with petty gossips, insults, and emotional rants. Following some of our more prominent men TV anchors on Twitter is like having a never ending live feed of a Star Plus drama. Seriously, some moustaches will never be full enough to fully hide the phappay kutnis underneath.

Meanwhile, woman journalists on Twitter like Sana Bucha and Ayesha Tammy Haq have Twitter feeds that are informative. Where some of the men are re-Tweeting trolls and other juvenile insults, the women are debating and educating. Isn’t that what journalism is supposed to be about?

And it’s not just Twitter, either. Watch a few episodes of some of the talk shows hosted by men and see how often they turn into emotional shouting matches. Maybe we should be asking why these men cannot control themselves and behave in a professional way.

Thankfully, after the question about whether Sana could control her emotions, the interview got back to important questions about journalism and the struggles of a woman in a field dominated by men. Women have a lot to contribute to whatever career we choose, but we still have a lot of stereotypes to overcome while we do it. Thankfully, young women like myself have role models like Sana Bucha who refuse to be intimidated by these stereotypes.

Focus on Politics, Not Pearls

SM Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar

On July 27th, Pakistan’s groundbreaking Foreign Minister, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, met her Indian counterpart Mr. SM Krishna. FM Khar traveled to Delhi, and the talks covered a wide variety of topics. The meeting concluded with “small but significant concessions to ease tensions in the disputed border region of Kashmir and pledging to work toward closer ties between their mutually wary, nuclear-armed countries.”

Both countries firmly stated their desire to carry on with the meetings in the wake of the tragic Mumbai bombings just a couple of weeks ago. Both sides ignored the extreme right-wingers in their respective countries, and pushed forward a peace-oriented agenda. It was, as FM Khar said “a new era in bilateral cooperation.”

But unless you were reading international coverage of this momentous visit, you missed it. South Asian media outlets (both in Pakistan and India) gave their audiences two options:

1. Either they were heavily dissecting Ms. Khar’s fashion (from her bag, to her sunglasses, to the pearl necklace she wore in Delhi, nothing was ignored) or

2. Pundits mocked Ms. Khar’s qualifications, in thinly-veiled commentary meant to paint her appointment as Foreign Minister as a joke

It’s really stunning that this is what the high-level talks were turned into in the media. Trivialization or outright sexism…pick your poison, folks!

Ms. Khar has an accomplished political career. She was elected to the National Assembly in 2002 on the PML-Q ticket, and ran in 2008 after switching to the Pakistan People’s Party. In the 2008 election, she won with an overwhelming 84,000 votes. She has served as State Minister for Economic Affairs and Statistics in 2009. Most notably, she has served as Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs since February 2011.

Where were her critics in 2008, 2009, and in February of this year? This only leads me to believe these comments are nothing but nasty remarks made regarding a clearly capable woman by certain green-eyed people.

As far as the comments about her fashion, Ms. Khar herself took on the issue. “You don’t want the attention to focus on the frivolous,” she said. “A guy in my place would never get such attention; nobody would be talking about his suit. I refuse to be apologetic about it; I will continue to be who I am.”

Ms. Khar, who has represented a conservative constituency, has risen to the country’s top diplomatic role. Her duty is to represent Pakistan on a global scale, and criticism should focus on the work that she does in that role. Anything else is at best, superficial and at worst, undermines her as a Minister.

She says she would like Pakistan-India relations to get to the point “where if an issue comes up, I should be able to pick up the phone and say, ‘this really isn’t working. And he (Mr. Krishna) agreed.”

For too long, women in Pakistan have been taught the earth is flat, and if they venture too far, they will fall off the edge. Whatever it is that drives Ms. Khar’s critics to sexist commentary must end. After all, Ms. Khar will work on improving relations not just with India, but with the entire world. Surely they can fill the newspaper inches with some of that, right?