The importance of Benazir’s glamour: reconciling beauty and wit

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We all grow up in a patriarchal world; girls are the ones that get the brunt of it. We are boxed and oppressed; many are second class citizens in their own homes and some slightly more fortunate ones face this via media and society. These same girls grow up to be complex women, brave women, women of courage, insecurities and suppression. As Adichie puts it best, “they grow up to be women who have turned pretence into an art form”. Now in times of war, those affected by said war or in the battlefield look for constant influence, for larger than life personalities to aspire to, to serve as symbols of hope, of betterment.

Women – especially from where I come from – are at war against patriarchy. This war is cold and complex; it manages to make itself obvious to the insensitive and/or the privileged, but requires courage for acknowledgement. And thus there are two expected reactions: 1. burying your head and claiming all those putting up arms in resistance are denigrating the system due to personal agendas – this case is usually the case of the privileged women of our society (e.g. a famous pop star recently) 2. being on a constant look out for women who got the best out of this patriarchy – this is where feminists and one woman armies are born.

I, thankfully, belong to the militant wing. And thus have always been on the lookout for women of high calibre, who managed to smash fragile yet gargantuan patriarchal windows. One such was the late Benazir Bhutto, who would have turned 62, on Sunday. (This post has nothing to do with political differences)

Imagine these scenarios for little girls growing up in a patriarchal world:

Scenario #1: We see beautiful women and are soon enough told she: a) will find a good, wealthy husband b) will provide said good husband beautiful kids c) can work in the entertainment industry easily; a woman’s beauty is turned into a commodity for us, only there to benefit men.

Scenario #2: We see an independent woman who loves dressing up and is told: a) “women who dress up and apply makeup for everyone to see except her husband will have all their beauty and noor taken away by Allah” b) she must be dressing up to impress a man c) any woman not dressing up for her husband is of low character and will go to hell for it; we are discouraged from adding color to our lives if it isn’t for our lord and saviour husband.

Scenario# 3: We see a woman who is very simple and ordinary looking is told she: a) will never find a good husband because she is not impressive b) no one wants to look at her c) some boy broke her heart so she’s lost all the color in life

Scenario #4: We see an intelligent and determined woman and she is told: a) she is working towards a better husband b) no man will ever want to marry such an educated and ambitious woman c) such women don’t have time for kids and are thus useless

Our lives revolve around men, whether we like it or not. The complexities of these women are never brought to mind. These women are only to be looked at and commented on: products. Our ambitions must stop at good husbands. We must look good but only as products.

I loved looking at Benazir Bhutto’s pictures as a kid; I now understand why. She represented all of these women; at different times and at once. Look:

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Like countless other girls, I too had trouble reconciling beauty, femininity with bravery, intelligence and politics. Benazir Bhutto’s glamour helped me through that barrier, the site of a thin woman, clad in lipstick, fashionable clothes, intelligence and conviction addressing masses at the top of her voice was certainly empowering. And I am thankful for that. I am at ease and don’t feel like I’m falsely advertising when I wear my jhumkas and debate metaphysics. So don all you want or not, ladies, you are an entire complex self and you can exploit each aspect of it as you like. Being fashionable is not the antithesis to being a nerd, neither is simplicity a synonym for dull. Be all of who you are. I will proceed to continue a life in which books, political activism and dressing up are indulgences. Here’s to lipstick.

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