Judgment’ is a powerful word. Unfortunately, it is not restricted to the courts to give out judgments; we constantly judge others. Sadly, in our male dominated society women are judged critically. They are judged for the basic decisions of their lives, be it educational choices, what they choose to wear, how they look, relationship status, work etc. It is like the society has a moral compass for women to be labeled as good only if they follow a certain code of ethics or lifestyle.
A decision of a woman who chooses to work invites abundance of opinions. When we specifically speak about the women who work in media, it would not be incorrect to say that they are highly criticised by the masses. Women in media can face a lot of harsh judgments that men don't, including criticisms of clothing, body shape, and if they choose to live independently. These women are hardworking, be it on-screen or off- screen. They put their sweat and blood in what they do yet the mass perception we often hear about them is negative. Why is there this stigma attached to this field? Why are women in media are not being judged based on their potential? In this regard, You! talks to a few media women who share their thoughts and problems with our readers…
Photographer, Producer & Manager
Ghania Asad initially started working as a photographer in the media industry while she was studying film and TV. She has been working in the industry for the last ten years now and has worked her way up sincerely through hard work and dedication. Reminiscing about her early days when she started photography, she shares, “I started photography because I was good at it and I liked it. It also helped in paying for my studies. I used to cover events, weddings and corporate events for media. My work timings were odd. I came home late and we did not have Careem service back then. I remember being constantly judged for coming home late, for choosing a field that is not for ‘women’. Sometimes when I was working with corporates, they use to get me dropped or picked from home. I even heard someone judging me for the amount of ‘different cars’ waiting in front of my apartment. My family used to tell me that someone commented my dressing was not so appropriate and how I was going out a lot and meeting people. There was a lot of stigma attached to the field I chose for myself. Though I was always sure that I belong here, I couldn’t take the pressure of being judged constantly and had to give in.”
“When I used to tell people that I am a producer, or working as a photographer, they would say ‘okay but what else do you do?’ People didn’t accept or take this field seriously since I was a girl,” she adds.
Now Ghania Asad is a PR specialist, manages celebrities, and works as a marketing manager, “Things have changed, and things have gotten better over time, but still for women it is a huge struggle to sustain in this field. We have to constantly prove and fight for ourselves. Comparatively it is easier for men to make space in the industry. I achieved a lot and I am grateful but I think I can perform and do better if we diminish the amount of social pressures and judgments based on gender,” suggests Asad.
Misbah Ishaq Khalid has been associated with the media industry for over 30 years now. She started her career when she was only 16 years old. Along with several other plays, two of the most notable ones were ‘Ankahi’ and ‘Shaheen’. She also hosted the famous programme ‘Darakshaan’ while she was still studying. Later, she started working as a director and has over 100 plays to her credit. Misbah Ishaq’s contribution towards the media industry is enormous and she has played a huge role in developing the drama industry.
Speaking about working in media, she elucidates, “Women really have to work hard to make a place for themselves. When I did my first role in ‘Afshan’, I replaced another girl, I felt bad about it but I had to prove to my teacher that I could act as she thought I couldn’t. The role was not big but it was huge for me considering I was a college girl. I still remember walking into the control room and falling in love with the environment of the place. I knew I wanted to be a director and that is how my career began. I think there are more difficulties for women in media today than it was back then. Being the niece of Khalid Ishaq, a known religious scholar and lawyer, I felt protected and always respected. I never directly faced the kind of judgment or negativity women face now. As a director, when I call for the first day on shoot, I gather my team and strictly warn them that if someone dares to harass, say something bad, misbehave with any of the girls in my project, they will have to answer me. So everyone in my crew and team knows that there is a strong woman behind these girls and I think it is our duty on such responsible positions to protect girls.
“Times have changed and you hear horror stories about what girls have to go through in order to survive in the field. I would say to all directors and everyone in the industry to bring talent forward based on merit. Many women in the industry step out of their homes to earn, and it is our duty to protect them. In our society, it is important for us to teach men from an early age how to respect women, because I see a lack of respect for them here. I don’t allow anyone to swear on my sets. Just because a woman needs work, it doesn’t mean she has no morals and she will go to any extent. If you are a woman, you are constantly under a microscope, you will be judged for everything. I think we need to start teaching our boys to respect women and that’s where the change will begin,” advocates Khalid.
Journalist, Writer & Anchor
Tanzeela Mazhar is a journalist, writer, anchor and Co-founder of ‘Women In Media Alliance’. She has been a courageous woman and has also reported harassment faced in the industry. Addressing the issue of judgment she comments, “In our society, contributions of working women are not appreciated by and large. When we talk specifically about media, I would say yes I have faced this culture of judgment and I have seen my fellow colleagues experienced it as well. Our society is quick to tag working women as clever. If they choose to work, it is viewed as being running away from household responsibilities. It is also believed that working women cannot have successful domestic lives. If you look at our dramas, our shows and topics on TV, you will unfortunately find the same pattern of opinion and depiction for the working women.”
Mazhar finds it very upsetting to criticise women based on what they wear and how they look. “Whenever there is a political or a serious issue at hand, women are mostly going to get judged for their looks. They are not discussed for their talent, hard work, success, abilities and accomplishments. The discourse is mostly about if she is pretty or not, outspoken or shy, etc. This debate is a part of the industry as well as the public. The society does not want to acknowledge the contribution of women to the economic structure as it will lead women to asking for their equal rights in household and outside,” she observes.
Anchor & Journalist
“I have been working in the media for more than a decade now, and have had a chance to work in the UK and Pakistan, so I can decipher the difference between an established working environment and a mushrooming one. During my time in Pakistani media, I have witnessed a gradual but persistent progression of things with a better acceptability of working women, and that in media too.
“I think you make your own way and your initial days are very important when you manage and deal with all sorts of criticism but you stay focused and steadfast. While many are there to push you down, there will be noble and saner people who help you out too.”
When we talk of entertainment industry, we see a lot of actresses are being judged too. To this end actress Amar Khan explains, “Most of the time people misuse the expression freedom of speech. People don’t understand that having the right to comment doesn’t mean that they should scrutinise, troll, hurl cheap slangs and bring others down. I think it is strongly prevalent in the entertainment industry because they no longer consider actors to be human beings, they consider them to be public figures only. People forget that actors (people in media) also have families, lead normal lives like any other normal person. People feel they have the right to curse or comment on any aspect of the actor’s life”.
While elaborating her point, Khan says, “After Esra’s drama ‘Ertrugrul’ aired in Pakistan, people went to her profile to abuse her for dressing in a certain way and not how she was seen in that drama. It’s so sad how an actress is being targeted on wearing a certain type of clothing that too not from our Pakistani industry.”
According to Khan, the amount of scrutiny and judgments actresses face has no limits. “Actresses are not even spared when they take a leave to perform religious obligations. I am shocked that even then people don’t refrain from judging them. Instead of appreciating any one’s good deeds, all we see is bashing on social media. We have become the worst versions of ourselves while judging others. We have stooped down to a really low level,” laments Khan.