“Oh God, what is wrong with this woman. Why is she dressed like a bride? That’s not how a 50-plus woman should dress up.”
“Oh look, she is stealing the bride’s thunder. Poor girl.”
I woke up to 'women-shouldn’t-dress-up-the-way-they-want-to-O-Clock' on Twitter. I was witnessing a Twitter meltdown in a country where the sitting Prime Minister, Imran Khan, was primarily chosen by the people (or we pretend he was chosen to maintain some semblance of democracy) based on his looks. I am not exaggerating. If it were possible for his supporters, they would have gotten plastic surgery to look like him.
The meltdown by the “wish Imran Khan was our dad” brigade was against Imran Khan’s rival politician and daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz. Maryam’s pictures went viral from her son’s pre-wedding ceremonies, where she dazzled in desi dresses, including lehnga, saari, shalwar qameez, and more. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that she maintained her usual elegance in every outfit she wore. And every outfit added fuel to the fire as trolls passionately charged their phones and keyboards to teach Maryam Nawaz a lesson for choosing to dress up the way she wants to – " How dare you?"
'You Are a Woman, How Dare You?'
Maryam Nawaz’s positioning in the political sphere is very unique. Where she challenges the establishment with her fiery speeches, she unapologetically maintains a very elegant fashion sense. You will often see women asking around about the brand Maryam wore at a particular press conference. And of course, you will also see a lot of people looking up the prices of the items Maryam wears and then scream “she bought it with my tax money”, only to find out that the screaming person is only 18-years-old or jobless, hence paying no tax.
Maryam Nawaz’s fashion sense and her choice of brands have irked people so much that you would see her outfits, shoes, and the size of her wrist being discussed by journalists as well. Historically speaking, I remember seeing the late Benazir Bhutto in very plain yet stylish outfits. As an unwritten rule in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, everyone finds Islam in a woman’s dupatta.
So, a woman in public eye will have to cover her head to gain the respect of people. But oh well.
This unwritten rule has been followed by both Benazir and Maryam. But despite that, they both were dragged through the mud by the patriarchal and misogynist society at every given point.
In a society that defined its morals based solely on how a woman behaves, a plain or fancy fabric is never a core issue. The only issue is that Benazir and Maryam Nawaz are women. Their gender is the problem. I mean, come on, “You are a woman. How dare you?”
How Social Media Swooned Over Imran Khan
Now that Maryam Nawaz went all out at her son’s wedding, it has become national priority to ensure that she comes back to her senses and dresses like a haggard old woman, because that’s what modest women do at her “age”. I cannot imagine repeating the kind of vile comments that were thrown at Maryam Nawaz. From sexist, misogynist comments to age shaming, Maryam Nawaz has become a national shame for those who go “all praise to Allah for this view” when Prime Minister Imran Khan casually stretches his legs. From “Maryam got her surgery done with my tax money” to “isn’t she a grandmom?”, I have seen it all. These are the very same people who drooled when they saw Imran Khan’s sweaty picture in August where you don’t even want to get close to Brad Pitt because of the humidity.
Maryam Nawaz’s 'Outfits Gate' reached its peak when people said, “No one should steal a bride’s thunder. Absolutely no one." Even a staunch believer of “marriage is like a mini-hell you experience before going to actual hell” like myself has been swayed by the idea of a wedding function because of all the attention the bride gets. I mean, who doesn’t like attention? This was a typical attempt at pitting two women against each other. The people sympathised with Maryam’s daughter-in-law because of how Maryam has been the center of attention. Poor girl, she had only 100 cameras on her at the stage!
Maryam Nawaz’s 'Outfits Gate' has yet again taught me one thing. It is never about the fabric, it is always about the gender.
The sitting Prime Minister is still celebrated for being the playboy of his time but a woman politician enjoying her son’s wedding has somehow rattled the country.
The sitting Prime Minister who hasn’t been too lucky in his marital life is given leverage by saying “it’s his personal life”. However, Maryam Nawaz enjoying her son’s wedding by dressing up is being accused of “stealing thunder”. The sitting Prime Minister took a jibe at Maryam for being a naani (grandmother), and now Maryam Nawaz is being mocked for being a naani who isn’t dressed appropriately. You see a pattern here, don’t you? It’s her gender, it’s not the fabric.
A National 'Emotional' Turmoil
A happy, independent, strong, and vocal woman is a hard pill to swallow. In a deeply misogynistic society, a happy woman dressed in vibrant colors not having a care for the world is threatening. How dare she continue to do what she desires? How dare she not conform to the so-called dressing-up rules of the '40s or '50s? How dare Maryam look younger than Imran Khan?
While Maryam Nawaz continues to dazzle in wedding ceremonies, we are witnessing national emotional turmoil with no relief in sight. No rest for the wicked till Maryam Nawaz is seen in the outfit of the nation’s choice.
PS: I insist on using Maryam Nawaz’s full name because it triggers all the men – she chose not to use her husband’s name post-marriage.
(The author is a columnist and media professional. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)