Live Show Reham Khan Pakistan Mein Koi Aadmi Mere Qabil Nahi Must Watch
Who?’ I asked, excitedly, wondering which eligible man she was referring to, given a single woman in India, in her mid-30s is so damn unlikely to find a ‘single’ man who has never been married or isn’t a divorcee with kids. Or a married man with kids, looking for fun on the side, sans the quintessential strings.
‘Imran Khan, silly,’ she gushed, cutting me short, adding animatedly, ‘he’s called it quits with his wife Reham Khan, former BBC presenter barely 10 months after they wed.’
‘She wanted to get involved with politics and that is not what Imran wanted at all. She just did not want to sit at home. There were teething problems as well over other issues which were being resolved but this was a major issue – she wanted to foray into politics and was not ready to back down. I read in the Dawn. Successful men can’t handle successful women… remember that line. So true, right?’
While I admit to nursing the biggest adolescent crush on Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician, my friend’s sweeping summarization about our sexual inequality made me uneasy.
Though I remembered how the couple’s nuptials in January at his hilltop villa near Islamabad had indeed sparked off widespread surprise and speculation in Pakistan, Khan’s private life always under scrutiny, especially after his earlier marriage to Jemima Goldsmith, with whom he had two sons ended unceremoniously.
International media connected the reasons for his latest split to Reham’s ambition, with The Guardian reporting Khan had been criticized for his decision to remarry just weeks after the merciless Taliban massacre of more than 130 school children in Peshawar.
Some conservatives allegedly also objected to archival videos of Reham Khan’s career presenting BBC South Today that featured her cooking pork sausages at a country fair.
Members of Imran Khan’s family had also expressed their clear disapproval by shying away from the marriage ceremony. There was also a lot of restlessness within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) about her involvement in politics after she helped campaign in a bi-election the party lost.
The controversy prompted Imran Khan to publicly announce that his wife would be given no role within the PTI nor allowed to attend party functions, “nor will [she] be given any official protocol”.
If a man as suave and as sophisticated as Imran Khan can buckle to the pressure of having a woman who’s much more than mere eye candy – who dreams of owning her own business or being in frontline news or soar in her career– can we even imagine the innate conservativeness and patriarchy that most career women have to battle.
The bedroom is their biggest battleground, not the boardroom, as we’d perhaps imagine it to be. Why are we always stereotyping the battle of the sexes into a power game, where someone must dominate, where subordination is critical, where there is just one winner? Does the phrase, ‘dumb blonde’ originate in this deduction that the smarter a woman is, the greater the likelihood of her remaining single?
In an article in The Wire, noted financial reporter John Carney lends an explanation for this phenomenon, claiming “successful men date less successful women not because they want ‘women to be dumb,’ but rather because they want ‘someone who prioritizes their life in a way that’s compatible with how you prioritize yours.’”
In 2002, Sylvia Ann Hewlett showcased a study of high-achieving women who weren’t marrying or bearing children at the same rates as other women. In Creating a Life, she deducted, “Nowadays, the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child.”
She argued that high-achieving women who were still single at age 30 had a less than 10% chance of ever marrying.
Barely, three years later, Maureen Dowd blamed her own single life on her career achievements. In her 2005 book Are Men Necessary?, Dowd informed readers that she belonged to a family of Irish maids and housekeepers.
Currently in her 50s, she wrote, “I was always so proud of achieving more — succeeding in a high-powered career that would have been closed to my great-aunts. How odd, then, to find out now that being a maid would have enhanced my chances with men.”
Is the potency of the male ego threatened by a woman with a mind? A woman who refuses to allow her womb to seal her fate, who wants more than motherhood and a credit card or a man standing guard at the cramped entrance of a trial room? Who will nurse zero guilt when she comes home late? Or tells her husband to take a day off and attend a PTA meeting? Or won’t perform Karwa Chauth to please her mom-on-law?
In 2004, researchers at the University of Michigan published a study in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, that found that the men in their sample would prefer to marry a woman whom they considered to be a subordinate, rather than a woman they considered to be a superior or a peer.
This created a media furor internationally: “Powerful Male Looking for Maid to Marry,” “Glass Ceilings at the Altar as Well as the Boardroom,” “They’re Too Smart for These Guys” screamed headlines.
What about India where a woman is raped every 20 minutes? Where ‘honour killings’ are ordered and per hour a woman is sacrificed for dowry-related reasons? Where our sex ratio is horribly skewed? Can we ever hope to win?
Will popular culture and commercials do to us what centuries of being domesticated have – reduce us to rubber stamps? Caricatures who, like in the Kellogs Two Weeks Weight Loss Challenge ad, need male validation by losing weight, so that they fit into some old wedding lehenga?
A woman who is measured by her fine lines and wrinkles and stretch marks? Who nags her husband for Diwali jewellery shopping? Whose children are her only yardstick of personal success? Whose sacrifice rests on fasting and self-deprivation? Who remain a statistic – a faceless gender binary.