Recently, I had the honor of attending a talk by Shabana Azmi on Women Empowerment along with her husband, the legendary poet and writer Javed Akhtar, here in Doha. The event was organized by Mr & Mrs Bukhari and hosted by their daughter Saima Bukhari.Shabana Azmi is not just any Bollywood actress.. She is a woman of substance. Not only has she given gripping performances in her cinematic roles as a mother, wife, lover, sex worker or even a lesbian in movies like Arth, Fire, Mandi etc, which are in itself an ode to feminist awareness. According to my husband (and he even had to chance to tell her in person at the event… how cool is that!), his first consciousness to women empowerment started with Shabana Azmi’s dialogue from the movie Arth
“Goodbye Inder” ,
where her character in the movie makes the brave choice of not accepting her cheating husband back in her life.
Shabana Azmi’s activism is not just confined to the cinema screen, she is working at the grass root level in India for empowerment of rural women through her NGO Mijwan Welfare Society. She is also the UN Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Population Fund.
The evening was an enlightening one in the presence of such amazing speakers. I am not going to give you guys a lecture on Women Empowerment but actually talk about a few things that resonated with me that evening..
The Dominance/ Power Struggle
Funnily enough, a week before this event, I got into a debate with someone regarding the “Girls are Super Heroes Too” title I used in my post on Breast Cancer Awareness. It was picture of a sign that I have in my daughter’s room.
The argument was that by adding ‘Too’, we ourselves are adding a comparative to men and setting up a first hurdle for our daughters. And my point of view on the subject was,
“Men and women are inherently different.. men better at some skills than women and vice versa.. its nature.. the way we are made. Fighting that, I feel is just overrated feminism! I am strong advocate for empowering women… but you can’t fight nature.. you can’t fight science.
In this specific case though.. Super heroes are usually associated with super ‘physical’ powers, which we all would agree that men are made to be more physically stronger…however women are much more emotionally stronger. I don’t want my daughter to feel that these powers that we women have, are any less than the physical powers.
I don’t see this as a hurdle ..its about knowing your own strengths…. and teaching them about their strengths. And it’s not just about teaching our girls.. its teaching our boys too – knowing their strengths and using that as their power.. their super power!”
And while sitting there, Shabana Azmi just validated and reinforced my belief system , when she said,
“That notion of dominance has to change and partnership is what we have to develop.”
She added that the balance can only be created when men and women work as partners.. different in their strengths but equals in sharing responsibilities.
She also pointed out what I totally believe in,
“I am not saying women are better. I am not saying they are worse. I am only saying they are different and that this very difference needs to be accommodated and celebrated. “
Women Are Known By Their Relationships
This struck an emotional chord with me. In our society, a woman is normally known as someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mother. Her own identify gets lost somewhere in these relationships. Who is She?? And this has personally bothered me a lot!
I am a trained Project Management Professional, with a Masters in Computer Sciences who worked in a leading bank in Qatar, at a key position for a number of years..Though I was my husband’s ‘Mrs.’ at that time too, people knew me as Shehar Bano Rizvi, the Programmer, the IT Project/Systems Manager, the individual. I had my own identity and this is what I missed the most when I gave up my career and chose to stay at home.
My dependence for identity is what pestered me day in and day out…. The financial dependence on my spouse didn’t trouble me as much as the dependence for identity bothered me.. And don’t take me wrong when I say this.. I am very happy and proud to be associated with my husband and my kids.. but thats not ALL what I am. I am myself, first!
And this is when I became ‘The PMP Mom’ and started the blog, for myself.. for my identity!
Every Man Should Be a 50% Man And a 50% Woman
When Shabana Azmi declared that every man should be a 50% man , a 50% woman (emotionally) and that a man should be in touch with his feminine side… I wanted to standup and tell her that I know one man like that, my husband! (lol, I later did have a candid discussion with Shabana Azmi and Javed sahab about it..)
She stressed that the solution to women empowerment is not just educating our girls or telling them their rights, but also educating our boys and to enable them to break the stereotypes that the society has made for a man and woman.. For example, a women’s place is in the kitchen while a man’s place at office..
We need to raise more sensitive boys.. they need to understand that being a man is not all about strength and muscle.. And that it’s okay to have and more importantly show emotions. Defy the stereotypes like “Men don’t cry! Its not manly thing to do”.
As we were discussing how my husband often gets emotional and gets teary eyed (actually more than me..) to which Javed sahab remarked ..
“Why do we men have tear ducts if we were not supposed to cry!”
Valid point! Who can argue with that!
The Superwoman Myth
Feminism and Women Empowerment has created the notion of the Super Woman.. A woman who multitasks and manages everything! She is a dynamic professional at work, a housekeeper at home, a culinary expert in the kitchen, an amazing mother to her kids, a perfect wife to her husband, a fitness freak who eats healthy and stays fit, looks pretty at all times with perfect hair and makeup and basically saves the world! (lol)
So let me tell you something…She DOESN’T exist!
Feminism, has added so much more to expectations for women without taking anything off the table! We are presented with so many options and we feel compelled to do all of them.. and if we are not running a bank, or cooking the perfect meal, or running the perfect home, or being a hands on mother and reading bed time stories to the kids or have the perfect BMI, or a perfect marriage, we feel we are failing… But what we need to realize is that one ordinary mortal woman cannot do all this! We feel guilty all the time because of the Super Woman Syndrome!
Now, I know what many of you might be thinking… a lot of you think or have even told me quite a few times that I am a ‘Super Mom’.. so let me tell you that it is NOT true! And I’ll tell you why in a bit..
While I was listening to Shabana Azmi saying how this Super Woman image adds pressure to what a modern woman is already dealing with.. I felt guilty thinking.. Am I doing that through my blog? Am I creating a Super Mom image which makes other women feel less capable.. So I decided to put myself out there and show you the ‘other’ side of me as well.. which will make you believe that I am just a woman like everyone….with some strengths and some weaknesses…
So here is the secret.. I am not doing this all by myself.. I have a support system that works with me and enables me to do what I am doing..
My husband being the biggest support.. He is the most hands on dad, I have ever seen! And you will understand the extent of being a hands on Dad, when I tell you that I have never bathed my newborns.. I was always too scared to manage a tiny baby in the water.. He DID that, while I was there to help him and hand him things.. and just panic that the baby will slip or he will break her tiny arm or something! (LOL!).
Though when I had my first child, I willingly left my career to be a stay at home mum, I have always struggled with the identity issue (that I mentioned above), to the point that I got depressed… clinically depressed! ( I am no Super Woman, you see! I have my own weaknesses…And I very much feel the need to write a detailed post on mental health and the associated taboo in our society). But my husband always encouraged me to do something ‘more’ with my life. Not because, he thought I wasn’t doing enough but because he saw that I was not happy with what I was doing.. there was something still missing in my life.. something very important to ME. He always understood and encouraged my need for doing something, for the satisfaction of my soul whether it be the Cake Decorating Business, Photography,Painting, throwing elaborate Theme Parties, or the blog!
We have always worked as a team, and that is the biggest reason why you see me doing so much stuff! It’s all about team work.. So even if you don’t make your kids costumes yourself or cook every day.. I believe every parent is a Super hero .. because..
Parents are the reason, Why we are …What we are!
I also have a live in nanny, who helps me with the day to day chores in the house and with the kids. I can’t call my self a completely hands-on mother because I DON’T DO EVERYTHING for my kids myself! She does a whole lot of things but what I do is that I prioritize the things that are important for the kids to do with a parent rather than the nanny. So I focus on the quality time rather than the quantity of time with them. Blogging works perfectly for me because I write once they are asleep( which is by 7 pm). I then work for 4-5 hours till late night.
I have heard people say stuff like, “Oh, she throws great theme parties, but her kids get neglected in all these things”. (Yes! I have actually heard that!) . What people don’t understand is that I am a trained Project Manager.. I plan, prioritize and delegate stuff (I do some things myself too! :)). It’s a skill that I use to the best of my capacity, to help me manage being a wife, mother and being myself! And that is the one thing that I feel is very important to have as a woman.. and hence the blog!
What I wanted to do through this blog is NOT to make you all think that I am a Super woman, but actually empowering woman with what I have learnt, be it the recipes or the tutorials for DIY projects.. transferring my knowledge and skills to others.. Of course it also depends on if u are interested in cooking or DIY-ing or have the time to do it! I bet, if I was still working as a Project Manager at the bank, I would have probably transferred this knowledge to my nanny and would have delegated a lot more to her (LOL!), or would probably have bought costumes rather than making them….
Its all is about WHAT YOU WANT TO DO! Your choice.. you DON’T HAVE to do everything that others are doing. Find what makes you happy and do that! And all I am trying to do is trying to help by sharing what I know…
My doctor once told me when I was fighting depression, and felt guilty for doing something for myself when I should be with my child,
Your child doesn’t want a mother all the time around him.. what he needs is a HAPPY mother around him!
Follow your dreams …do what makes you happy… but remember
- Don’t compare yourself with others or be compelled do what they are doing..Everyone is unique in their own way and their capabilities and weaknesses. Find your own happy place!
- Plan, prioritize & delegate, because even the ‘so called’ Super woman can’t do it all by herself!
Behind every Super Woman, there is another Super (Man/Woman)! No one can do it all by themselves!
And I have my Mr. Incredible behind me.. If you don’t know why I call him that.. Read here..
Have a great day!