Being a Lady 101: Don’t sit like that, don’t wear makeup, don’t play sports

Published: September 24, 2016

Sit a certain way, be feminine, don’t talk loudly. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

In our part of the world, our society comes equipped with a ‘sorting hat’ of sorts. When a girl is born, the hat is placed on her head and she is given an instant identity of a daughter, niece or a sister. As she grows older the identity keeps evolving; she becomes a wife, a mother, a grandmother and then she dies.

Of course men are also handed the same titles too, a son, a brother, a husband etc. However in more cases than not, it is not what gives them their identity. An alcoholic husband who beats his wife will still be admired and looked up to for being the Vice President of a big company. Most commonly, his success is what he is associated with.

The woman on the other hand, will still continue to be known by her biological relation to others. To put it in even simpler terms, Sadaf Aziz may own a large multinational company, but her identity will remain “Aziz mia ki begum.”

Even if she wins a gold medal at the Olympics, chances are that people might still know through her husband. Ring any bells?

With this in mind, women start to conform to what is expected of them from the ‘society.’ They lose their individuality and start behaving and acting the way they are expected to by others.

Sit a certain way, be feminine, don’t talk loudly, hair should be tied, don’t laugh loudly, women don’t play rough sports, you should not have short hair, you should wax, mothers should not work, you can’t go there, wear makeup, don’t wear makeup, and so on and so forth.

Pakistani advertisement recently tried to tackle that and created an ad starring regular students encouraging others to “do your own thing.” They took to the streets of Anarkali wearing fashionable clothes while strangers watched. It was about owning your space and the discomfort was quite apparent. It did not go down too well with many and the girls ended up getting so many threats, they had to eventually take down the ad completely.

And now H&M has come up with a new ad to subtly fight the stereotypes on what a lady should be.

An ad to subtly fight the stereotypes on what a lady should be.
Photo: Screenshot

She’s a lady plays in the background featuring a curvy woman comfortable in her own skin, a woman dressed in ‘manly clothes’ and a woman laughing with completely out-of-control hair dining with her friends. They are dark skinned, light skinned and of all shapes and sizes too.

It features a woman with more toned muscles than most of our heroes, a woman who sits and eats fries in bed and one with no hair on her head. Literally.

A woman with more toned muscles than most of our heroes.
Photo: Screenshot

An especially striking one illustrates a woman who confidently walks into a boardroom, with a file in hand, full of people waiting for her to start a meeting.

A woman confidently walks into a boardroom, with a file in hand, full of people waiting for her to start a meeting.
Photo: Sreenshot

The ad even stars a transgender. People, who, we are finally starting to realise, do really exist in our part of the world.

Womanhood encompasses a lot more than one believes.

While we, in Pakistan, may not be able to relate to the ad 100%, we can still take something away from it, in the least that we are all individuals and we can be ourselves while still keeping the role that the sorting hat put us into.

A great mother can also confidently lead a huge company. A loving wife can prefer to not be dressed in dainty clothes all the time. A grandmother can sing and dance to karaoke. A single girl might become a cartoonist or heck, even a boxer.

“A lady can be anything she wants. She can look any way she wants. She is whatever she wants to be.”

Shamila Ghyas

Shamila Ghyas

The writer is the author of the Aoife and Demon series. She also writes for Khabaristan Times, The Nation, Express Tribune, Dawn and other publications. She can be reached at @ShamilaGhyas ( and

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Xahid

    Being a Lady, just be a lady, don’t compare yourself with Gentlemen,Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Just remove religion from Pakistan’s constitution and these concerns would wither away within 10 years.



  • Arsha

    She is not comparing. She just wants to be herself and do her own thing without society, parents, siblings continuously telling her she cannot and should not do this and that – should not speak loudly, should not play sports outside, should not smile too much in public, should not laugh in abandon, should not fall in love, should not go to theater alone, should tone down her ambitions, and it goes on and on.Recommend

  • MR.X

    Your both associated with each other(spouses)..writer should get a life and find a better topic..Its funny doing manly things is considered to be success to these women..She says “Dresses manly”.. You are in a complex if you really want your own identity then start acting like a lady not a man…Recommend

  • sher khan

    Men works, sometimes without breaks. if he keeps saying that he want to do his own things, how can he earn the livelihood and feed his family. Women empowerment = fantasy and materialistic world without responsibility and roleRecommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    oh give us a break already.

    is any one else getting tired of these blogs about women being the victims every goddamn day? Its getting ridiculous. Especially seeing it come from these elitist upper class women that are literally untouchable from all socio economic issues affect the citizens of this country. And if someone did take the effort to teach you something about etiquettes and manners in public, then what’s the bid deal? Either put up a fight with that person and show your stubbornness or admit your mistake. why do you liberal fascists have to come online and ruin blog reading experience of us casual web surfers who simply want to read and enjoy a good piece of writing.

    On another note, list of incidents where elitist PAKISTANI WOMEN are the oppressors and MEN are the victims yet NO ONE dare say a single word:

    – the time you told your MALE child labor to take care of your baby because you are too busy attending stupid social tea parties
    – that time you went to an expensive dine in restaurant and brought your MALE child labor with you but warned him that he’s only there to be a server and wont be getting any food
    -that time you told your MALE driver to take a u turn all the way from liberty chowk, gave him a headache from all that traffic, just your highness could arrive at her favorite sana safinaz shop right at the front door without having to go through the inconvenience of maybe walking about 50m?
    -that time you got into an accident but got your MALE driver to go through hell for you
    -that time you harshly told that male employee at the local grocery shop to pick up your 15+ bags and gave NO TIP even though no where else in the world does this ridiculous female chauvinist system exists and neither are you entitled to just calling a random MAN to carry your bags for you.
    Women in USA, UK, etc do their frigging groceries themselves and dont order their MALE slaves to do that job for them. oh that’s right, maybe because the women in civilized world have a sense of human rights and thats why concept of slavery does not exist…and the list goes ON and ON and ON and ON!!

    Did it ever occur to you that these people are human beings and not just sent from god as genies in disguise to fulfill your every command? show some respect

    It’s time pakistani women STOP whining and complaining about their so called oppressed lifestyles and start looking within themselves about the horrific human rights abuse they casually perform in this country against the opposite every god damn day.

    Im a pakistani woman and I stand up for the rights of our MALE maids, drivers, lawn mowers, maali, dhoban, chefs, security guards etc etc.Recommend

  • Xahid

    So, she is sharing her “Persona life” with Public, and asking for opinions ?
    in other critic words, she is telling her family “Go to Hell” ?Recommend

  • MR.X

    Most women are actually living in disneyland waiting for prince charmingRecommend

  • MR.X

    well done my sister..finally someone said it..Elite women treat men as slaves…And in media its even considered fashionable when men say ‘meri to yeh boss hai’ ..they laugh it off..imagine if a man said this, they would call him misogynist,disgusting etc….These bloggers try to blame everything on men..And it angers us a and other males discuss these things and most agree that media downplays men..Recommend

  • farhan

    these feminist writers dont talk about men ,who die 90% of the times in industrials accidents, in mining, in oil rigs etc..and the list goes on…send women to these areas just to see as they say how easy men have all things..there are advantages and disadvantages of each gender…women want all the advantages of being a men,none of the disadvantages..Recommend

  • farhan

    your an angel or unicorn.. Thank you for the kind words..otherwise its all hate from the mediaRecommend

  • Agha

    We will get tired of these blogs once the males get tired of abusing the women in our country. Thanks You maybe wearing blindfolds but the rest are not. Keep living in fantasy land.Recommend

  • Agha

    Women also work (i.e doing their own thing as well)Recommend

  • farhan

    We men are also told to behave like men..i can also produce a list…but then again men usually dont write to whine about how oppressed they are if someone tells them not to behave in a certain way. happens with everyone,Recommend

  • Mirza Irfan Ahmed Barlas

    If I must be honest that Flash mob thing in Lahore was just a hamfisted attempt for attention from yet another fashion brand DYOT. But I 100% agree with the stereotypes women are victims of. It’s not about elite class or mediocre or those who are beyond it, women are subjugated and abused in our society and that is no secret. It’s True what you said about labels.Recommend

  • MR.X

    It doesn’t concern these issues, they brush them aside..its only about them..’me me me’Recommend

  • MR.X

    no shes not blindfolded..we are absolutely tired..sick of it…Men look like genghis khan these daysRecommend

  • sher khan

    At one place they speak about woman empowerment and on the hand they want us to drop them home because it is 9:00 pm. Recommend

  • sher khan

    Yes I have seen woman folks even passed out from elitist and very notable institutes seldom taking career seriously.Recommend

  • MR.X

    LOL. Strong and independant women,, still asking men to help them become one..strong indivisuals find a way or make oneRecommend

  • MR.X

    mostly they do it for status and a good ‘rishta’.. Its a fact and they should stop trying to sugar coat things and being politically correctRecommend

  • Isra Abbasi

    Lady you nailed it.. Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    thanks girl, these elite women need to be monitor their own behavior before playing the victim cardRecommend