Sania Mirza's searing response to Rajdeep Sardesai's sexist question

Published On  July 15, 2016 By

Last week, my mother told me that her aunt wanted to know when I’ll get married. She didn’t say she was wondering herself, she just looked. And I looked back. And that was the end of it.

Or not. Every time I open my newsfeed on Facebook, at least one of my friends has posted a picture. Khushboo Chakravarti added a new life event: married to Prakash Rao. Anu Raghavan added a new life event: engaged to Hemant Chaudhary. I see one of those and think of Amma’s look.

You’d think celebrity women don’t face this pressure at least, what with all their success and money; they should be able to do exactly what they want. Take a look, for instance, at Sania Mirza’s interview with Rajdeep Sardesai. “You don’t talk about retirement, about raising a family, about motherhood, what’s life beyond tennis is going to be…” That’s the statement made at the tennis player currently number one in the women’s doubles rankings? Number one in the world, mind you. As if she needs a life beyond tennis.

Luckily, she didn’t back off.

“You sound disappointed that I’m not choosing motherhood over being number one in the world at this point of time. But I’ll answer your question anyway, that’s the question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face — the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s when we’re settled, and no matter how many Wimbledons we win or number ones in the world we become, we don’t become settled.”

Smack! She couldn’t have done a better job at making him reel if she’d slammed a serve right into his eyes with that racket she wields. She builds a solid world for herself, with hard, hard work, and all he can ask her is if she wants to give it up to run behind a pair of snot-nosed kids, plate in hand, trying to coax them into eating just one more spoonful of biryani. Yeah, because that’s fulfilling, especially after bloating, deflating and clawing your way back to strength. Would Sardesai ever have asked her husband, Shoaib Malik, just as renowned a sportsperson as she (arguably even less renowned), why he’s never mentioned ‘settling down and retiring into fatherhood’?

“If only every famous woman had the luxury to disappear behind their work,” writes Nico Lang, in an article about Australian singer-songwriter Sia. But they can’t. They’re not people, they’re women. And women are incomplete without babies. Two days ago, Jennifer Anniston finally lashed out in an article for The Huffington Post at the media for perpetrating a rumour that she was pregnant.

“For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up. I’m fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily…This past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status…I’m not in pursuit of motherhood because I feel incomplete in some way.”

Well said, Aniston. But two years ago, she made a statement that I don’t particularly agree with. “You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering—dogs, friends, friends’ children.” Aniston makes a strong case for the rest of us, but she still operates within the notion of womanhood = motherhood. You don’t need to deliver a child to become a woman, but you also don’t have to take part in any notion of mothering, not with friends, friends’ children, dogs, cats, pigs or owls. I don’t like pets – I find it atrociously stupid when we’re walking down the street and Apoorva stops at every single stray to pet them. I can’t bear going to Richa’s house since she got the new kitten; she climbs all over my head and scratches my scalp. And don’t even get me started on the little cousins who come home, invade my bedroom and crease all my sheets. I’m not motherly; I might never be a mother, but that makes me no less of a woman.

I have a theory: when popular culture begins depicting woman as independent, as with Queen, Angry Indian Goddesses, perhaps even Alia Bhat’s character in Kapoor and Sons, society begins to accept it more easily. And I’m glad that’s begun, however feebly in the midst of mainstream Bollywood, enough for Rajdeep Sardesai to realise his mistake and even apologise, confessing that he’d never have asked a man a question about retiring and settling down.

And Mirza accepted the apology gracefully, with – “I’m so glad, you’re the first journalist to apologise to me on national television.”

Sources:

  1. http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/tennis/sania-mirza-scores-a-winner-after-rajdeep-sardesais-sexist-question/
  2. http://www.salon.com/2016/07/10/sia_doesnt_want_to_be_famous_considering_how_we_treat_women_like_margot_robbie_and_renee_zellweger_who_can_blame_her/
  3. http://www.justjared.com/2016/07/12/jennifer-aniston-confirms-shes-not-pregnant-slams-tabloid-media-for-body-shaming/
  4. http://perezhilton.com/2014-12-15-jennifer-aniston-slams-pregnancy-rumors-addresses-them-allure-magazine/?from=post