Next time you're faced with casual sexism, be a Miftah Ismail

Next time you're faced with casual sexism, be a Miftah Ismail

It's hard enough being a female politician in Pakistan without sexism from your colleagues.
26 Feb, 2021

We're firm believers in calling politicians out when they do something wrong. But we also like highlighting when they do something right, and PML-N leader Miftah Ismail just did something very right.

Ismail, who is a former finance minister, appeared on Geo TV show Jashan e Cricket on February 25, which is hosted by Shahzad Iqbal.Presumably, the show is about cricket and the PSL but Ismail was asked about politics too. He was also asked to choose who's better dressed, Marriyum Aurangzeb or Hina Pervez Butt.

Aurangzeb is the PML-N spokesperson while Butt is a sitting Punjab MPA.

To give some context to their conversation, Iqbal had been asking Ismail to choose between two people for random questions. Who's the better cricketer, Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif (Imran Khan and he's more handsome too, answered Ismail), who would you choose if you had to kick someone off a plane, Maryam Nawaz or Shehbaz Sharif ("Shehbaz since he's in jail and won't hear this"). But when it came to Aurangzeb and Butt, the host asked who is better dressed.

“Look, it’s hard enough to be a woman in politics in Pakistan. Why don’t you ask me who’s better dressed: Ahsan Iqbal or Shahid Khaqan Abbasi," replied Ismail. And we're not sure if it's because the bar is so terribly low, but his reply left us stunned. A Pakistani male politician standing up against casual sexism and switching the topic to men instead? Cue the shocked applause.

The previous questions were about capabilities (Imran Khan versus Nawaz Sharif) or random uncontrollable situations (Maryam Nawaz versus Shehbaz Sharif) but for some reason, when it came to Aurangzeb and Butt, the question was about their clothes. I suppose we should be grateful he wasn't asked who's prettier.

But Ismail sidestepped the sexist question and turned it on him. And he's right. Why didn't the host ask him to choose between two male politicians and their sense of style? To begin with, style is personal and subjective. And of all the questions he could have asked when comparing the two politicians, he chose their sense of style.

To all the men reading this, take note. This is how you can be an ally. Don't go along with sexist jokes, call them out and turn the tables. Ismail turned the question on the host and instead started discussing Abbasi and Iqbal's clothes. He even gave an explanation for why he chose Iqbal as the better dressed man: when he was in jail, he woke up every morning and wore a suit and tie.

"He’s a better dressed man than Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, but then everyone is a better dressed man than Shahid Abbasi," he laughed. The former premier was the butt of many jokes after he attended the UN General Assembly in 2017 and didn't wear a tie.

"I went to school in California. So in California, they said you only wear a tie on the day you get married or [on the day] you die," Abbasi had said at the time.

Ismail just showed the country, and all his fellow politicians, that you don't need to be sexist to be funny, nor do you need to answer sexist and frankly stupid questions, even when pressed. From now on, when you're faced with casual sexism, we're going to call on you to be a Miftah Ismaill.