5 times Sania Mirza made it easier for us to be women

5 times Sania Mirza made it easier for us to be women

She shuts up her haters and does what she wants. And who wins? All women!
Updated 06 Sep, 2018

Yesterday, Indian tennis champ Sania Mirza was asked a question most women are familiar with: just when does she plan to "settle down" and have babies?

Mirza, who was sitting down with TV presenter Rajdeep Sardesai to talk about her just launched autobiography Ace Against Odds, had an answer ready for him.

“You don’t think I am settled?,” she first asked.

Then, she launched into a whip-smart speech that's one for the books.

"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. But eventually it will happen, not right now. And when it does happen I’ll be the first one to tell everybody when I plan to do that," she said.

It was enough said. The anchor immediately apologised, but she took another opportunity during the interview to make her position on the subject clear.

When asked how she’d like to be remembered, Mirza said, “(I hope my achievements set a precedent that) no girl is asked at the age of 29 as to when she is going to have a child when she’s number one in the world,” before adding, “that’s no settling in.”

This isn't the first time that Sania's shut down people who have insinuated what she should do with her life.

Here's a rundown of all the times she's faced - and trounced - bullies:

1) The time she was bashed for marrying Shoaib Malik

Sports stars are invariably thought of as sons and daughters of the nation, and when Sania ditched her long-time beau to marry cricketer Shoaib Malik— gasp, a Pakistani! — many in India thought it was the ultimate betrayal. But did she care? Nope. Ignoring the outrage of a khandaan of over a billion, Sania went on to marry Malik.

Some of her countrymen kept a grudge. When she was named brand ambassador for the Telangana state in India, she was looked down upon as not Indian enough, and was referred to as "Pakistan's daughter-in-law."

The remarks hit Mirza when it hurt, but she fought back with a televised statement:

"I've lived in Hyderabad all my life, my forefathers have lived in Hyderabad all their lives. They've done way too much for their state and this country, I've done way too much for this state and the country to even dignify that statement [with a response]. I'm honoured and humbled that the honourable CM has thought me to be worthy of being brand ambassador of this state."

2) The time there were fatwas against her tennis gear

The year was 2005, and Mirza was all of 18.

Some Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against her wearing T-shirts and skirts, the standard gear for female tennis players. They insisted she wear long tunics, or face the consequences.

What did Mirza do? She began wearing T-shirts with slogans like "I'm cute," "You can either agree with me - or be wrong," and "Well behaved girls rarely make history."

She's went on to make several badass statements about this obsession over her clothes:

"How I dress is very personal thing," she once said. "As long as I am winning, people shouldn't care whether my skirt is six inches long or six feet long. It is scary that every time I wear a T-shirt, it becomes a talking point for the next three days."

On another occasion, she declared that she merely ignores remarks about her clothes.

"As I came to the lime light, the media asked me many questions. A lot many moral policing... 'Wear this, wear that, why a T-shirt?' Everybody has the right to form their opinions, and I have the right to ignore them."

Thanks, Sania, for not caving into the pressure.

3) The early days when people laughed at her Wimbledon dreams

About the earliest days of her career, Sania shared, "When I used to say I wanted to play at Wimbledon, they used to laugh in my face and say, 'What are you talking about, you're from Hyderabad, and you're supposed to... cook.' That's one of the notions that people have in this side of the world - it is our 'culture', within quotes, you know, to say what a woman can or cannot do."

And just like that, Mirza's told all the young women fighting to fulfill their dreams that theirs is possible too.

4) The time she didn't shy away from calling out her country for its failure to protect women's rights

When Sania Mirza was named UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia, she became the first South Asian woman to be appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador in the organization's history. But instead of a celebration of that achievement, harsh criticism followed for her interview, of which an outtake 'No respect for women in India' became a sensationalist headline.

In a series of tweets, she responded to the backlash as below:

"Just to make a couple of things very clear: I did NOT say that there is no respect for women in India. I am the ambassador for the region and I would never be where I am today if the country hadn't given me all this love," she began.

"But I am fortunate, very fortunate. There are millions of women who are less fortunate in this part of the world and have been victims of abuse, physical or sexual, and have not been allowed to follow their dreams because they were a girl! So whether you guys like to accept it or not, this is the truth.

"And yes, I do believe that if I was a man I would not have faced certain unnecessary controversies that I did! And some language that is being used here on Twitter doesn't seem too respectful to me! So some of you need to clean your tongue first before wanting to claim that you respect women and people in general..."

"...I have made myself very clear, and will stand for what I believe in and address the issue of gender inequality."

5) Sania isn't afraid of losing her position to speak up for women's rights.

"Gender equality is something we all advocate," she said when she was named the UN Ambassador. "Some speak about it, some don't. I have chosen to speak about it. I hope one day everyone will say that we are equal and women are not treated as objects. I will try and do everything I can to bring about a change."

She has spoken against the Indian tennis federation for "putting (her) up as a bait" to pacify senior tennis player Paen during the Olympics, condemned the government for mishandling rape cases, and spoken out against sex-selective abortions in India.