Elle India: August 2018
For a female reporter, her make-up, personal style and social media persona are often weaponised to undermine her work and roadblock her opportunities. Pakistan-based journalist Sanam Maher reveals how she balances these conflicting worlds.
A police thana isn’t the best place for a selfie. Not when you’re the only woman you can see around, not when your selfie isn’t even on your phone, but on a man’s phone, which is turned towards you and every other man waiting in that thana. “Is this you?” the clerk asked me. Two thoughts: one, I needed this man to take me seriously, as he stood between me and an interview with his boss. Secondly—‘is this you?’ Was he implying that I didn’t look like that in real life? Rude.
At that point, I’d been a reporter for over a decade. But for the first time, I was finding myself in interviews where someone would Google me, and try and find anything about me online. Sometimes, in the middle of an interview, someone would show me or my fixer their phone, and there I was: my last story or my Twitter feed or Facebook profile. Twitter didn’t give them much to look at and Facebook had privacy settings they couldn’t get past. A public account, my Instagram offered up the most information about my life.
I take pictures of myself as frequently as the next person. However, I rarely post these pictures—even when they please me. It takes a marriage (my own) or my first book’s publication to merit a selfie’s appearance on my social media feed. Why do I not feel free to let you know I #wokeuplikethis or that I’m #blessed?
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