Zeenat Aman Shows Us How To Support A Woman Considered A Rival At Work

Zeenat Aman’s IG post on Parveen Babi’s birthday highlights how women supporting each other is so vital for us all – because we are all fighting the patriarchy – not each other.

Recently Zeenat Aman shared a post about her contemporary Parveen Babi on Instagram. She has not been on social media for too long but has certainly made her presence felt – for many of the right reasons.

Her most recent post was a throwback picture featuring herself and Parveen Babi. The words accompanying the picture are an appreciative and generous account of Babi, a woman the world saw as Aman’s rival. Aman mentions how insensitivity and ignorance about mental health made things so tough for Babi. Her post touches on several important issues.

Honouring Parveen Babi

In the Bollywood of the 70s and 80s Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi were two of the most beautiful, famous, glamorous and highly sought-after leading women. As Aman says in her post, there were striking similarities between the two in their looks, way that they dressed, did their hair, the kind of roles they did. They were also similar in the way they were perceived as ‘sexy’ and desirable by countless cinema-goers of the time.

The post speaks with unstinting admiration about Parveen Babi, calling her ‘gorgeous, glamorous and talented’, and ‘intelligent and hardworking and creative.’ It also speaks about a tragic life; a woman struggling with mental health issues but getting little of the support or empathy she needed. She was reviled in the press for her ‘affairs’ but few by the public knew the real woman who would be seen curled up with a book between scenes while shooting.

Contemporaries, not rivals

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In the media, Aman and Babi were always shown as rivals pitted against each other; a notion Aman dispels (after all, a high profile rivalry makes for far better copy than respectful co-workers.) The fact that Parveen Babi was the first Bollywood personality to grace the cover of Time Magazine is indicative of her fame and success.

Zeenat Aman speaks with empathy and insight about Parveen Babi: of her success, her struggles, and about how tragically misunderstood she was. Babi’s struggles with mental health were always highlighted in the press as public tantrums, her relationships as evidence of her promiscuity and instability.

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However, in her post, Aman speaks about ‘she never truly got the chance to say her piece.’ This indicates how Babi’s supposedly erratic behaviour was perhaps due a deep ongoing struggle with her own demons; demons that probably led to her dying alone and very sick at just age 50.

Dispelling the women-are-women’s-worst-enemies myth

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The supposed rivalry between Zeenat Aman and Pareev Babi is actually symptomatic of how the media often has a salacious one-note gaze when reporting on women; particularly famous, beautiful women. Society has long promoted the narrative of the jealous, vengeful woman competing with other women for a man or success or wealth and so on. In this battle of scheming, diabolical women the man is always the hapless innocent, buffeted by storms not of his making. The supposedly rivalry therefore fit neatly into the media narrative; and if one of those women was ‘crazy’ and ‘unstable,’ well that’s just jam, isn’t it.

Why women supporting women is so vital

I think it is vital for all women to be empathetic and supportive of other women; to acknowledge the importance of sisterhood. In the workplace as well, women can make all the difference: helping to support and mentor other women, creating safe spaces, encouraging other women to take up leadership roles.

Studies show that when women show hostility towards other women in the workplace, this is a response to inequality at the top, not the reason for that inequality. Only women know the kind of obvious and subtle obstacles they face; the many ways they are excluded by the all-boys clubs. We can listen actively to each other, celebrate one another success, have fun together – we can be the women that lift other women up.

Zeenat Aman’s post on the occasion of Parveen Babi’s birthday demonstrates how women supporting each other is so vital for us all – because we are all fighting the patriarchy – not each other.

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About the Author

Reena Daruwalla

A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...

38 Posts | 27,657 Views

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