The Double Standards Faced by Women Who Smoke

January 31, 2020

Featured Art by @ thedaftdraft

When a man smokes, it’s a bad habit (buri aadat).

But when a woman smokes, she’s a bad woman (buri aurat).

Smoking is harmful no matter what your gender is. Then why are women always being significantly more condemned for it? Why does it only become everyone’s business when a woman is smoking?

I do not smoke and I do not support smoking. It’s an extremely unhealthy habit which can turn into an addiction and cause many long term health problems. Still, I am in no position to judge anyone who smokes, man or woman, as long as they’re not doing it in my face.

If a friend or family member is smoking I might advise them against it for the sake of their health, but even then, I wouldn’t feel like it’s my place to do so unless we had a very close relationship.

Similarly, if a stranger is smoking away by themselves, then it is REALLY none of my business – no matter if they are a man or a woman.

If you take some time to read up on women’s experiences with smoking in public places, specifically in Pakistan, what you’ll find is extremely disturbing. It is not uncommon for women to be approached by everyone and anyone – random ‘helpful’ strangers on the street giving their unwarranted opinions, or uncles and aunties who are concerned this will affect the woman’s reputation and how people view her.

They advise her to think of her parents and refrain from this act. Or told that a cigarette doesn’t look appropriate in a woman’s hands. Or that no one will want to marry them if they continue this.

Shaming someone and approaching them in public about a weakness they have is already something we shouldn’t be doing. But what is even worse is the plain hypocrisy in these situations.

The same aunty who asks a smoking woman, “Beta, what will your parents think?” knows her own son smokes with his friends outside her house. But somehow it is a bigger deal and even a disgrace if this woman is smoking.

Even under the comments of this artist’s post, there are people saying she is promoting smoking just by creating such art – which is ridiculous. All she is doing is (very cleverly) bringing attention to the hypocrisy that exists in our society. It is high time we see female smokers as just people with a habit, instead of ‘bad’ or ‘rebellious’ women who are not honourable.




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