India's star tennis player Sania Mirza is known for giving her opinion on a number of topics – gender equality is important.
Whether she argues against misogyny or patriarchal issues, she has always been one with women around the world and has proven that critics are wrong about the way she lives – as a woman, a tennis player, and now a mad mother.
So it's no wonder that Sania decided to talk about the subject "The role of pop culture in shaping the gender equality context" at the virtual #WeSeeEqual Summit hosted by Procter & Gamble last week.
At the summit, Sania spoke to HerStory, highlighting how advertising and social media play a huge role in shaping and breaking down stereotypes about what a woman can and cannot do.
Influence the youth
The six-time Grand Slam champion and former number 1 tennis doubles player believes that pop culture has a huge impact on attitude change, especially among the younger generation.
"Contrary to what people think, it's not a waste of time because, like it or not, you can't avoid it. What is portrayed in visual media, such as advertising, is important to society and the younger generation.
"For example, P & G's #SharetheLoad shows that washing clothes is not just a woman's job. This is gender equality that the younger generation plays and influences," she says.
As a popular tennis player, Sania is very active on social media and uses them to reach her fans. Surprisingly, however, she believes that it should be taken with a pinch of salt.
"Although I'm quite active on social media, I believe this is part of my job, a personal way of connecting with my fans and well-wishers." Understand that it's not the real world, especially when there are people who abuse you. They are obviously abnormal, lead miserable lives, and hate someone they have never met. "
Sania says she laughs about it most of the time and her responses to comments are very rare.
On the other hand, she also believes that social media can be used for the greater social good.
“Social media is important when you have a large number of followers. If you can influence even one person, this is important. For example, I used social media to showcase my weight loss after giving birth to my son, ”she says.
She reveals that there have been many questions from women who believed they could no longer play tennis because she had a child and gained weight. "It was my way of showing that you can have a child and not kill your dreams," she adds.
Being a social figure is another added responsibility, says Sania.
“When you become a public figure, you are watched and questioned about everything you do. This gives you a sense of responsibility as young people are watching you and looking up to you and you want to set the best example that can be set. "
As a tennis player on the racetrack for nearly 18 years, she believes women continue to fight prejudice and stereotypes in sports.
"Although I believe that things will get better, we have to deal with and accept that we live more in a man's world than in a world of equals. Stereotypes and prejudices exist in every profession and not just in sport. They have to be for themselves speak for yourself and get the respect you deserve. I've been taught to speak out loud as long as I'm doing the right thing, ”she says.
The pandemic has hit Sania hard. She contracted COVID-19 in vember and had to be separated from her husband Shoaib Malik for almost six months.
"It was tough both mentally and emotionally. The fact is, you had to see the big picture and figure out that there were people who were in a worse position than me. I think that made me a better person," says they.
In an open letter in vember 2019, which she described as an "Ode to all mothers", Sania wrote: "Pregnancy and baby have made me a better person." Motherhood, she says, was a great time and it's great fun to see her two year old grow up and learn new things every day.
With the world slowly returning to normal, Sania is in full training mode and ready for tournaments in Doha and Dubai next month. She hopes for a world "one day without masks and people who do sports as before".
As a farewell photo, it has a relevant message to young girls who pursue a conventional / unconventional career and want to excel in it.
"Believe in yourself. As young women, you believe in your path and trust yourself. Do not worry about whether it has been done before or not – as long as you think about it, you will succeed despite the challenges along the way" says Sania.