Shazia Mirza: Diary of a disappointing daughter

Last week I met this man who was 20 years older than me. I asked him, “Do you have any children?”

“Yes, three daughters,” he replied.

“What are they like?” I asked.

“Well, they’re all very pretty.”

I squirmed and groaned. He looked at me as if there was nothing wrong, but when I picked him up on it, he seemed embarrassed. If he’d had three sons, would he have described them in the same way? Of all the adjectives a father could use to describe his daughters – successful, intelligent, dynamic – he chose “pretty”. Is a woman’s worth totally defined by her aesthetic looks? Obviously it is to some men.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, I thought. Until I heard my dad, 72, talking to his friend a few days later.His friend asked about me, and my dad said, “Shazia, yes, we’re very proud of her. She’s very successful. Well, not that successful – she could do with being a bit more successful.”

I was a bit annoyed that he’s still not satisfied with me, but I wasn’t offended. At least he didn’t talk about my success in terms of bra and nose size.

Imagine if I had a boy and a friend asked me, “What’s your son like?” and I replied, “Well, he’s got a great arse and lovely thighs.” Everyone would think I was a pervert.

We should view our daughters in the same way we view our sons, so when they grow up they will view each other equally. Perhaps they’ll even be paid equally, too.