advice

‘I Stare Him Down’: Venus Driving School’s Ghazala Bangash

If you live in Islamabad, you know Ghazala Bangash. You may not know her by her real name, but you have likely have taken classes at her decades-old Venus Driving School for women. And if you haven’t, then someone in your immediate social circle inevitably will have. We sat down with Ghazala, an institution unto herself, for a very interesting conversation on men, dealing with harassment on the road,  the Islamabad Traffic Police, and much more. 

Before interviewing Ghazala Bangash, we had speculated enthusiastically about the driving school’s unusual name, speculating it had its origins in Roman mythology. Ghazala quickly put an end to our assumptions when she told us that the school was named eponymously: ‘My mother’s friend named me Venus as a young girl. When I started my own business I wasn’t sure what I was should call it. My friends weren’t sure, either. Then I thought of my nickname; that this name isn’t that common, so I should go with Venus.’

Still, she agrees that the name has some symbolic value. ‘It’s providential, in a way. For one, my name is Venus, plus the driving school is an effort to help women…No one ever takes the woman’s side.’

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On sexists who don’t know they’re sexists: say something!

My company’s bank representative was misbehaving with me, and I had had it. After multiple inappropriate phone calls, I wanted to complain about him to his branch manager to get him to stop. My colleague was on his way to the bank to fill out some paperwork, so I asked him to find out the manager’s name and contact number so that I could complain about him (it wasn’t online).

To my surprise, when he returned he told me that he’d solved the problem for me: instead of ‘causing a problem’ he’d requested to change the representative dealing with my account at the bank. ‘I didn’t want to get him in trouble with his boss, so I just asked them to change your representative’, completely missing the point: that I wanted him to get in trouble with his boss, and that, as the person who had to deal with his unprofessional behavior, it was my right to complain about him. I was kind of stunned in the moment, and it took me a few minutes to articulate to myself what I was mad about: that this guy completely undermined my decision, that he decided to ‘take care’ of things for me as if he were my father and I were a child, and most frustrating, that he didn’t even realize it was problematic. More important even, his ‘decision’ was a band-aid solution: leaving this creep’s behavior unchecked left him more opportunities to harass other women.

I never said anything to him about it because I didn’t know how to approach the subject and I didn’t want to seem dramatic. I know I would act differently now, but it’s obviously a little late for that. Instead, I would strongly advise anyone in a similar situation to find a way to say what’s wrong. Say it! Some jerks, like the bank representative, know they are being disgusting pigs, and they should be called out. But the trickier situation is with men who mean well and have no idea their behavior is actually disrespectful. So don’t stay quiet if something is wrong. If you think it is, say it is.

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