Before I start, I apologise. I am not a writer, and this does not come easy to me. I am fresh halwa, sweet and warm and easy to swallow. I am a caterpillar turning into mush in a chrysalis. But more importantly, I am the experiment of my first generation immigrant parents, and I am Indian.
There are a lot of aspects of my life that (white) feminism would never comprehend. So I made a list of my own personal experiences, small anecdotes that I’ve relayed to friends in hushed phone calls or in 140 characters or less. This was inspired by the #WhatItsLikeToBeADesiGirl tag (created by @baedotdoe), which aimed to expose the misogyny and sexism in the Desi community,which refers to the people and cultures originating from South Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Maldives. This is also a small collection of moments in my life where I felt like I should have apologised for being alive. I’m sorry in advance.
- That time when my family had guests over, and my grandmother pulled me aside to chastise me for not wearing looser clothes because my breasts were too large and distracting men old enough to be my father
- The numerous occasions when strangers and distant relatives have told my parents that they should have “had a boy” when they learn that my parents “only” have a daughter
- When my grandfather asked me why I study instead of learning how to cook and be a good housewife, because my life’s purpose is to be subservient to men
- The argument that I have with my father about once a month about my makeup. He gets angry that I don’t use foundation five shades lighter than my actual skin tone. He wants me to look whiter, because I am too dark to be considered beautiful
- When my grandmother complained to my mother for three hours straight for not raising me right because I talk back, and how would I ever get married if I can only cook white people food
- When my mother fondly recalled of bathing me in milk and honey as a baby because I was fair, and now the sun has darkened me permanently and I am no longer beautiful
- When the only reason my mother got married was because she was getting Too Old and no one would want to marry her if she waited any longer. She was 24.
- When the lady who threads my eyebrows told me to bleach my facial hair so I don’t look so dark
- The numerous times when my father has told me it is unladylike for women to do any heavy lifting (it is all I ever do at the gym) and now I am stronger than him because he has a bad back
- When countless white teachers and supervisors could not be bothered to learn my name even though it is only two syllables
- The many, many times I did not have to go to temple because I was menstruating, because menstrual blood is impure and by connection, I am impure
- That time when I mustered up the courage to tell my mother that I thought I was depressed, and she dismissed it because I “have nothing to be depressed about”
- Several years later, when my mother scolded me for being anxious, amongst many other things, that she drove me to hyperventilate for so long that I passed out
- And the time when I regained consciousness, my mother suggested I start praying to get rid of my anxiety – I had also not prayed to any deity in 8 years.
There are many more snippets of my life that I cannot remember right now. These are not unique experiences, and many of my friends have felt that familiar feeling – when we are required to be quiet and accept our fate. There are many issues in the Desi community that don’t get airtime, because it’s all behind closed doors and it would bring dishonour to our families. These experiences are not universal nor do they represent the majority of Desi culture, but they are also not anomalies.
I need feminism for a number of reasons, but the most important reason is so that I don’t have to apologise for my existence.
This piece was written by @pantsahoy. She is a warm blanket that you wrap yourself into like a burrito. She tweets about her bowel movements far more than anyone without any gastrointestinal pathology should.
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