My Life in Colorism

When I watched this video, I was shocked that every word that came out of these women’s voices has been something I’ve also said in the past. This video covers Black women in America and many of their tales are also shared with dark women in the Indian community.

Much like slavery in America, the caste system existed (let’s not lie – it still exists) in India. Within the Black community light skin is more desirable because of an idea tied back to slavery. The house slaves were lighter than the field hands because they were not in the sun all day long (and probably for other reasons…). The same idea lies in the caste system. The lowest caste is attributed to outdoor menial labor while higher castes received indoor jobs such as banking, engineering or medical work.

The Indian community, much like most other non-Euro ethnic groups, believes dark is unfavorable – no, they believe that it’s a curse. Dark is a physical label that attributes one to stupidity and ugliness. As an Indo – American, I literally feel like ripping my hair out because I live in a country with a majority of White people constantly tanning yet I exist in a smaller community of Indians that make me feel like I’m lesser for being dark. Many of my own family members have shamed me for my skin color while my white sisters have shared their feelings of jealousy of my chocolate complexion. I don’t think there is anything more frustrating than White girls telling me that they are jealous of my skin.

Bleaching is a fairly routine thing I have to go through for important Indian events such as weddings because dark is ugly and not fashionable. God forbid someone thinks I’m a low caste. As a baby, my mother used to give me baths in turmeric and chickpea flour to lighten my skin – a common thing in Indian culture. I used to break out in hives every time I got these lightening baths. We now know I’m deathly allergic to chick peas.

Throughout my life, and I admit even now, I’ve been ashamed of being dark. I wasn’t given a choice at birth to capture mainstream beauty like white girls. I will always stand out in a crowd in America. My life is intertwined with my darkness. I’ve been conditioned to understand that some colors in clothing do not look good on me, that my naturally curly hair should be straightened for interviews because it is naturally disheveled and nappy and that I should use a lighter foundation on my skin (than foundation that matches my skin..).

Indian guys have told me that they are not attracted to dark skin and for some reason-that’s okay. I have definitely suffered hyper-exotification because I’m dark. I’ve felt that I’m less desirable because of skin color and my body shape. I don’t fit the mold but there is some sort of curiosity amongst men about dark skinned girls. I know that meaningful relationships are and will be hard to come by for me.

Some of the quotes I connected with in the video:

One lady said – as a child, she asked her mom to put bleach in her bath water so she would be lighter:

…..”so that my skin would be lighter and so that I could escape the feelings that I had about not being as beautiful, as acceptable, as lovable.

One girl explained that she used to wash her face hoping that the darkness would come off – something that I used to do as a child:

“I thought it was dirt and I tried to clean it off and it wouldn’t come off.”

This link is to show how ingrained colorism is within children:

I believe parents need to change their vocabulary when they speak to their children. Parents are their light and they hang on to every word you say. Why not compliment your daughter for being strong or considerate than for being skinny or pretty. Or pointing out that their existence has a positive impact in the world instead of saying your light skin will help you acquire a good husband.

I hope that one day I can be completely comfortable with my complexion but I know that lookism and colorism are embedded in my heritage. The best I can do is encourage and educate my family about the affects of colorism on children~

Why I’m Here.

Well, I just dove right into some heavy topics when I started this blog and I wanted to take a step back and do a little introductory autobiography about myself. 

I’m a fourth year at the University of Georgia and I love my school. I”m studying Broadcast Journalism with minors in Women’s Studies and Dance. I recently became a far more vocal person and I love that about myself. I am not afraid to speak my mind, though in writing, I second guess myself. I’m here to mold myself into a more eloquent writer and to share my thoughts and experiences with those who wish to listen.

I’m a dreamer and I’m a fighter. Sometimes I’m so passionate i cannot help but let the words flow but sometimes the passion does not take the form of words; that is the artist in me. What I can’t speak, I dance.

I started out college on a pre-veterinary route. Im the girl who made 4s and 5s on those science based AP exams in high school but struggled through AP language and literature. I’m a slow reader. I often stare at a blank Word Documents for hours even the day before my college essay is due. So why am I here? Why am I choosing a profession that requires non stop writing when it’s a struggle for me? 

I look at it this way: words are so permanent. That is why I hesitate to commit to them. However, now I see the beauty in this permanence and I wish to capture it. I need to capture it.

As a first generation American that belongs to a large conservative South Indian family, I have dealt with such a heavy identity crisis…and it wasn’t any easier for me growing up in the South. I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I know myself a lot more. I’m no longer ashamed of my background. I stand my ground with both communities about who I am and the choices I make. I know now how important of a task I have as this voice for my cousin sisters, my aunts, and my mother. I must be a voice for all the women that are wronged in my community. 

I need the permanence of words to remind myself of the trials and tribulations of my sisters in my community that are not given the opportunity to learn about gender/women’s studies or given the opportunity to voice their emotions, thoughts, or opinions. I am truly blessed to have these opportunities and I intend on using my education and my connections with my motherland to break social norms. 

I want to redefine beauty and kill this obsession with skin color.

I want sex education for women and girls in India to be more comprehensive. 

I want women to know there will be someone to help them escape abusive relationships and that there is no fear is speaking out.

So this is why I’m here. This is why I need to be here. I’m not the least bit eloquent but with practice – these words – my words – will start to empower and change things. I guarantee it. Image

Why I don’t compliment my friends on weight loss

This is one amazing woman!

Terrifying, Strange, and Beautiful

Love your body

I wrote earlier about my recent weight loss and the reactions I received from friends and family. I’m still struggling to maintain my weight and build muscle, and meanwhile I have continued to receive “compliments” about my thinness. I know that people mean well when they point out my weight loss and that it is intended to be complementary. From “you look so tiny!” to the standard “have you lost weight?” I’ve received plenty of opinions from friends and acquaintances. Some friends have expressed concern about the weight loss, knowing that it is related to my depression. Those without insight into my personal life, however, only judge by appearances. And in their eyes, weight loss = good. Skinny = healthy. Whether or not the weight was lost intentionally or healthfully doesn’t seem to cross their minds. Here’s where we run into a problem.

Too many people conflate skinny with healthy

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On Modesty

The following link discusses modesty ‘s place in the lives of women and the current trending bathing suits.

This link is to another woman’s thoughts and experiences while living modestly for a year. (no makeup – no cleavage – full coverage)

http://www.salon.com/2013/07/02/my_year_of_modesty

Both of these women are advocates of modesty but their approaches are different. The first link is a video of Jessica Rey* with the argument that women should cover more of their bodies so that they give men one less thing to objectify them with. The latter speaks louder to me because the author -Lauren Shields*- makes the choice to lead a modest life based upon something greater than statistics that show men’s brains associate women with power tools when they are wearing less fabric (information given by Jessica Rey).

You cannot treat someone like an object because they are different than you.
Once you “other” someone, it is easy to marginalize them. The mental process is: I’m a man and she is a woman. She is different. Im going to treat her different than me because she is different.”
You think any revolution would have occurred if people settled with a majority treating them incorrectly? Instead of choosing to dress modest because of men’s animalistic behavior that they cannot help (sarcasm intended) -women should choose to dress how they would like to without having to consider what the patriarchy dictates them to wear.
Whether that may be choosing to be a nudist or choosing to be a hijabi. Its about choice.

In the end, everyone has their own definition of modesty and though we cannot control what others may think or say about our physical appearance, it is important to know that we can change the way we think. Like Gandhiji said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What we can change is our own negative attitude towards others’-specifically women’s- choice in clothing, hair and accessories.

I love this Facebook post by Inner Subversion*:

“How to dress for your shape: are you human-shaped? play up your confidence and natural sex appeal by wearing whatever the f*ck you want.

Life Tip: As the weather gets warmer, continue to wear whatever the f*ck you want. Flaunt everything or keep it cool under cover. Dress to make yourself feel rad.

How to get a bikini body:put a bikini on your body

Want sexy own-the-beach summer legs? shave, or don’t because they’re your f*cking legs.”

Realize that everyone has the same rights as you to live a life with infinite choices. Modesty is just a word- a vessel- and there are an infinite number of definitions to fill that vessel.