Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex

Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex —click this to read a story in the HuffPost. Below is an excerpt – but I would definitely read this article in its entirety.

” I support Malala, I support the right to education for all, I just cannot stand the hypocrisy of Western politicians and media as they pick and choose, congratulating themselves for something that they have caused. Malala is the good native, she does not criticise the West, she does not talk about the drone strikes, she is the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native.

The Western savior complex has hijacked Malala’s message. The West has killed more girls than the Taliban have. The West has denied more girls an education via their missiles than the Taliban has by their bullets. The West has done more against education around the world than extremists could ever dream of. So, please, spare us the self-righteous and self-congratulatory message that is nothing more than propaganda that tells us that the West drops bombs to save girls like Malala.”

I will be writing a response to this soon – But this is a really interesting read.

Feeling Safe is a Privilege.

I was walking to school today at about 9 this morning. As soon as I stepped out – I pulled out my phone to turn on some music for my roughly 30 minute journey to school. I look up and there is a guy – mid 20s – staring at me. Okay – that’s fine. I start walking and i see him bend down to tie his shoe lace – he has crocs on. I’m thinking – oh no – I know what’s going on….As soon as I pass him – he starts following me. I promptly take my headphones out – yes, I’m scared. I turn around as casually as possible –

knowing it’s just me and this guy on this street and he is on my heels….

and then he proceeds to talk to me – “Hey girl – you in college?” I say yes…He tries to get my name, number, age….It’s like a damn interview. But why am I engaging in conversation with this person that makes me feel so unsafe? – Because I’m scared – I was intent on studying off of my phone on my way to school but instead I’m forced to converse with this person – because I feel like I cant ignore them – I don’t know if he will get physical.

Just me and this man…walking slightly behind me.

Well – this continues until I reach a part of my neighborhood where other students are also making their way to school and he gives up. And the adrenaline is down now – and I’m furious. I’m exhausted. I’m a nervous wreck. He knows where I live and he is persistent. I didn’t study for my test. And I’m alone on the verge of tears with anger and resentment. Because i am a WOMAN….i naturally must feel unsafe. ALWAYS. I’m subjected to this treatment because of my gender.

I’ve had men say – “oh yeah – I don’t walk anywhere alone when it’s dark.”

It is NOT the same…

I’m tired. I’m so done. Do not tell me I should live in a better location. Do not tell me I have to walk with a buddy. Do not tell me – you don’t need to have your headphones in anyways – you’re just listening to music.

All I’m asking is to be safe. That is clearly too much to ask of a woman.

 

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

Cultural Appropriation and Commodification

selena-gomez-dance-2

http://theaerogram.com/beyond-bindis-why-cultural-appropriation-matters/  <—Check out this link

This post is a tribute to a Facebook rant I had a couple of weeks ago about Western celebrities donning bindis.

Cultural appropriation – def: the borrowing of another culture’s elements such as dress, practices, language or mannerisms.

It sounds like a good thing, right? It seems like a the right thing to do – putting yourself in another’s shoes. However – it becomes more of a Halloween parade with Native American headdresses, Japanese kimonos, and North Indian lehengas. (I thought American Halloween is about being scary? – Freddy Krueger and Scream masks. I don’t know why dressing in cultural clothing gets mixed in the jumble but that’s for a more dense topic which I’ll probably write more in depth about in October).

I just got back from a yoga class (hot vinyasa yoga- Try it! It’s amazing) and I had a flashback from a somatics and dance movement therapy (DMT) class I took at UGA. A guest speaker came in all haughty about her wealth of knowledge about DMT and asked if any of us practiced yoga. I naturally raised my hand and she asked me what type of yoga. I said – idk, you know, sun salutations and stuff…like p90x. Naturally, she was disgusted with the p90x system and wrote me off. I have done yoga my whole life. It is an extremely important part of my religion and I’ve done it as a child with my parents and grandparents and in my temple during Sunday school. I felt pretty ashamed for the rest of the class because I didn’t know the appropriate name for the type of yoga I had done the majority of my life. It wasn’t until I read this article that I realized what that feeling of shame was. Looking back – I should’ve been more offended. I used yoga as a means of meditation for spiritual reasons and I still do. When my yoga class gets tough – I’m praying for Shakti. This dance movement therapist saw yoga as a cross training tool for her dancing. <–This is when cultural appropriation takes a turn for the worst. Yoga classes are popping up everywhere now. It’s becoming a mainstream class in our local gyms between Zumba and Xtreme cardio sculpt! What once held such a strong spiritual meaning within Hinduism has now been commodified (made into a commercial trade).

This article talks about another aspect of Hinduism that has been “borrowed” by Western culture – the bindi. In high school, I used to be so ashamed of being different. I was one out maybe five Indian kids at my school and that too – pretty much the only Hindu. I dreaded going to temple every Sunday because it was on the other side of town and I just knew my family would want to run errands after so as to not waste gas going out another time. “Why would I want to go into the mall or Walmart or any store for that matter dressed like a freak show?” was the question running through my head at the time. I’d have a muddle of yellow, white and red powder slathered generously on my forehead and a chudidar with loud patterns. But my mom would get upset with me (rightfully, looking back) and would force me to endure the awkward eyes that weren’t ashamed of staring.

I would feel shame. And for what? For being different. As Jaya points out, we are “perpetual immigrants” when we decide to don our Indian attire and bindis. We are treated as odd or different but when Selena Gomez wore bindis, it was cool! So this is the problem: when a Western public figure does the same thing as a typical Indo-American, but it is treated differently. One is given veneration and the latter – alienation.

So I speak for myself and I will not take it upon myself to speak for others, but as an Indian – please don’t disrespect where I’ve come from. My “elephant god” is not something cool to be tattooed on your calf, my bindi is not to be worn to your Billboard Awards and Indians are from India – Native Americans are not Indians.

 

“Appropriation occurs when bodies, typically white, popularize styles that didn’t originate with them, across a matrix of power: the power of visibility, the power to define what is ‘ethnic’ in the market. The gains that follow are reserved for the appropriator, not the appropriated. When the participation of poc in mainstream culture is relegated to trinkets Urban Outfitters can sell, what are we supposed to do, be grateful? While our communities are mined for the latest hip accessories that are lauded on white bodies while suspect on ours, it’s a valuation of whiteness above us. Above our history, dignity, and humanity.”  – Ayesha Siddiqi

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

View original post 743 more words

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.