International Women’s Day and why it should matter to British Asians.

*Disclaimer – what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to ALL – just to certain types of people.*

Happy International Women’s Day everyone. Today makes me think if the UN phrase for International Women’s Day – “Equality for women is progress for all” can be applied to the British Asian community? Here’s a hint – if it could then I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Yesterday I had an ‘OMG’ moment when I was asked to join a discussion panel examining the voice of Asian women alongside Gurinder Chada and Sofia Hayat on BBC Asian Network. Although we had no difficulties in expressing ourselves there was an uneasy feeling that for women within the British Asian community weren’t so lucky.

(Check out my pic with Nihal!)

Blog - me and Nihal

Despite the wonderful advancements British Asian women have made in the last sixty or so years since establishing roots in the U.K there are still many ways in which we are held back. When asked I stated that the position of British Asian women nowadays can be likened to the position of British women during the Victorian period. Now hear me out because you assume I’ve gone batshit crazy. The lovely Victorians invented the expectation called ‘Angel in the House’ sounds pretty doesn’t it? Well the ‘Angel in the House’ was expected to be devoted and submissive to her husband. Passive, charming, graceful, sympathetic, self-sacrificing and of course above all hymen intact and pure. Sound familiar?

Given that we are in 2014 it would be expected that this is no longer the case – sadly not. Certain attitudes are ingrained into the psyche of many within the British Asian community and for a female to challenge these views and expectations she is in the great danger (sarcasm) of being labelled a…troublemaker. Shit, son I best delete my blog ASAP.

Some Asian men are cool granted, I know some wonderful ones. However I have encountered many that still have an attitude of an immigrant having just entered the country in the 60’s. Despite enjoying their own lifestyle choices of ferreting about with friends, drinking like fish and shagging away – for some strange unknown reason they are not actually so happy with the concept of an Asian girl doing the above. Sadly there is still a nasty stench of inequality and the attitude of ‘I can do it because I’m a bloke, innit. Yo where’s the whiskey?’ During my time at University I was always a great person to get drunk and party with – but quite often found myself on the receiving end of snide remarks that because I was a social butterfly girls like me wouldn’t be the type that people could take home to their mothers. My apologies, I didn’t realise that we were living in prohibition era America. Also did it ever occur to you that with that attitude maybe mothers like those aren’t ones that girls like me would actually want to go home to either?

Progressing and gaining quality is a two way street, it is a mutual agreement. Instead of young British Asian men rushing forward to support the females in their communities what do I see instead? Memes – with ‘witty’ captions such as ‘This could be us – but your roti isn’t round.’ Or quotes plastered on social media with a genuine tone of heartbreak and grief stating that ‘I remember when Indian girls could cook like their mothers, now they drink like their fathers.’ Firstly, mate calm the fuck down – that could be us but I suspect with that mentality you don’t even have a British passport #comeatmebro. Secondly I suspect that I probably can drink more than my father (given that he doesn’t drink) problem?

But it’s not just males holding us back – sadly some of the biggest limitations come from fellow females. Despite strong sisterhoods and pockets of support there are still some females who think that by judging and putting others down makes them a better person. Well let me say this – real women empower each other, they do not bring each other down. Looking down on others for speaking out or making independent choices about how they choose to live their life, where they go, what they do, who they see doesn’t make you a better person. Quite frankly it just makes you a bit a pathetic. Instead if we supported each other and our choices we would make it harder from men to criticise us. If you call someone a ‘bitch, hoe, slag’ it just confirms to men that they can do the same. If you judge a female for having a certain type of lifestyle it just makes men think that they can do the same. We will not achieve equality or be rid of the ‘Angel in the House’ expectations by bringing one another down.

International Women’s Day isn’t just about the position of women in the British Asian community, it is of course a worldwide issue and much more is needed to be done to shift attitudes towards half of the worlds population. But to do this we must all first speak up and out against our conditions. So for an Asian woman (or in fact any woman) having a voice doesn’t make you a trouble maker. Wanting to live your life as you see fit doesn’t mean that you should be put down. It doesn’t make you a woman with loose morals, or even a woman who has been overcome with the so called evils of Westernisation or the modern times . But instead it does make you a woman who has recognised your right to equality, freedom and respect. So this International Women’s Day let’s all do something to bring ourselves closer to these goals.

Until next time….x

The (Liberal) Asian Guide to Sex (– before marriage)

Shock! Horror! So for those of you who are not regular readers of my blog and my other articles (Hi, and muchas gracias for stopping by) you will be aware that I am a Feminist. And more importantly I view myself to be a British Asian Feminist.

It is due to my British and Asian upbringing that sometimes the issues that concern me vary from the wider feminist community and there is one pesky little issue that has been troubling me for some time…sex. Not just your regular seen in the media 50 Shades of Grey Sex. But (OMG) sex – before – marriage! An unthinkable crime for any British Asian girl, and for those who do indulge in this face social isolation worse than somebody diagnosed with leprosy.

(Quick warning – any Conservative prudes or enforcers of patriarchy or those with reductionist and restrictive gender stereotype ideas please stop reading – your head may just explode with my liberal ideas.)

To many of you this does not seem like a big issue as it is a personal choice, and I do not judge those who do have sex any differently to those who do not. To the sane individual sex before marriage does not seem like a reason for slut shaming, name calling, cultural isolation, judging, the fear of being disowned and a whole range of other lovely behaviours designed to make females of the British Asian community feel like shit about themselves. But sadly there are some out there who view sex outside of marriage for those in the British Asian community (mainly females) to be shameful and sinful.

So lets kick this off…the concept of marriage. Why is sex only acceptable after marriage? I know many will cite religion and the concept of sin as the explanation. Firstly not everybody adheres to his or her respective religion, and secondly we are all sinners. Do not judge somebody just because they ‘sin’ differently to you.

So fucking what if a female has sex before marriage? Will the world end? Will there be a plague upon our houses? Will the moon crash into the earth? No. All that will happen is that she will challenge the status quo and reject a position of femininity that has been dictated to her. Now call me crazy (many of those who know me personally do) but I’m sure that it is more acceptable for two individuals who are in loving, respectable and caring relationship to have sex – as opposed to upholding the valued ideal of virginity and in some cases marry someone as good as a stranger and be expected to get jiggy with it on your wedding night…

Secondly the issue of honour. Ah that old concept that is literally a thorn in my side. Why oh why and I really do struggle with this – why is concept of honour equated with virginity? If somebody decided that my ‘honour’ and his or her ‘respect’ for me is based upon my hymen I would think that you my friend are a top of the class dickhead.

The notion of female purity is not new – it is an idea as old as time, but sadly an idea that the British Asian community clings to. What baffles me further is that an all too common view of my generation that females who remain virgins are reinstating their ‘uniqueness’ by remaining ‘pure’. I would like to point out that sex is a personal choice, but those who refrain for the sake of honour are merely just conforming to a role dictated by a patriarchal society. WAKE UP! Being a virgin does not guarantee your honour anymore than the ability to make chapattis whilst doing a handstand.

Women have been taught for centuries that their worth is determined by virginity. That their bodies are not really their own, but merely property for the consumption of men. The virginity ideal dominant in British Asian communities takes on a sinister role in cases of grooming, sexual abuse and exploitation. When a female is taught that her worth is based on her purity it allows sexual predators the power to carry out abuse knowing that the stigma attached to victims who report these heinous acts.

And finally for those of you who are eager to judge others for their actions please remember that virginity is just another social construct designed to control females. Want further proof? Examine the ways in which male sexual prowess is celebrated. Female sexuality has never had the luxury of being private, but always under the scrutiny of society. The idea of a female (especially a British Asian female) enjoying sex is a threat to her passive position and a direct challenge to male authority. Long gone are physical chastity belts, but invisible ones still exist in all their ugly and restrictive form today.

Virginity is used all too often as a reductionist tool within the British Asian community to shame and set the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’. Sadly dignity and respect are seen to by synonymous with virginity. So how about this crazy concept…how about if dignity and respect is about having the power and strength to control and dictate your own sexual experiences? How about if dignity and respect is about empowering each other, rather than judging or shaming others for their sexual activities to make yourself look better?

Having sex does not make you a bad person. It does not make you mean that you are corrupted with westernisation. It does not mean that others can call you a slut. It does not mean that your marriage choices are restricted. It does not mean that you have no honour. And equally choosing not to have sex does not mean any of the above either.

So just remember…

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Until next time…x

Because double D’s are just NOT big enough…

So readers have you heard? DD’s are no longer big enough. Ladies (and Gentlemen) of the world take note – you have been warned, an ample DD size simply no longer makes the cut. Well that is at least what one lads’ mag has claimed in their latest edition…

Ah the ‘lads’ mag’ the magazine that advertisers would lead one to think that any self-respecting ‘lad’ would possess in abundance. Secretly tucked away all sticky paged under his mattress/ under that one creaky floorboard in his bedroom/ at the bottom of his wardrobe or even rolled up and stuffed into a pillow. “Why?” I hear you cry -“what is the issue with the beloved lads’ mag?” Well simply because they offer a misogynistic (extremely photo shopped) and shit view of females.

And how do I know this? Have I consulted my secret stash? No, instead I purchased two of these ‘leading’ magazines earlier today in order to conduct some research. I would have purchased the real ‘hard-core’ stuff on the top shelf (wink wink) however being a mere five-foot and having small tyrannosaurus rex style arms worked against me once again.

So what is the big fuss? Well these magazines place a large focus upon females as purely sexual objects there to be viewed and consumed by the reader. The overtly sexualised images plastered across the front cover, alongside the provocative promise of further such images inside the publication seeks to reinforce the negative attitude that society holds towards women. Interestingly, the women featured in both publications have all adopted a similar pose – grabbing their breasts with either a perfected smile worthy of a dental advert, or a dazed mouth half open look, or as what I have evaluated to be the ‘how did I get so naked?’ look. These images of females in a state of willing and compliant undress seek to imply that women are constantly sexually available. Not only does this send a harmful message to the reader, but also to anybody over the height of five foot who can walk past and see this image.

Our reading habits serve as a reflection of our society and unfortunately the female nudity featured in these magazines seeks to suggest that this is an accepted view of females today. These magazines predominantly target a young male demographic and the front covers hold promises of ‘massive boobs’ and more explicit photos inside. Yes that’s right – a magazine actually stated that there are only ‘massive boobs inside.’ Aside from that headline being laughable due to the reduced imagination and low IQ level of whoever actually constructed it – it also touches upon a darker topic. Such magazines seek to drive an image of sexual desire towards their reader and dictate what is considered attractive. By featuring a certain body shape and breast shape these magazines are dangerous not only for the wider society – but also to their readers whom they seek to create a template of how a female should look, act, and most importantly what her favourite sexual position ought to be.

Now I am not against female sexuality, nudity or even the half dazed ‘how did I get so naked?’ look. But what I am against is the fact that these magazines have suggested to those who pose for it, send in pictures via Twitter or reveal their ‘naughty confessions’ the falsehood that this is somehow empowering for them? These females appear to be in control of their personal freedom because they are choosing to strip, however what ‘victory’ has been gained in their freedom of expression? The rules of the game, and the arena in which they are playing in is not equal. Instead these ‘victories’ suggest that ‘massive boobs’, a slim frame, heavy makeup, big hair and sexual discussions equates to success and attractiveness in our society today. By posing in such publications they have become objects of desire in a patriarchal society that is only valuing them based upon their breast size and looks. Rather than empowerment, these females (whether consciously or not) are instead reinforcing the misogynist viewpoint that women are to been seen not heard, useful only to be sexually conquered and not valued for their intelligence and professional achievements.

Now I am not calling for an absolute abolition of the lads’ mag. But what I am calling for is a change in content. Interestingly, women’s magazines do not portray such damaging images of men, and even if there was a naked male in one, I doubt a female reader would pay much attention. The content needs to be changed, as it is not only damaging towards women, but also to the men who readily consume it.

And finally, to the males out there who do possess a stash of such magazines…seriously what is the obsession? It is only a pair of breasts, and quite frankly your obsession, and the magazines obsession is creepy, and extremely Freudian. They are just breasts. Get over it. Recognise females for more than the two lumps that we have on our chests.

Thanks.

Until next time…x

Oh wait, am I a slut?

For any of you who are not aware, there is a new trend that has been rearing its ugly head across the Internet: Slut Shaming.

Blog - Slut shaming

Ah, I hear you ask ‘what is Slut Shaming?’ Believe it or not this is an actual concept that exists and not something that I have merely invented in order to facilitate a new blog post. Before I move on any further, for any of you who are blissfully unaware I would like to provide a very quick definition of the word ‘slut’. Evidently good ol’ Google always pulls through:

So basically a ‘slut’ is:

‘A slovenly or promiscuous woman.’

First of all, lets all take a minute to let out a loud Spongebob Squarepants style laugh – bahahahaha! Rather than try to argue a viewpoint of why the terminology ‘Slut’ is deeply misogynistic and also very reductionist, instead I want to examine the concept of ‘Slut Shaming.’

Slut Shaming is spreading like a bad smell (think rotten eggs, sour milk, garlic breath) across the Internet in which a girls image/ stories about her/ testimonials about guys who have ‘been there, done that’ are publicized across the Internet – just so everybody knows exactly what a dirty little slut she is.  Victimising females for their actions is nothing new and it has been happening ever since the start of time (remember girls Eve got us kicked out of Paradise- we are to blame for all of mankind’s problems) but the fact that the Internet is a worldwide connector has led to a more sinister and anonymous type of victimization of females.

So before we all undertake a mob mentality and start yielding sticks of fire and pitchforks to identify these females – lets stop a minute, take a deep breath and assess the situation: We are living in 2013, not in 1913 – where there are more defining aspects to an individuals character than just their sexual capabilities and experiences.

As if it isn’t hard enough for young females to attempt to juggle life in a confusing world where on the one hand we are expected be sexually liberated as well as sexually pure there are those individuals waiting to pounce and declare any girl they want as a slut. And god forbid if someone says you are slut, then surely it must be true? RIGHT? Well not quite….

First of all, being the ripe old age of 23, I remember an age when the Internet did not control our lives. An age where there was such a thing as dial up. An age when the coolest thing on the Internet was hi5 – (any of you who say you did not have hi5 and await ‘testimonials’ are liars) and a time where if a rumour was spread about you, it was just that. A rumour with no real concrete evidence apart from a whisper of ‘he said, she said.’ However thanks to Facebook, Twitter and so forth rumours are available to be publisiced anonymously and spread across the world.

So lets just break down the concept of why ‘Slut Shaming’ is so popular; the term ‘slut’ is a term endorsed by patriarchal society in order to condemn women for acting in a manner that is not considered ‘proper’. Quite frankly, it is a term to keep women in ‘check.’ There are common instances of photos being saved and uploaded onto Facebook on a page dedicated to ‘Sluts’ where often Internet trolls (keyboard warriors) discuss every aspect of her physical appearance, and post little witty remarks such as: ‘Hey girl did you know that urm…your boobs go inside your top?’ Wow. These little trolls are giving Shakespeare a run for his money.

Sadly, females are expected to behave in a certain way. Females are expected to uphold certain virtues. To this I say; fuck off.  The biological differentiation of male and female should not dictate the way in which we behave, i.e. there should not be a certain rule for males and another for females. ‘Slut Shaming’ is done as a means to enforce traditional gender roles, in which a females reputation is all that she can essentially offer, and to tarnish that is to tarnish her. Disturbingly this trend of ‘Slut Shaming’ is more dominant within a younger generation (man I feel old) in which the Internet for them, unlike those who have grown up without it being a dominant presence ultimately represents a reality of life to them.

So for those of you who post photos of your ex-partners, and fellow females who post pictures of girls and declare them to be ‘sluts’ all I can say is GROW UP.  We are in 2013! We now have legalised gay marriage, Snoop Dogg is now Snoop Lion, a commoner (Kate Middleton) has married into the royal family! And all you can do is post pictures of girls and call them sluts? I know times are hard, and the weather is shit, and we as a British public are often puzzled as to what we can do to entertain ourselves, but come on, there must be other alternatives? Knitting? Stamp collecting? Basically anything is better than sitting behind a computer screen exercising your bullying ways and ‘shaming’ girls that quite frankly you have no authority to even pass judgment on, let alone post their photos on the internet and encourage others to judge them.

Being part of the Western world we all have a fair right to express, conduct and dress ourselves how we wish, and not to be ridiculed for it. Sadly as long as the term ‘slut’ is used as a derogatory term against females it is something that many females will be terrified to be accused of being.

Just remember, ‘Slut Shaming’ does not just shame females, but it shames all of us as a society as it exposes that we still do not view each other as equals.

Until next time…x

P.S – kind request to ‘Slut Shamers’ out there  – I would greatly appreciate it if you didn’t post my photo with a witty caption on a Slut shaming site. However if you insist on doing so, please run the caption by me at first – I would hate to be misrepresented.

Thanks in advance.