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

One Thought on “International Women’s Day and why it should matter to British Asians.

  1. I love this post – hilarious as hell (not sure if the post was written to be hilarious). I’ve dropped on this late – you published on the 3rd March and I’ve landed here on the 26th March – oh well.

    As a Guy, and as a British Asian, I do feel slightly uncomfortable with ‘International Women’s Day’ concept. In a year, we have 365 days, and if one day is dedicated to the International Women’s Day then what happens for the remaining 364 days?

    In my British Asian culture, or South Asian culture that exists in the United Kingdom – women (be it a sister, daughter, Mother or Grand Mother) are dominant forces within the community and indeed in the household too. The Victorian culture of understanding the place of a women, both in the house or out in the community, is extremely different from how the British Asian Culture is – and until, you don’t look closely at the differences and acknowledge them – you won’t know the difference.

    I was in India for a business/pleasure trip in December of 2013. I was taken to a building site where a block of high-rise apartments are being put up. It was early stages, and allot of bricks and material was being shifted around. One part of this site had about 30 or so elder women working. All they were doing was moving six bricks at a time from one location to another. Few days later, back at the same site, I happen to speak to one of these women. She simply reminded me of my mum (age wise). So while I talked to her, I asked ‘why she was working here?’. Her response was ‘no other choice’. On the same site, her husband, two sons and herself were working to earn a living. She further confessed, she’d prefer to be at home, looking after her home and animals. This clearly, demonstrated to me, the building site isn’t a place for a women. Now, consider yourself, having to go along with your family to work on a building site. This building site demonstrated total equality, especially in the sense of Man and Women doing the same. The problem is, however, in this situation it didn’t work. For me, it was evident, this women in India would be more recognised, more respected and more powerful in her own home.

    There is a problem amongst the British Asian, and in some practices and cultures which have arrived from South Asia, women are degraded, that I admit, but at the same time, some women are looked up to be a dominant force and a backbone for both the family and society.

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