The Conservative Party and British Asians

So you may have seen that this week that I was lucky enough to be featured on Channel 4 News, which can be viewed here. I was discussing why the Conservative party still alienates voters from the British Asian community alongside Conservative Cllr. Rabia Bhatti.

Also a quick awkward snap of me in mid conservation – for those of you who are all about the visuals:

Blog channel 4

Casually chatting with Channel 4’s Jon Snow

I wish I had more time to engage with Cllr. Rabia Bhatti.

I wish I could have asked her how she could sit on a national news discussion and state that there was no elitism in the party, whilst wearing a Chanel scarf and Dolce and Gabbana glasses. Which by the way probably cost more than a fortnightly wage earned by a typical working class person.

I wish I could have asked her how she felt with coming across as a token British Asian in the Conservative party?

And more than anything I wish I could have asked what she really thought about the anti-immigration vans? Surely she had a different opinion to ‘they weren’t nice’ as she stated? No love, they were downright fucking offensive.

I still maintain that an image of elitism and traditionalism is holding the party back from entirely connecting with a British Asian audience. And also the general wider voting population.

After all image matters – especially in politics. Not everybody follows politics very closely, and not everybody examines every single policy before casting their vote.

So what influences votes? Image and quite often who your parents vote for. So let’s look at the image of the Conservatives – rich, posh and old-fashioned. Shit situation, but that’s what it is, and no amount of staged photo trips to India will change that.

Despite promoting values that are in-line with what the majority of British Asian’s are perceived to share – pro-business and pro-family the Conservatives still struggle to capture votes.

So let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that when most Asian families came to the UK they were not wealthy, nor did they all open businesses. Instead their day-to-day life was spent working in factories and foundries in manual labour positions.

No matter the level of success which has now been achieved by British Asian’s over the course of different generations they all ultimately started as members of the working class, hence the loyalty to Labour.

This loyalty to is strong with the older generation, and is a view passed to the younger generation. Labour always looked after them, Labour appealed to their way of life, Labour passed anti-discrimination laws and oh yeah – Labour didn’t ever approve vans to drive around the streets of London asking people if they were in the UK illegally.

Also let’s not forget the legacy left behind by Enoch Powell. Good old Enoch and his eloquent ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech has left a stain in the minds of many – not just British Asians, but also others from ethnic minorities and stands as a symbol (along with ‘are you here illegally’ vans from last year) of the feeling that Conservatives don’t quite like you – unless you are white of course, and super rich.

Think I’m being over dramatic? Well here’s a fun fact – I was blessed enough to be quoted parts of Enoch’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech at length by a former colleague in 2013. In 2013 this speech was still repeated to those from ethnic minorities, so the Conservatives need to do a lot more than embrace a few British Asian Chanel wearing politicians with a sheepish stance on anti-immigration vans to get votes. If they say they are all inclusive then I’m afraid I need to see more proof.

Until next time….x

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