As an individual who is female, brown and of Indian descent, I tick all the right boxes for being an ‘oppressed’, ‘repressed’ and a less ‘privileged’ member of society in the UK. Let me share a few experiences to show you the effect my gender, race and ethnicity has had on my life. I also challenge those who are not female, not of colour and who are not ethnic minorities to see if you can identify with any of my experiences.
First, being female. My sex being the determining factor in what kind of gender role I was allocated. My parents, during my childhood, constantly reminded me that I was a girl – it’s not like I forgot. The ‘because you’re girl’ line was used a lot to get me to do the chores or prevent me from pursuing physical activities such as combat sports – which they allowed my male sibling to do. Not to mention I was occasionally compared to other good Indian girls, who always followed their parents directions’ obediently.
After being, let’s say, “culturally distinguished” from the males, I ventured outside into the real world which surely would be a much better place right? Of course not. I am likely to be employed for less than my male counterpart. It’s 2017 and according to the National Office of Statistics this is still a thing.
Furthermore, as exposed by The Times in 2016, corporations tend to charge 37% more for feminine products compared to male products – even if the two are similar. I purchase those products because society demands I look as feminine as possible. Wait why do I get paid less again?
Even to participate social nocturnal activities, to destress and have fun, is hard. As safety is an ongoing issue, normal practice for women on a night out usually consists of being with a group of friends and having safe arranged transport there and back. I cannot really dress how I would like either without being blamed for sexual attacks or harassment that may occur. And of course having to get round my parents to go out in the first place – always a challenge!
Second, being brown. When growing up racism was, and still is, casually expressed for example ‘you smell like curry’ or just plainly mimicking the Indian accent. Once reaching adulthood it’s difficult to point out racism due to the most sophisticated form of racism, subtle racism. For example, avoiding eye contact and not speaking directly to me, it can make anyone feel upset, it’s as if you don’t exist; surely if I had an ‘ideal’ skin colour I would not get treated like that.
If the above form of racism is not racist enough for you, not to worry, there are some overt options – though I haven’t personally experienced them. Such as racial harassment on public transport and, recently, acid attacks- it’s a worry to know that I could potentially experience them.
You may think there is no racial discrimination within the Asian community, but allow me to correct that misconception. There is this preference of possessing ‘fair’ skin – the lightest shade of skin colour – as it is often associated with beauty and status. Try and guess what the darker shades may represent?
Third, being British-Indian. Typically, though not applicable to everyone who ticks this box, my family hold traditional Indian conservative values. Most my British friends are not Indian and are more accustomed to British culture and values. With this combination come situations where you are damned if do and damned if you don’t.
Whilst I do drink my parents think I drink too much and my friends think I don’t drink enough. Whilst I do go out and stay out late, my parents think I do that too often, my friends don’t think I do that enough.
I could go on with more examples, but I think you get the idea of it. It’s not easy being stuck between two cultures that are vastly distinct. Sadly enough it is sometimes about finding a delicate balance between the two. But ultimately the decision, to drink as much as I want or stay out late as long as I want, lies with me.
Being female. Being brown. Being British-Indian, being all three at the same time in the UK is a mental challenge that tests your perseverance. It is very easy to feel marginalised, depressed and feel as though nothing will really work out for you because of your gender, race and ethnicity. However, I decided – for my mental and emotional wellbeing – not to dwell on and feed such negative thoughts and feelings. I have instead recognised and acknowledged that my experiences with my gender, race and ethnicity built my character to be resilient, determined and more driven. My experiences caused my personality to evolve and grow a thick skin that allowed me disregard others perceptions of me. This is what I will continue to do in order to follow through to my ambitions, aspirations and passions in life.