Archive | June, 2010

How to Piss Off an Indian (Advice from an Indian-American Feminist)

7 Jun

For me, this recent HuffPo article really struck a nerve. Cleverly disguised as flattery, this article so effortlessly reduces Indian people to their “datability” and crushes a culture of 28 states, numerous faiths and hundreds of languages into one spiffy little assessment.

The author, Andrea Miller, who is married to an Indian man, mentions 7 things that she thinks any non-Indian who wants to date an Indian should know. Those 7 things might resonate in different ways with different Indian people. Some might agree, some might disagree, others might want to puke. I, personally, want to puke. Here’s why:

I hate being essentialised.

There I’ve said it. To be reduced to some part of my culture or heritage that’s superficially charming to someone outside it, is NOT fun. It does not make me feel good. It takes away the fullness of my life and reduces it to what YOU like about it.

I don’t care much about Miller’s list, or her assessments. I understand that they’re tongue-in-cheek. I understand nuance and the fact that she reduces Indian people to our quaint and charming social customs and exuberance for life, is supposed to be a lighthearted and loving how-to. (For a much more fun “how-to,” see here.)

The point is, however, that the very idea of a HOW TO in regards to dating, presumably, one person from such a diverse culture reeks of arrogance and privilege. Not all Indians love Bollywood, Bhangra or their families. Some Indian food is delicious, some is gross. Some of us are damn fine — others, bless their hearts, not so much.

And that’s where this article really makes me angry: all those references to the Kama-Sutra and snagging yourself a sexy, exotic Indian. This is not funny and it’s not flattering. It’s objectifying. I am an Indian woman and more times than I can count, people have touched me without permission, while commenting on my eyes, hair, or skin. They’ve commented on my presumed sexual expertise.  They have told me how they’ve always wanted to “have” an Indian. I have friends that have been violently assaulted by people saying these very things .

So while, the jokes about communicating with cabbies, and the quips about bhangra are pretty annoying, what is insidious about essentialism is the fact that it removes a person’s humanity. It makes them an object. As a crunk feminist, I know that objectification, whether it be in Hollywood, Bollywood, or a dumb HuffPo blog is actually DANGEROUS. It reduces people not only to their “databilty” but to their body parts in ways that actually lead to physical, mental and emotional harm. It’s not funny and it’s not cute.

It’s a political act, and it’s not a feminist one.


Post Script, for a little levity:

Because Miller spends a lot of time discussing Bollywood, I can’t resist making one vehement statement about it myself. I have a complicated relationship with Bollywood. I personally love Shah Rukh Khan and as many of my dearest friends can attest, ALSO love Kal Penn. So, #*%$ you: HE DOES COUNT.


Not Beyond Perdition

4 Jun

Last night’s episode of The Rachel Maddow cemented her as a crunk ally. Although I generally eschew msm outlets, I do appreciate Maddow’s rare brand of journalism. Walking along the increasingly endangered marshland in southern Louisiana, Maddow remarked, “Beyond petroleum, my ass!” Maddow’s sentiment is more than a pithy jab at the behemoth oil company. It is a spot on, albeit brief, assessment of the travesty happening on the Gulf Shore.

In 2001, BP, also known as British Petroleum, started using the tagline “Beyond Petroleum” to emphasize their commitment to alternative energy sources and the like. However, considering the company spends only approximately 4% of its budget on researching alternative fuels, BP is more adept at, or perhaps just more interested in, greenwashing its atrocious record rather than actually moving beyond the same tired paradigms of energy consumption. After all, they did change their logo from a shield to a cute helios pattern, that means they’re down for the environment, right?


I’ll try to tone down the snark, but when I see pictures of birds caked in disgusting oil, I have to get snarky to keep from crying. We have one planet, yet we seem to be determined to damage, mistreat, pollute, and ultimately destroy it. I’ve lived in Florida and Alabama, two of the states deeply affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  I’ve lived through hurricanes, landslides, tornadoes, and tropical storms. And while I certainly don’t want to downplay the devastation that natural disasters have inflicted, I will agree with Rachel Maddow in that this oil spill, which has already eclipsed the devastation that was (and is) the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989: this is a whole other situation . The ecosystem and the industry may never be the same in these coastal regions because of the hubris and utter disregard of BP and its political cronies. (For the record, since 1990 BP has contributed more than $5 million to political campaigns in the US ; 72%  went to Republicans and 28% went to Democrats. Side eye).

The situation on the Gulf Coast is an issue that we cannot ignore. We all know that when things get bad communities of color, by and large,  get hit the hardest. Folks (and habitats) are still recovering from Katrina, Ike, and Rita in New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast region. There’s no telling what all this recent disaster will do to these communities.

What is your take on the disaster? And what do you think needs to be done about it?

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