Policing identities

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how within both muslim and south Asian communities there is a very problematic tendency to police one another and prevent people from being who they are.

I recently had a conversation with a cousin who mentioned that she stopped talking to an old friend because she ‘does weird things’ like blogging and hiking (!?!?!)(for obvious reasons, she doesn’t know about my blog). This reminded me of the time a few years back when I asked her about somebody I knew who went to her school and she laughed and proceeded to mock the girl for riding a bike to school while donning the hijab. But this particular one really made me think because not only did I expect her to have grown out of this petty, ‘policing’ others’ behaviour stage, but the girl she called ‘weird’ was soembody she had been good friends with since the beginning of her school life. It just astounds me that people can be so cruel and dismissive of others (often people they don’t even know) for being themselves and living their life how they want to. It’s people like this that hold minority communuties back and stop them from progressing, by outting people down for trying new things and having unconventional interests, you are active agents in stripping your own community of diversity and enforcing stereotypes- you are actively contributing to the idea of a one dimensional community. It’s funny because I often find that the people policing others’ behaviours the most are foten the ones who readily change their whole style, manners and style of speech as an attempt to ‘fit in’ with the white majority yet when somebody does something they genuinely like (not because they wish to fit in) and you thik it may help them appear ‘more acceptable’ you’re quick to mock them and categories them as ‘weird’?

I’m at a point with people like this now where I a) don’t care what they think and mock them right back if they say something or b) keep them at arms length so that they don’t know enough about my interests etc to interfere and put me off doing what I want. Honestly, I find that with most people the reason they are so bitter when people don’t fit into the one dimesional moulds society has created for both muslim and south asian girls is because not only do they blindly internalise this image as the acceptable way to act, but because they themselves feel trapped within this mould and if they can’t get out, they don’t want to see other people do so. Dissapproval or mockery is often only a mask of jealousy and you should never let it put you off doing what you love, if they think you’re weird then cut them out. You don’t need baggage like that holding you back in life.

Update: I haven’t posted anything in almost a year! I have a bunch of unfinished blogs and poems that I’ve been writing whenever I thought of something but I just never got round to actually completing and publishing them. Hopefully I can be more active from now on. šŸ˜Š

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Speak

Speak they tell me

Condemn these terror attacks

Apologise for them

From your brown, hijab clad face to your Muslim name, it is you who bears the responsibility for them after all

And so I do

I express my disgust and intolerance of taking innocent lives, of terrorism and social

Meaning both Islamist radicalism and western bombings and intervention in the non-western world

Imagining in my head the hundreds of lives lost DAILY to western intervention to western terrorism as well as to Islamic extremism

But too afraid to clarify this out loud

Speak they tell me

Show your condolences to these families who lost people because of terrorism

For only then can we be sure you aren’t a ‘terrorist sympathiser’

And so I do

I say I am sorry about the lives lost

Thinking both of western and non-western lives but again, scared to say so

For the non-western lives are lost on a greater scale and more regular basis

Lost without a trail and lived in constant fear

Where are the apologies, the media coverage?

Frustrated, I cannot remain their silent any more

Speak they tell me

But when I do they twist my words

They will not listen as I am not allowed to express frustrations of my own, I am their pawn, speaking when they need.

Re-asserting their notions of white and western superiority.

Stop they tell me

But I won’t. For too long I have stayed silent out of fear of rejection, fear of miscommnnucation.

Yet even when I remain silent they make me out to be the bad guy

Speak I tell myself

Stand up for who you are, make your own judgements of what is right and what is not.

‘Feminism’

Honestly, I’m not really a fan of the term.

But can I be described as a ‘feminist’? If you knew me, you’d probably say yes.

However, it is definitely NOT a word I’d use to describe myself. It seems the older I get the more estranged I feel from the term. Not only is the term increasingly associated with radicals who go beyond the notion of equality towards belittling men but it also an ideology the is very white.
I started off (around year 9) thinking I was a ‘feminist’ because I believe in ‘equality for women’ but over time I realised that what I perceived as ‘equality’ was not what other ‘feminists’ did.

And so I switched to identifying as ‘HeForShe’ (I’m a massive Emma Watson fan). Because why should a women be able to choose whether or not she wants work when a man has no choice but to work? Why should women gain ‘equality’ when it comes to aspects that, currently, men benefit from but when it’s comes to having men hold doors open for them, carry their bags, or pay for their food they still reap the benefits?

But about two years ago I realised that while I still very much hold the views I had because when I thought I was a feminist or even HeForShe, neither term is comfortably applicable to me. They serve the white, middle class women and therefore doesn’t wholly align with my interests.

I’m not a feminist.

I’m not HeForShe.

Because unlike the typical subscriber to feminist idology, I strive also for racial equality, then class equality and then gender equality. For me there are many more hurdles compared to which some feminist goals seem trivial and petty.

My white middle class, self proclaimed feminist lecturer once said that [white] women’s roles in the past were comparable to those of slaves!??! (Yes, the ignorance is real). This sole point demonstrates why I don’t identify as feminist. It seems the white ideology that is feminism has a tendency to ignore real struggle and to depict their own problems [very white and often very middle class] in an exaggerated way that attempts to put them on equal footing of groups that suffer much worse. It seems petty struggles faced by white people will always be exaggerated or real struggles faced by non-whites always suppressed/dampened to make them seem less. I think the most disappointing this is, they recognise full well the struggles of the oppressed go up they compare to yet refuse to acknowledge that they attempts really better off??

The intersections aspect of feminism is ignored.

^^^^the above post is something I wrote when I first created this blog and but never published because it felt somewhat lacking. I guess today I just wanted to share my, unedited teenage thoughts.

Recently there was a statement released by Emma Watson where she acknowledged that her feminism was indeed ‘white’ and needs some work.(I was very happy to hear this as an Emma fan) I think the older I get the more I realise that feminism, agency and equality are not what others tell you but what you percieve yourself, shaped by culture, upbringing, beliefs and more importantly what we want, whether its covering up or undressing, wanting a family or not. A lecturer and I were once discussing feminism and the backlash she recieved from her fellow feminists for taking her husbands name after marriage and each time I think of this I think of how many women are often the first to put down other women, and question their choices. So how can we achieve equality when we are divided within us?

There is no ‘right’ way of doing feminism, it is simply an ideology wherein women are allowed to do as they please without asking anyone’s permission to do so (including other women), where they can decide the roles they feel comfortable in whether they are leadimg roles or as subordinates and where they are not denied opportunities because of their gender, culture, race or anything else that may not follow the ‘norm’. And that’s something the movement really needs to catch up with.

Exception

You watch me, waiting to determine whether I am ‘safe’, ‘acceptable’

Waiting

My physical features render you uncertain, this brown, hijab clad face in front of you

Waiting

I laugh, I tell a relatable joke, I stick up for you when someone tries to humiliate you,

I mention tv shows you also watch, characters in books that you’ve read too,

That’s it

The cue you needed

It’s okay,

You know it’s safe to approach me, to talk, to be friends

I’m acceptable now

We get on oretty well, have a laugh, share a joke

But amidst it all in the back if my min I can only hope

I hope our friendship means more to you than it does

I hope that people in your future, people who look like me do not need the assessment that I did

I hope that I have convinced you

That you would see their humanity from the get go

But no,

Your first reaction to me is ingrained in my mind

The seats you left in between us, the uncertaibty in your eye

I’ve learnt now that no matter how hard I try

I will always be an exception in your mind

My acceptibilty is an exception

And those who look like me remain tarnished with the stereotypes and prejuduces you hold

One DimensionalĀ 

‘White kids get to wear whatever that they want, when it comes to black kids one size fits all’- Childish Gambino

I guess this is going to be another post about identity and labels, another post where I complain about being sorted racialiased into boxes all the time.

I started my third and final year at Uni this week and like every year there are so many societies and clubs I’d like to join. But hopefully, unlike in the previous years, this time round I will actually join.

You see the thing that puts me off is not the membership fee or the meeting times, it’s the expectations. I always wanted to join the Harry Potter soc but was worried. Why? Because people like me can’t like Harry potter right? Because brown people, or in my case, brown, Muslim, scarved people cannot be anything more than their physical appearance.

I guess what I’m trying to say is BME identity is ALWAYS constructed as simple and one-dimensional. There is nothing more to you than meets the eye.

There are sooo many occasions at Uni where I feel like my likes and dislikes don’t matter, my sense of humour and political views are deemed irrelevant because they get in the way. They get in the way of other [white] students preconceptions of me. It seems they can’t comprehend that there can be more to who I am than my headscarf and skin colour.

To these people I am not their friend. I am their [token] Asian or hijabi friend and I am not allowed to be anything more. My physical appearance is all there is to me, the sole definiton of my being.

I feel as though I am constantly having to go out of my way to show that yes I am human, that I like nerdy shows and am crazy about fantasy/dystopian books, that I am not one dimensional.

It frustrates me that in this world white people have so much flexibility; they can be hipsters, gaming nerds and bookworms, artists, singers;they can be complex, they can be people. And more than anything, they can be this on top of being white. Yet it seems I’m still struggling with their insistance that I can never be anything but brown/Muslim. The worst thing about it is that while these one-dimensional construction of coloured and/or muslim bodies may be a product of colonialism and white socities, they are now so deeply ingrained in society that they are enforced by people from both outside and, more rarely within these community circles.

And like everytime I feel responsible to try and change that perception and to not let it define me like I have in previous years I become the exception.

I don’t ever wanna be

‘She’s so pretty’ they say, wishing they looked like her

I look over and shake my head

If that’s what it means to be ‘pretty’, then I don’t ever wanna be.

Fake tan, fake nails and hair extensions, 

Fake lashes, eyebrows and cheekbones fashioned using makeup

 A face full of makeup

‘She’s so confident in herself’ they say, wishing  they were like her

But she isn’t. 

She isn’t confident in herself 

What she’s confident in is the image she’s  created of herself

Her body is no longer her own

Her confidence drawn from material products

Not from the beauty within

Commodified

Like everything in this world

And if that’s what it means to be ‘confident’ in oneself, then I don’t ever wanna be.

Untitled

If You had asked me

I would have told you

I am a woman

and this is my scarf.

I believe in God

and freedom

and work for a world where that is possible,

Invincible,

And if that frightens you,

Be afraid.

 

~ Su’ad Abdul-Khabeer