Dear White Feminists: please stop referring to WoC’s views as homogenous
Shockingly, women of all melanin levels have cosmological autonomy and diverse ideas
Talking over WoC about ‘what they actually think’ is nothing more than supremacy, however progressive you are trying to be. It is inaccurate, simplistic and dehumanising. Don’t believe me?
Here are a selection of opinions from various women of colour on statements oft heard in a white feminist dialogue:
1. “Pakistani women don’t like white women wearing saris as it is appropriation.”
Sanodia, 19: Honestly, I personally don’t have a problem. I think if they like something from another culture, they can wear it. But I also understand if some of my fellows are offended. So they should understand the concept of appropriation properly and apply it. Sari has cultural roots in both Pakistan and India because before partition we were one. But it also might have some religious influence for my Indian friends, I’m not sure about that. So I guess I can’t be the only judge of that.
Sana, 22: Firstly, Saari is not a Pakistani traditional dress. It was taken up by the Indians, and Indian women are the ones who wear it as a traditional dress. Pakistani women wear Shalwar Kameez as their traditional dress. Secondly, amongst the Pakistani masses (women), it is not thought that wearing a saari or even shalwar kamiz by a white woman is insulting, because we Pakistani and Indian women wear jeans as a casual outfit. More than 90 percent of the population in India, and more than 40 percent population in Pakistan (given the rural and urban area ratio) wear jeans. It is not uncommon for different cultures to have problems with different races on not just clothes, but alot of different things such as eating habits, lifestyles, clothes, language, etc. However, we WELCOME, on the contrary, women who wear our traditional dresses, as a sign that she is indeed respecting our culture and traditions.
2. “When you wear hooped earrings, you are insulting black women.”
Tracia, 17: I don’t see how that is insulting at all. Any women should put on whatever they feel comfortable in without people assuming that it is an intention to degrade black women.
Alisha, 24: I’m absolutely fine with it. It makes me angry that people try to make it look like all black people are so petty. We have real issues like police brutality and unemployment.
3. “Actually Asian women think you are racist for wearing a bhindi at Holi or Diwana.”
Sanodia, 19: I cannot be sure about that at all because I am from a Muslim majority country and grew up in a Muslim community. A Bindi and the Holi tradition are Hindu religious things so I don’t believe I have a say in this.
Nina: As a Hindu, I’ve actually given these to white women. It doesn’t mean so much.
4. “Muslim women find criticism of the hijab offensive and insulting.”
Asma, 23: We don’t, actually. It differs from person to person- my aunt for example would find it offensive because she strongly places religion over everything but I wouldn’t (even left the hijab due to reasons and because I found things absurd) because I think everything related to religion needs to be criticized for us to actually know about the religion we are following and to understand it better. And, there are a lot like me, and a lot like my aunt so there is not one specific idealogy all of us follow.
Sanodia, 19: Not really. I used to find it offensive but now I’ve learnt that most of it comes from a place of unawareness. I’d rather take the opportunity to educate them than be offended. If they want to be educated, that is.
Sana, 22: Pakistani muslim women do not find criticism of the hijab insulting because in our religion, we have been taught alot of tolerance. Our prophet (PBUH) went to spread Islam and was thrown out of the city with people pelting stones upon him, till he bled. He was asked by an angel to burn the city, to make those people suffer, and he instead, prayed to God to show them the right way.
That is the kind of tolerance we need to show to the world, to preach from our religious teachings.
What we have learnt is to in fact, teach them tolerance and to tell them that it would not hurt us, and instead, that they should learn to co exist just as we don’t have to a problem with them exposing their bodies. It should be about a choice a woman makes, whether to show her skin or to cover it. Some people choose to get tattoos, some don’t. Some people choose to pierce their bellies and their tongues, some don’t. It’s a whole human race out there, with different beliefs and different likes/dislikes. Do what you want, but learn to co-exist. That’s when you can be happiest, and see the BEST of others.
5. “Black women who relax their hair are inherrently saying they hate their race”
Tracia, 17: Absolutely not. Black children grow up having their parents straighten their hair with relaxer, and are constantly reminded that their natural hair is ugly and not neat- that’s why we grow up with that mentality. I’d rather say they hate their hair, not race.
Alisha, 22: Aha, who says this shit? No. It’s my hair. Women have styled their hair and worn wigs for thousands of years. Don’t you dare tell me how I’m allowed to have my hair, woman.
Jazmyn, 20: Black women can do whatever they want with their hair. It’s not all about you.
6. “Comedy about funny Asian accents is racist.”
Sanodia, 19: No! I enjoy it honestly. Mostly because I have come across almost all of those accents. Including mine.
Nina, 17: No. If the character is racist, then that’s different. But humans have always found accents funny.
7. “Criticising arranged marriage is colonialism. Most Asian women consider it part of their identity and culture.”
Sanodia, 19: Nope. I am strictly against Arranged Marriage. I think it’s toxic and not the best way to get married. Of course not all arranged marriages turn out bad or unhealthy, but the positive percentage is really low to be considered. I personally would never go for something like that. And most of my friends are against arranged marriage too. I know very few people who favor it.
Sana, 22: White people criticise arranged marriage because, in an Asian woman’s opinion, they are able to BECAUSE they have the freedom to live their own lives, ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN STANDARDS. Just because Asian women (mostly) are not given that kind of freedom, they begin to resent the freedom a white woman has, and in turn, out of jealousy and resentment, and trying to in fact, accept their own fate, they NEED to play the blame-game. Most of the Asian women loathe white women because they think that the whites have it all: freedom to marry whomever they want, whenever they want, adopt kids, not have kids, live their whole lives single, etc. That kind of freedom is sometimes undermined for the Asian women because they think that their religion does NOT allow them to live that kind of life, or ANYTHING that they have been FED over the years in their CULTURE, and FEED their minds on those thoughts. Whatever you think about and feed your brain, you become. So according to the average Asian woman, who is eroded down due to her constant cultural pressure and own upbringing by narrow-minded, rid-of-exposure relatives/relationships who have not burst their little bubbles, the life she lives in full obligation and respect to everyone around her, crushing and sacrificing her dreams and ultimately marrying someone to please others/her parents, is the biggest kind of blessing they could have gotten, and an average white woman would never be able to receive it, because she was a rebel.
What would you say white women can do to counter racism within the feminist discussion?
Tracia, 17: Just accept that we are all different but at the end of the day we have to have tolerance towards each other.
Anita, 21: Stop percieving black women as ‘angry’. And educate themselves on Africa: we don’t all live in huts and live in constant war and poverty.
Sana, 22: White women should firstly, stop thinking they’re prettier than Asian women. I have myself, dealt with some racism while living in the United States. They should stop undermining women on the basis of their skin colour, and the way they speak English, it is not our language, and it will never be. However, speaking it makes us multi-lingual and one should be appreciating that, just like we appreciate white women speaking our language. It makes us feel happy that someone OUT of our race is trying to learn about our culture and our language. Secondly, stop your kids from discriminating against different races. Especially because of the bad image of Islam throughout countries related to false groups that claim to be Islamic but are not; do not spread hatred and fear in the minds of your kids; because you are preparing the younger generation for something worse than what we experience today. Teach your kids to love humans, all kinds. Thirdly, work side by side and don’t discriminate in the work places, lend a helping hand to an Asian woman in need, don’t make fun of their faces or their accents, everything and everyone was created by God, and we have absolutely no control over the way we look genetically.