Living life- on the brown side
by Zurana Zayed
Dear brown aunties,
The entire seventeen years of my existence have been stationed around your ideals of who I am destined to be. In complete disregard of what my personal ideals are, I’ve been unwillingly obliged to be the holiday destination for your personal insecurities; applied layer over layer like the turmeric mask you suggested last week because my skin was getting dark, and that no one would want to marry me because of my darkening colour of skin. Of course, you out of all people are entitled to tell me something like that; or to decide the hypothetical occurrences that are yet to occur in my life. Thankfully, your absurd comments on my appearance and character now forms the solid sheath that secludes me from myself completely. In other words, makes me your ideal ‘Sanskari’ girl.
So, while you seem to appear utterly oblivious to the cons of your deeds, here’s some words of wisdom from a brown girl on the receiving end.
Legend has it that to be deemed desirable in the eyes of society, a woman’s individuality is to remain invisible. Our position requires us to live “happy lives” from the ideals of other people, leaving no room for personal aspirations or ambitions. You see, conversationally it becomes a joke - assumed hyperboles that we young brown girls snicker over at family gatherings. But- hidden behind closed doors- are the leftovers from your bowl of beauty myths and obscure ideologies. There are uncountable dreams left destroyed for a male counterpart to pick up.
Our girls aren’t taught to aspire to succeed, but to get chosen by someone successful.
Every time I tell myself that “I am my choice”, I am drawn back with the thoughts like What will people say? Short clothes? Out late at night? Having opinions, dreams, ideals? breathing? living? EXISTING? Unacceptable. There is an ingrained ideology in many brown societies that continue to suggest that the place of a woman is never in the forefront of the show, but always behind the scenes. When 15 year old Meera returns home from her hockey game, the topic of discussion is not the number of the goals she scored but the number of shades her skin has gotten darker that day. Oh dear, they say, it seems like hockey and resulting exposure to the outside world is darkening her skin, maybe it’s time to stop this hockey business. No later than that will you find Meera slapping her face with whitening creams (“Fair and Lovely” most likely) in efforts to reach an absolutely unrealistic standard of beauty. Why do we tell our girls that their natural melanin is a flaw, and the solution lies in lathering laboratory chemicals on their faces? Why are we constantly trying to reach the brush of European physique, while slamming our own appearance?
And to top it all of, our girls are also told that their dignity is their pride, and that to protect it means that they are to remain virgins until they are wives. Because even products have it written: do not purchase if seal is broken. Why is that we see our girls as products? Why is the concept of virginity restricted to only one gender? No more really needs to be said.
These are the fundamental flaws in the perception and treatment of women in our culture. The mere existence of a woman is associated with sexual connotations, while allowing them no recognition as sexual beings. An “ideal” girl spends her entire life trying to be worthy of a man, while the other gender is not forced to take women into consideration in their life choices. Our society is driven by men who show no compensation even when at fault, but are the firsts to point fingers at a young girl for wearing shorts. And we continue to fuel this ongoing prejudice by telling them that they are to go out there and be our protectors. We give them their weapon of choice in hands, and end up with over 24,000 reported rape cases a year.
And so how do we combat this?
We rule out the patriarchy, and start from scratch. Our society is designed to make our boys think of themselves as dominant beings, which forms the root of all inequalities. And so it calls for a systemic reform. Teach both genders to cook and send both genders to school. STOP suggesting that the purpose of a woman is purely to look pretty and bear children. Allow for them to find purpose and freedom in their own pace, in their own ways. Tell them that their purpose in life is to be whoever they wish to be - and I mean whoever they wish to be- whether that is to be a doctorate professor at Stanford, a housewife or an adult entertainer. There is absolutely nothing wrong in having these aspirations, nor is it wrong to be detached from the presence of a man in their lives. It is okay to have dreams for yourself, and yourself alone. This is the alternative approach that our society need to adopt. STOP telling girls to restrict themselves in order to make room for boys. There is no such thing as ‘boys will be boys”; consent is consent  and victim blaming is obnoxious. The length of ones’ clothing does not signal a green light to their body, so teach the boys to lower their lustful gaze instead of punishing our women to sacrifice their freedom of choice to make room for the other gender’s freedom of choice.
But most importantly, create room for growth.
Dear brown aunties- no, all of you- allow for young minds to bloom through personal experiences, untouched by the views of others. And while it might not be enough to bring an end to all of our complications, it might just create generations of empowered women.
A benefit to her is a benefit to the world.
Written by Zurana Zayed