In the summer of 2018, I travelled to India for the first time with my family. As a British born Indian girl I was excited to discover my roots and explore my heritage. I wrote an article about my experiences on Gal-Dem so give it a read!
But what did I learn about the specifics of the Indian way of life which is a contrast to the British Indian way of life? Visiting my family in India really solidified this. I decided to write a blog post about it!
It’s common for people to eat on the floor at mealtimes. Sitting cross legged with a plate of bateta shaak ( potato curry) on my plate, eye level with my family I found myself eating more mindfully, really taking in the taste and visual imagery of the food. As I was balancing food on my lap, I couldn’t really eat and scroll brainlessly through my phone at the same time
Even though I’m Indian, I found there was a stark contrast to the way I was viewed by Indian natives. It was obvious I was a tourist from everything to the way I dressed to the way I spoke (more on that in the next post). Relatives would often ask me if I spoke Gujarati (my mother tongue) and I would hear workers talk about me thinking I couldn’t understand them.
The blunt inequality was made blindly obvious to the amount of adult and child beggars on the streets. It forced me to appreciate the fact that I had a roof over my head and food and I that I was travelling India as a tourist, able to visit restaurants and stay in hotels.
Family and culture share different vibes to the UK. The relationship between caste and marriage is a significant value in Indian culture whereas in the UK, it is more overlooked.
The driving in India is WHACK. Constant speeding, hanging on for dear life and cows in the way! There are no rules.
In parts of India, it is the norm to dress modestly, no miniskirts and keep shoulders covered. People will stare.
Navigating the markets is a strength. Big contrast to Camden. People’s persuasion will be dialed up to a 100 and you will have to put your bargaining skills to the test.
If you think Indian food in the UK is good you’ve underestimated how unbelievably Peng and beautiful the food is in India. I developed a serious addiction to Aloo Parathas at breakfast with Indian tea and don’t get me started on the Paneer.
This is Jameela Jamil. She is currently slaying everything and I’m all for it. You might recognise her from hit show The Good Place in which she plays perfectionist and socialite Tahani Al-Jamil. Yes she is fabulous and the show wouldn’t be the same without her but I’m here to talk about her influence and drive and conscientious efforts as a life positivity and body empowerment activist.
In 2018, Jameela launched Instagram account ‘I Weigh’ encouraging people to post a picture of themselves along side a list of things they were grateful or proud of that made them who they are. This was in response to an Instagram photo which showed all the Kardashians and compared their weights which Jamil exclaimed “Who gives a fuck what weight you are?”. The ‘I Weigh’ movement is inspirational and a big leap forward from the media’s constant scrutiny of women’s bodies and their pessimistic body shaming attitude. This movement may have originally focused on women but Jamil has encouraged users of any race/gender/sex to submit posts and thus a variety of individuals from different backgrounds are celebrated on the account.
Having suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager, Jamil’s preaching of self-love and acceptance comes from personal experience and a desire to right the wrongs of the media and society. She has criticised the media for creating unrealistic expectations for women, focusing on so-called ‘influencers’ who advertise detox teas and weight loss products which claim to be a magic solution to people who want to lose weight. Jamil called out US rapper Cardi B and stated “they got Cardi B on the laxative nonsense “detox” tea. GOD I hope all these celebrities all shit their pants in public, the way the poor women who buy this nonsense upon their recommendation do”. To further her point Jamil posted a short clip of herselves acting out a celebrity who was endorsing a weight loss product but has to stop when she barely makes it to the bathroom in time. It’s no-nonsense, straight to the point and hilarious. Adding fuel to the fire she voices her disbelief with “I’ve got abs, but I’ve never done a day’s exercise in my life and I haven’t been on a diet. I ate five hamburgers last night”.
Although Jamil has a massive following on ‘I Weigh’ with over 300,000 followers she is no stranger to controversy. She has been labelled ‘privileged’ because of her looks which have been deemed ‘socially acceptable’ and that she is too skinny to be an advocate for body positivity. Jamil put up a powerful Twitter post responding to these criticisms by acknowledging her privilege but explaining that she is using it to do good by paving the way for change and uprising against societal norms of beauty.
A note from me to anyone who feels uncomfortable that a slim woman is fighting body shaming as hard as I am. It’s not only because of my extensive experience with public fat shaming from the press, eating disorders and disability as a teen, but also because I want change for all. pic.twitter.com/RoEVzgBEAe
There have been many rebuttals against her stance and suggestions that she is not as inclusive as she could be but Jamil has taken these views on board and responded to many of them labelling herself a ‘feminist in progress’ as she continues to work on herself as well as her movement. She is responsive to people who don’t like her, comedy gold and always willing to spread love when she can which is why she takes is officially my reigning WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday)
So as International Women’s Day was yesterday I thought I’d write a little something…
Women. As a gender, we have been subjected to intolerable suffering and unfairness for decades. It’s hard to believe that only in 1928 did the government give women the right to vote. At what cost though? The Suffragettes were an organisation of activists that aimed to change society for the better by fighting for equality. A group of hard hitting feminists standing up for what they believe in no matter what the cost. Emmeline Pankhurst, a well-known suffragette, subjected herself to hunger strike and was arrested on numerous occasions. Emily Davidson sacrificed her life and was killed by the King’s horses in Derby all because she was appealing to the King for a right that she was entitled to have. Thousands of Suffragettes were imprisoned for fighting the unlawful patriarchal society. These women all sacrificed something for the greater good and given women the same political rights as men.
So far so good right? Well no. Just because women now have political rights doesn’t mean we should stop there. What about women’s social rights? They are constantly belittled by men and objectified by the media. Nuts, Loaded, etc. need I go on? Social norms are constantly rearing their ugly heads too. When a male sleeps around, they are deemed ‘players’ and congratulated. Yet when a woman partakes in sexual behaviour, she is labelled a ‘slag’. Children are socialised from an early age about the roles males and females must have. Women must be the head nurturers and do all the housework. There isn’t much deviation from this, especially in traditional families. Socially, women are criticised, condemned and made to feel like they can’t do as much as men – or even more- without being scrutinised and constantly judged. The problem lies in agencies of socialisation such as family and education where children are first introduced to social norms and expectations. The media is also a key factor that structures our thinking.
Many are under the illusion being a feminist means being a ‘man basher’ and allowing women to get away with everything. As a keen feminist I would dismiss that idea immediately. Feminism is essentially about men and women being equal. The only way we can build an equal society is by not judging or labelling people – whether a man or woman – and introducing open minded thinking where people can do as they please, whether that differs from gender expectations or not.
Girls, this means asserting your rights and putting your foot down. Yes I mean that literally, stiletto heels are ideal for hurting that lout next time he tells you to “get back into the kitchen”.