Walking the Tightrope: Good Indian Girls, Race, and Bad Sexuality

May 24, 2013
By

By Chaya Babu

I was a few weeks into my freshman year at Duke when my sister, a senior at the time, said to me, “Indian girls who date black guys are sluts.” Just like that.

We were sitting in her car in the circular driveway behind my dorm. The night was warm and wet in the late North Carolina summer. I had just told her about the budding flirtation with a boy from Memphis who lived across the grassy quad. I would spy him coming back from class and get the jitters. He asked me to help him study Spanish. I got excited just talking about it. And her sisterly response? Indian girls who date black guys are sluts.

I think I was already mildly aware of this idea. It had lurked in the periphery of my consciousness in high school because of the way my family looked suspiciously upon my adolescent tryst with a lanky, dark-skinned boy from a neighboring town and even my interest at a young age in hip hop music. They didn’t say anything, but they didn’t have to. The unspoken messages about how they viewed blackness and sexuality and the intersection of these two things – and how I was attaching myself to it – were successfully transmitted. And lately, at 30 years old, I wonder if I’m still working through them somewhere deep beneath the surface as I finally try to reclaim and redefine this part of my identity as my own.

If I’m honest with myself about the big picture, I actually think this all started before boys could even be blamed. Maybe when I was around 11 or 12. I remember being in a hotel room with my sister and a few children of my parents’ friends, the only other Indians I knew and whom I saw maybe twice a year. One girl in the room decided to turn the group’s attention to my facial features and how un-Indian they were: the tip of my nose was a little rounder than my sister’s; my lips were full, fat, and sat prominently on my face. Everyone turned to do their own individual nitpicking before agreeing that, yes, Chaya does look a little weird.

“You know…” she said, squinting her eyes and thinking, calculating, “You almost look black.”

Everyone laughed. I was confused. Why was that funny? Sometimes people looked “less Indian” than other people. Big deal. But the others seemed to understand something about the final comment that I missed. The way they regarded me after drawing that collective conclusion was poignant – there was mockery but also something stronger: a disdainful othering. A “you are like that, and that’s bad.”

The concepts of good and bad within Indian society, particularly when it comes to women and girls, are built around virtue. Ahem, chastity. This is widely known to be the case in India itself, where women’s lives and choices are largely restricted and controlled supposedly for their own safety. But in reality, these protections are meant to hinder their sexual freedom, not ensure their overall wellbeing. Similarly, the Indian American community and its values are not far off from this culture. The women are expected to be, and are viewed as, virginal and sexually submissive. The silence around female sexuality – everything from the onset of puberty to reproductive health to attitudes about sexual activity – is common in Indian American homes. And then young people take this with them into their personal and social lives, carrying stigmas about sex and judgment for those who break the rules. In this way, I was able to make the connection, even if only in the periphery of my adolescent mind, about what it was about me that was wrong. The curves of my face, my boisterous personality – versus many other Indian girls’ reserved studiousness – and my avid obsession with making mix tapes off of Hot 97: to other Indians, these things indicated something unrespectable and, indirectly, sexual about me. And it was like a stain that spread over the years.

Simultaneously, growing up in an affluent WASPy enclave of Westchester County and a school system where the only ethnic minorities aside from myself and a few Asian Americans filtered in from another district only after eighth grade, I experienced the opposite around my day-to-day peers. It wasn’t just that I was not seen as attractive (because that is subjective overall, color aside); it was that I was wholly invisible during that high school process of exploring sex and romance. My friends flirted, dated, and hooked up casually and significantly. Guys came to me at parties and in the cafeteria to talk about who in my clique they were currently hoping to pursue. I listened to boy banter about which girls were hot; the only time I ever heard a non-white female being discussed was when someone had fooled around with a black girl and then subsequently made fun of her vagina. Publicly. Because it was brown.

Women of color were mostly unseen as partner options. And if we landed in the purview somehow, it was, at best, to be mentioned as perhaps pretty and then quickly dismissed (you know, the “Wow, you’re pretty for an Indian girl” line) or, at worst, to be ridiculed for our ugliness. This may sound extreme, but it’s the reality I lived. I undoubtedly stood out in this context – ashy knees in the winter, unruly mane of thick, black hair in a sea of pale midriffs and near-ubiquitous gold or platinum highlights – but I was also invisible. And that external gaze is powerful: the invisibility desexualized me.

Here, enter black boys. Two, specifically, over four years of high school – not exactly like I rotated through all of the Harlem Wizards or something. I was brown; they were the other brown people around. It wasn’t really that farfetched. But what’s more memorable and noteworthy than these actual relationships is what people on the outside believed about them, something that follows me to this day after a fierce drawn-out battle in adulthood with my family over a boyfriend, also black, whom I was with for six years and nearly married. Half a lifetime of words about big dicks, super-sperm, promiscuity, sexual prowess, and insatiability, etc. etc. etc. haunt me. Not exactly the stuff nice little Indian girls are made of.

I silently accepted the loud assertions that “Chaya loves black guys!” put on me by the white boys who ruled the Briarcliff social world. At 17, I didn’t know how to have a voice about the exoticization, and implicit oversexualization, of me and my choices. So instead, I kept quiet and clung to the good Indian girl in me: while others gave blowjobs in bushes at house parties (yes, these were the sexual norms I was around as a teenager), I mostly steered clear of the bases past second. I earned the name “Chastity Chaya” because of my behavior, or lack thereof, and we all shared an understanding that the label was endearingly humorous but also infantilizing.

Then, a few years later and in a new place, when my sister told me that Indian girls who date black guys are sluts, which I sadly learned was indeed the popular perception, I remained a virgin, almost sitting out college hookup culture altogether. In the segregated campus social dynamics, I had what a male friend called a “reverse reputation” in one circle, while the Indians still looked upon me as a bad seed. Something dirty. Because I hung out with the Alphas and went to “black parties” on the weekends. One Indian classmate even asked me once, “Do your parents know about this?” As if I had gotten caught snorting heroine at a brothel. And when it came to white people, I think I continued to feel overlooked, but even this was changing. Instances such as being told that a friend’s boyfriend, a Jewish guy, mentioned to her that I come off as “very sexual and should be careful” occurred in higher frequency. I was unaware of this at the time, but in not embracing what would have actually been healthy, human sexual experiences, I was doing the balancing act. I was donning the mask of asexuality that Melissa Harris-Perry refers to in her book Sister Citizen when she says that black women throughout American history have had to conceal their true identities and desires in order to fight vicious stereotypes about their hypersexuality.

After all these years, I’m single for the first time not in a collective setting of a school or university. I’ve finally come to see clearly the odd dichotomy I’ve been navigating of being seen as prudish and puerile and, alternately, overly sensual and almost dangerous because of the ways I step outside of that virtuous Indian woman trope, even if only in the way I speak, carry myself, and dress. I’ve found that I almost always worry that a guy is reading me in one of these two extreme ways. And I do an exhausting dance of guessing which one it is so I can counter it with the appropriate behavior. Only recently did it occur to me that this is not something I can control, that it’s not my fault. That realization in itself is helping me shut out the noise to slowly find the in-between – and with that, my authentic self.

_____________________________________________

Chaya headshotChaya Babu is a journalist from New York with experience covering race and women’s issues in Chicago and Mumbai. She has a master’s from the Medill School of Journalism, and her past work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and the India-based publications OPEN Magazine, The Sunday Guardian, and The Alternative. You can check her out blogging about life as an Indian-American woman at www.fobbysnob.tumblr.com.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

56 Responses to Walking the Tightrope: Good Indian Girls, Race, and Bad Sexuality

  1. Kristen on May 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I, too, have fallen victim to the “you’re pretty for a Black girl line” and I’ve used it myself in the past when discussing white boys/men. I never even considered what it meant, never really sat down and unpacked the language until 4, maybe 5, years ago. I’ve neither said, nor heard, it since.

    It’s hard to divorce one’s self from the images and beliefs that control us. If we, as women, have sex – we are sluts. But filtering that through the perspectives of our race makes sex more difficult on level and even more problematic on another. How do we ever access and actualize our true selves if we’re always navigating and negotiating the boundaries and barriers that seek to limit and control us.

    It’s that age old dilemma of not wanting to be the stereotype, not wanting to be the black sheep of the culture, race or family – but still wanting to be yourself.

  2. Kristen on May 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I, too, have fallen victim to the “you’re pretty for a Black girl line” and I’ve used it myself in the past when discussing white boys/men. I never even considered what it meant, never really sat down and unpacked the language until 4, maybe 5, years ago. I’ve neither said, nor heard, it since.

    It’s hard to divorce one’s self from the images and beliefs that control us. If we, as women, have sex – we are sluts. But filtering that through the perspectives of our race makes sex more difficult on level and even more problematic on another. How do we ever access and actualize our true selves if we’re always navigating and negotiating the boundaries and barriers that seek to limit and control us.

    It’s that age old dilemma of not wanting to be the stereotype, not wanting to be the black sheep of the culture, race or family – but still wanting to be yourself.

  3. Kristen on May 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I, too, have fallen victim to the “you’re pretty for a Black girl line” and I’ve used it myself in the past when discussing white boys/men. I never even considered what it meant, never really sat down and unpacked the language until 4, maybe 5, years ago. I’ve neither said, nor heard, it since.

    It’s hard to divorce one’s self from the images and beliefs that control us. If we, as women, have sex – we are sluts. But filtering that through the perspectives of our race makes sex more difficult on level and even more problematic on another. How do we ever access and actualize our true selves if we’re always navigating and negotiating the boundaries and barriers that seek to limit and control us.

    It’s that age old dilemma of not wanting to be the stereotype, not wanting to be the black sheep of the culture, race or family – but still wanting to be yourself.

  4. Kristen on May 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I, too, have fallen victim to the “you’re pretty for a Black girl line” and I’ve used it myself in the past when discussing white boys/men. I never even considered what it meant, never really sat down and unpacked the language until 4, maybe 5, years ago. I’ve neither said, nor heard, it since.

    It’s hard to divorce one’s self from the images and beliefs that control us. If we, as women, have sex – we are sluts. But filtering that through the perspectives of our race makes sex more difficult on level and even more problematic on another. How do we ever access and actualize our true selves if we’re always navigating and negotiating the boundaries and barriers that seek to limit and control us.

    It’s that age old dilemma of not wanting to be the stereotype, not wanting to be the black sheep of the culture, race or family – but still wanting to be yourself.

  5. Jawahara Saidullah on May 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I didn’t grow up in the U.S., though now I realize I’ve lived here more than half my life. In the 1990′s I knew an Indian woman married to a black guy. Oh my, the reactions from the Indian community. “Oh, if she had to marry a non-Indian guy, why a black one?” “Her poor parents. How will they show their faces back home,” etc. etc. I find this brown on brown racism…inexplicable and strange.

  6. Jawahara Saidullah on May 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I didn’t grow up in the U.S., though now I realize I’ve lived here more than half my life. In the 1990′s I knew an Indian woman married to a black guy. Oh my, the reactions from the Indian community. “Oh, if she had to marry a non-Indian guy, why a black one?” “Her poor parents. How will they show their faces back home,” etc. etc. I find this brown on brown racism…inexplicable and strange.

  7. Jawahara Saidullah on May 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I didn’t grow up in the U.S., though now I realize I’ve lived here more than half my life. In the 1990′s I knew an Indian woman married to a black guy. Oh my, the reactions from the Indian community. “Oh, if she had to marry a non-Indian guy, why a black one?” “Her poor parents. How will they show their faces back home,” etc. etc. I find this brown on brown racism…inexplicable and strange.

  8. Jawahara Saidullah on May 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I didn’t grow up in the U.S., though now I realize I’ve lived here more than half my life. In the 1990′s I knew an Indian woman married to a black guy. Oh my, the reactions from the Indian community. “Oh, if she had to marry a non-Indian guy, why a black one?” “Her poor parents. How will they show their faces back home,” etc. etc. I find this brown on brown racism…inexplicable and strange.

  9. Tyronda King on May 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    This was a great article. I enjoyed reading it. I was completely unaware of the stigmatizing of young Indian girls and women that dated black men. What I found most poignant was this statement “And that external gaze is powerful: the invisibility desexualized me.” I’ve lived this for a very long time.

  10. Tyronda King on May 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    This was a great article. I enjoyed reading it. I was completely unaware of the stigmatizing of young Indian girls and women that dated black men. What I found most poignant was this statement “And that external gaze is powerful: the invisibility desexualized me.” I’ve lived this for a very long time.

  11. Tyronda King on May 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    This was a great article. I enjoyed reading it. I was completely unaware of the stigmatizing of young Indian girls and women that dated black men. What I found most poignant was this statement “And that external gaze is powerful: the invisibility desexualized me.” I’ve lived this for a very long time.

  12. Tyronda King on May 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    This was a great article. I enjoyed reading it. I was completely unaware of the stigmatizing of young Indian girls and women that dated black men. What I found most poignant was this statement “And that external gaze is powerful: the invisibility desexualized me.” I’ve lived this for a very long time.

  13. Bianca on May 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for this brave article. Genius.
    As a black woman who grew up in an affluent, white environment I can absolutely relate. Thank you for your words.

  14. Bianca on May 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for this brave article. Genius.
    As a black woman who grew up in an affluent, white environment I can absolutely relate. Thank you for your words.

  15. Bianca on May 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for this brave article. Genius.
    As a black woman who grew up in an affluent, white environment I can absolutely relate. Thank you for your words.

  16. Bianca on May 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for this brave article. Genius.
    As a black woman who grew up in an affluent, white environment I can absolutely relate. Thank you for your words.

  17. DJ on May 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I think this a wonderful article and I will pass this on, because I think talking about our experiences with internalized racism is a strong issue needing to be discussed. But I wanna add a disclaimer of something that bothers me:

    I am a black woman and I am, indeed, aromantic asexual. I am not hiding any “desire” (except the desire to not want to have sex or a relationship), I am not “oppressing” myself by being ace (the only thing I’m “oppressing” is the fact that I’m ace and not completely out the closet). People think I am down right not human, down right mentally ill, and want to send me to all sort of doctors when in the few rare instances I do express my identity.
    Ace women, especially black ace women, are invisible, and already extremely marginalized by every community, including the ace community. We seriously don’t belong anywhere, and now I’m feeling I don’t even belong in the feministwire ciricle because it seems as though my aceness makes me less “woman” because I chose to NOT have sex or a relationship as part of my sexual orientation. This, of course, is because of hypersexualization of black women in the US, but it does affect ace black women heavily. (I’ve been denied proper medical care plenty of times because medical practioners couldn’t believe I was a young black ace woman who haven’t had sex or a desire for sex, or having doctors out-rightly ignore my original request in hospitals so they can give me birth control pills because it’s just outrageous that I don’t want to have sex).
    People already make obscure connections between asexual women and “repressing” sexual desires, as if sexual desires was the default feeling. I would ask of you if you just used a different word than asexual (to me, it’s the same as saying “this article is so gay”) because by we’re already extremely affected by hypersexualization to the degree, and I’ve read too many “feminist” articles outwardly calling asexual women “sick repressed women” when we do get older.
    Asexuality is completely different from celibacy, in that asexuality is an identity, while celibacy is an action. Asexuality is also not a cookie cutter sexuality, and there are many orientations within asexuality, but I’m only speaking from my personal experience as an aromantic ace.
    I’m not saying this was your intent (and this is only applying to the US, I’m not sure how true asexuality is viewed in other countries)- after all, this is your personal story. I’m only posting this because I know very few people know that asexuality exist and this may be their first time even hearing the word, so I just want to make sure that their first time hearing about my identity isn’t demeaning and they won’t go on later to demean my sexuality (or lack of it) in later articles.

  18. DJ on May 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I think this a wonderful article and I will pass this on, because I think talking about our experiences with internalized racism is a strong issue needing to be discussed. But I wanna add a disclaimer of something that bothers me:

    I am a black woman and I am, indeed, aromantic asexual. I am not hiding any “desire” (except the desire to not want to have sex or a relationship), I am not “oppressing” myself by being ace (the only thing I’m “oppressing” is the fact that I’m ace and not completely out the closet). People think I am down right not human, down right mentally ill, and want to send me to all sort of doctors when in the few rare instances I do express my identity.
    Ace women, especially black ace women, are invisible, and already extremely marginalized by every community, including the ace community. We seriously don’t belong anywhere, and now I’m feeling I don’t even belong in the feministwire ciricle because it seems as though my aceness makes me less “woman” because I chose to NOT have sex or a relationship as part of my sexual orientation. This, of course, is because of hypersexualization of black women in the US, but it does affect ace black women heavily. (I’ve been denied proper medical care plenty of times because medical practioners couldn’t believe I was a young black ace woman who haven’t had sex or a desire for sex, or having doctors out-rightly ignore my original request in hospitals so they can give me birth control pills because it’s just outrageous that I don’t want to have sex).
    People already make obscure connections between asexual women and “repressing” sexual desires, as if sexual desires was the default feeling. I would ask of you if you just used a different word than asexual (to me, it’s the same as saying “this article is so gay”) because by we’re already extremely affected by hypersexualization to the degree, and I’ve read too many “feminist” articles outwardly calling asexual women “sick repressed women” when we do get older.
    Asexuality is completely different from celibacy, in that asexuality is an identity, while celibacy is an action. Asexuality is also not a cookie cutter sexuality, and there are many orientations within asexuality, but I’m only speaking from my personal experience as an aromantic ace.
    I’m not saying this was your intent (and this is only applying to the US, I’m not sure how true asexuality is viewed in other countries)- after all, this is your personal story. I’m only posting this because I know very few people know that asexuality exist and this may be their first time even hearing the word, so I just want to make sure that their first time hearing about my identity isn’t demeaning and they won’t go on later to demean my sexuality (or lack of it) in later articles.

  19. DJ on May 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I think this a wonderful article and I will pass this on, because I think talking about our experiences with internalized racism is a strong issue needing to be discussed. But I wanna add a disclaimer of something that bothers me:

    I am a black woman and I am, indeed, aromantic asexual. I am not hiding any “desire” (except the desire to not want to have sex or a relationship), I am not “oppressing” myself by being ace (the only thing I’m “oppressing” is the fact that I’m ace and not completely out the closet). People think I am down right not human, down right mentally ill, and want to send me to all sort of doctors when in the few rare instances I do express my identity.
    Ace women, especially black ace women, are invisible, and already extremely marginalized by every community, including the ace community. We seriously don’t belong anywhere, and now I’m feeling I don’t even belong in the feministwire ciricle because it seems as though my aceness makes me less “woman” because I chose to NOT have sex or a relationship as part of my sexual orientation. This, of course, is because of hypersexualization of black women in the US, but it does affect ace black women heavily. (I’ve been denied proper medical care plenty of times because medical practioners couldn’t believe I was a young black ace woman who haven’t had sex or a desire for sex, or having doctors out-rightly ignore my original request in hospitals so they can give me birth control pills because it’s just outrageous that I don’t want to have sex).
    People already make obscure connections between asexual women and “repressing” sexual desires, as if sexual desires was the default feeling. I would ask of you if you just used a different word than asexual (to me, it’s the same as saying “this article is so gay”) because by we’re already extremely affected by hypersexualization to the degree, and I’ve read too many “feminist” articles outwardly calling asexual women “sick repressed women” when we do get older.
    Asexuality is completely different from celibacy, in that asexuality is an identity, while celibacy is an action. Asexuality is also not a cookie cutter sexuality, and there are many orientations within asexuality, but I’m only speaking from my personal experience as an aromantic ace.
    I’m not saying this was your intent (and this is only applying to the US, I’m not sure how true asexuality is viewed in other countries)- after all, this is your personal story. I’m only posting this because I know very few people know that asexuality exist and this may be their first time even hearing the word, so I just want to make sure that their first time hearing about my identity isn’t demeaning and they won’t go on later to demean my sexuality (or lack of it) in later articles.

  20. DJ on May 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I think this a wonderful article and I will pass this on, because I think talking about our experiences with internalized racism is a strong issue needing to be discussed. But I wanna add a disclaimer of something that bothers me:

    I am a black woman and I am, indeed, aromantic asexual. I am not hiding any “desire” (except the desire to not want to have sex or a relationship), I am not “oppressing” myself by being ace (the only thing I’m “oppressing” is the fact that I’m ace and not completely out the closet). People think I am down right not human, down right mentally ill, and want to send me to all sort of doctors when in the few rare instances I do express my identity.
    Ace women, especially black ace women, are invisible, and already extremely marginalized by every community, including the ace community. We seriously don’t belong anywhere, and now I’m feeling I don’t even belong in the feministwire ciricle because it seems as though my aceness makes me less “woman” because I chose to NOT have sex or a relationship as part of my sexual orientation. This, of course, is because of hypersexualization of black women in the US, but it does affect ace black women heavily. (I’ve been denied proper medical care plenty of times because medical practioners couldn’t believe I was a young black ace woman who haven’t had sex or a desire for sex, or having doctors out-rightly ignore my original request in hospitals so they can give me birth control pills because it’s just outrageous that I don’t want to have sex).
    People already make obscure connections between asexual women and “repressing” sexual desires, as if sexual desires was the default feeling. I would ask of you if you just used a different word than asexual (to me, it’s the same as saying “this article is so gay”) because by we’re already extremely affected by hypersexualization to the degree, and I’ve read too many “feminist” articles outwardly calling asexual women “sick repressed women” when we do get older.
    Asexuality is completely different from celibacy, in that asexuality is an identity, while celibacy is an action. Asexuality is also not a cookie cutter sexuality, and there are many orientations within asexuality, but I’m only speaking from my personal experience as an aromantic ace.
    I’m not saying this was your intent (and this is only applying to the US, I’m not sure how true asexuality is viewed in other countries)- after all, this is your personal story. I’m only posting this because I know very few people know that asexuality exist and this may be their first time even hearing the word, so I just want to make sure that their first time hearing about my identity isn’t demeaning and they won’t go on later to demean my sexuality (or lack of it) in later articles.

  21. Nikki Coco on May 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Wow…love this piece! Beautifully written!

  22. Nikki Coco on May 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Wow…love this piece! Beautifully written!

  23. Nikki Coco on May 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Wow…love this piece! Beautifully written!

  24. Nikki Coco on May 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Wow…love this piece! Beautifully written!

  25. [...] among the big, black women I met.  [On going against the norms of modest Indian womenhood, read http://thefeministwire.com/2013/05/walking-the-tightrope-good-indian-girls-race-and-bad-sexuality/ ]  Called “nigger” by my black friends, I learned the painful ironies of that [...]

  26. [...] among the big, black women I met.  [On going against the norms of modest Indian womenhood, read http://thefeministwire.com/2013/05/walking-the-tightrope-good-indian-girls-race-and-bad-sexuality/ ]  Called “nigger” by my black friends, I learned the painful ironies of that [...]

  27. [...] among the big, black women I met.  [On going against the norms of modest Indian womenhood, read http://thefeministwire.com/2013/05/walking-the-tightrope-good-indian-girls-race-and-bad-sexuality/ ]  Called “nigger” by my black friends, I learned the painful ironies of that [...]

  28. [...] among the big, black women I met.  [On going against the norms of modest Indian womenhood, read http://thefeministwire.com/2013/05/walking-the-tightrope-good-indian-girls-race-and-bad-sexuality/ ]  Called “nigger” by my black friends, I learned the painful ironies of that [...]

  29. Grie Verd on May 26, 2013 at 3:38 am

    if you were called a slut just recently for being attracted to black men, imagine an Indian woman in the 1980s with a black girlfriend! I write about going against the norms of Indian womanhood in my blog– http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com, and cite yr article in this particular post–http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/dirty-words-filthy-mind-profane-body-reclaiming-language-god/

  30. Grie Verd on May 26, 2013 at 3:38 am

    if you were called a slut just recently for being attracted to black men, imagine an Indian woman in the 1980s with a black girlfriend! I write about going against the norms of Indian womanhood in my blog– http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com, and cite yr article in this particular post–http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/dirty-words-filthy-mind-profane-body-reclaiming-language-god/

  31. Grie Verd on May 26, 2013 at 3:38 am

    if you were called a slut just recently for being attracted to black men, imagine an Indian woman in the 1980s with a black girlfriend! I write about going against the norms of Indian womanhood in my blog– http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com, and cite yr article in this particular post–http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/dirty-words-filthy-mind-profane-body-reclaiming-language-god/

  32. Grie Verd on May 26, 2013 at 3:38 am

    if you were called a slut just recently for being attracted to black men, imagine an Indian woman in the 1980s with a black girlfriend! I write about going against the norms of Indian womanhood in my blog– http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com, and cite yr article in this particular post–http://quiescentbeing.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/dirty-words-filthy-mind-profane-body-reclaiming-language-god/

  33. mariahblank on May 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Loved this, except I felt it left somewhat of a gap in the story? I respect your experience, and am also used to similar situations as a latina that has dated plenty of black men. Thought I do feel like it’s important to stress the root of the connotations around black men’s sexuality, independent of us, as well. While I see the point of your assertions, it comes across as making this primarily about you or about Indian social perceptions, and I just feel that it goes deeper than that? Either way, its just my opinion, and I admire your courage for writing the piece.

  34. mariahblank on May 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Loved this, except I felt it left somewhat of a gap in the story? I respect your experience, and am also used to similar situations as a latina that has dated plenty of black men. Thought I do feel like it’s important to stress the root of the connotations around black men’s sexuality, independent of us, as well. While I see the point of your assertions, it comes across as making this primarily about you or about Indian social perceptions, and I just feel that it goes deeper than that? Either way, its just my opinion, and I admire your courage for writing the piece.

  35. mariahblank on May 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Loved this, except I felt it left somewhat of a gap in the story? I respect your experience, and am also used to similar situations as a latina that has dated plenty of black men. Thought I do feel like it’s important to stress the root of the connotations around black men’s sexuality, independent of us, as well. While I see the point of your assertions, it comes across as making this primarily about you or about Indian social perceptions, and I just feel that it goes deeper than that? Either way, its just my opinion, and I admire your courage for writing the piece.

  36. mariahblank on May 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Loved this, except I felt it left somewhat of a gap in the story? I respect your experience, and am also used to similar situations as a latina that has dated plenty of black men. Thought I do feel like it’s important to stress the root of the connotations around black men’s sexuality, independent of us, as well. While I see the point of your assertions, it comes across as making this primarily about you or about Indian social perceptions, and I just feel that it goes deeper than that? Either way, its just my opinion, and I admire your courage for writing the piece.

  37. Cris on June 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. I do feel a little like the tragedy of the (consistent and perpetual) dehumanization of black bodies, as presented in this article, is that some women will not be ably to fully and freely express their sexuality. In reality the situation is a lot more intricate and involved than that. In any case, I do find this aspect of the story interesting and informative.

  38. Cris on June 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. I do feel a little like the tragedy of the (consistent and perpetual) dehumanization of black bodies, as presented in this article, is that some women will not be ably to fully and freely express their sexuality. In reality the situation is a lot more intricate and involved than that. In any case, I do find this aspect of the story interesting and informative.

  39. Cris on June 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. I do feel a little like the tragedy of the (consistent and perpetual) dehumanization of black bodies, as presented in this article, is that some women will not be ably to fully and freely express their sexuality. In reality the situation is a lot more intricate and involved than that. In any case, I do find this aspect of the story interesting and informative.

  40. Cris on June 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you. I really appreciate your comment. I do feel a little like the tragedy of the (consistent and perpetual) dehumanization of black bodies, as presented in this article, is that some women will not be ably to fully and freely express their sexuality. In reality the situation is a lot more intricate and involved than that. In any case, I do find this aspect of the story interesting and informative.

  41. RJ on June 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    As an American-born Indian, it feels like I’m in a constant state of confusion. When I was around the Indian community, I was considered bubbly, outspoken, and pretty. But whenever I was at school, I was the quiet, ignored, unattractive, “typical Indian” girl. Now that I’m in college, I find myself stretching myself to the extreme trying to find out who I actually am. I feel like I lost part of myself trying to conform to what everyone wanted me to be. It seems like my parents were able to instill Indian culture into everything I do because the culture depends heavily on a sense of guilt. I always felt guilty for not dressing a certain way or saying a certain thing because according to Indian culture, it would shame my parents. I was so used to feeling guilt in every aspect of life that I felt shy and awkward outside of the Indian community. Relationships are such a major part of Indian culture, who you’re dating is everyone’s business. It’s even taboo to try and date another Indian who doesn’t speak your language. The most depressing part about being around other American-born Indians is when they simply regurgitate the limited viewpoint their parents and Indian community have. I wish we could all look at each other equally and leave people be to date whoever they please and express their true personalities.

    This was a great article by the way! I’m so glad there are other Indian women out there taking a stand against some of the ridiculous mindsets Indian culture encompasses. It’s always different to hear the story from someone inside the situation than out of it :)

  42. RJ on June 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    As an American-born Indian, it feels like I’m in a constant state of confusion. When I was around the Indian community, I was considered bubbly, outspoken, and pretty. But whenever I was at school, I was the quiet, ignored, unattractive, “typical Indian” girl. Now that I’m in college, I find myself stretching myself to the extreme trying to find out who I actually am. I feel like I lost part of myself trying to conform to what everyone wanted me to be. It seems like my parents were able to instill Indian culture into everything I do because the culture depends heavily on a sense of guilt. I always felt guilty for not dressing a certain way or saying a certain thing because according to Indian culture, it would shame my parents. I was so used to feeling guilt in every aspect of life that I felt shy and awkward outside of the Indian community. Relationships are such a major part of Indian culture, who you’re dating is everyone’s business. It’s even taboo to try and date another Indian who doesn’t speak your language. The most depressing part about being around other American-born Indians is when they simply regurgitate the limited viewpoint their parents and Indian community have. I wish we could all look at each other equally and leave people be to date whoever they please and express their true personalities.

    This was a great article by the way! I’m so glad there are other Indian women out there taking a stand against some of the ridiculous mindsets Indian culture encompasses. It’s always different to hear the story from someone inside the situation than out of it :)

  43. RJ on June 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    As an American-born Indian, it feels like I’m in a constant state of confusion. When I was around the Indian community, I was considered bubbly, outspoken, and pretty. But whenever I was at school, I was the quiet, ignored, unattractive, “typical Indian” girl. Now that I’m in college, I find myself stretching myself to the extreme trying to find out who I actually am. I feel like I lost part of myself trying to conform to what everyone wanted me to be. It seems like my parents were able to instill Indian culture into everything I do because the culture depends heavily on a sense of guilt. I always felt guilty for not dressing a certain way or saying a certain thing because according to Indian culture, it would shame my parents. I was so used to feeling guilt in every aspect of life that I felt shy and awkward outside of the Indian community. Relationships are such a major part of Indian culture, who you’re dating is everyone’s business. It’s even taboo to try and date another Indian who doesn’t speak your language. The most depressing part about being around other American-born Indians is when they simply regurgitate the limited viewpoint their parents and Indian community have. I wish we could all look at each other equally and leave people be to date whoever they please and express their true personalities.

    This was a great article by the way! I’m so glad there are other Indian women out there taking a stand against some of the ridiculous mindsets Indian culture encompasses. It’s always different to hear the story from someone inside the situation than out of it :)

  44. RJ on June 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    As an American-born Indian, it feels like I’m in a constant state of confusion. When I was around the Indian community, I was considered bubbly, outspoken, and pretty. But whenever I was at school, I was the quiet, ignored, unattractive, “typical Indian” girl. Now that I’m in college, I find myself stretching myself to the extreme trying to find out who I actually am. I feel like I lost part of myself trying to conform to what everyone wanted me to be. It seems like my parents were able to instill Indian culture into everything I do because the culture depends heavily on a sense of guilt. I always felt guilty for not dressing a certain way or saying a certain thing because according to Indian culture, it would shame my parents. I was so used to feeling guilt in every aspect of life that I felt shy and awkward outside of the Indian community. Relationships are such a major part of Indian culture, who you’re dating is everyone’s business. It’s even taboo to try and date another Indian who doesn’t speak your language. The most depressing part about being around other American-born Indians is when they simply regurgitate the limited viewpoint their parents and Indian community have. I wish we could all look at each other equally and leave people be to date whoever they please and express their true personalities.

    This was a great article by the way! I’m so glad there are other Indian women out there taking a stand against some of the ridiculous mindsets Indian culture encompasses. It’s always different to hear the story from someone inside the situation than out of it :)

  45. Johanna on June 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I can not thank you enough for this article, it has touched me in so many ways, as I’ve been there myself – I can very much relate with your high school experiences, as a teenager, I have always felt unseen and even now at 23, I still do sometimes. I wish more articles would deal with the aspect of desexualisation of brown and black girls.

  46. Johanna on June 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I can not thank you enough for this article, it has touched me in so many ways, as I’ve been there myself – I can very much relate with your high school experiences, as a teenager, I have always felt unseen and even now at 23, I still do sometimes. I wish more articles would deal with the aspect of desexualisation of brown and black girls.

  47. Johanna on June 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I can not thank you enough for this article, it has touched me in so many ways, as I’ve been there myself – I can very much relate with your high school experiences, as a teenager, I have always felt unseen and even now at 23, I still do sometimes. I wish more articles would deal with the aspect of desexualisation of brown and black girls.

  48. Johanna on June 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I can not thank you enough for this article, it has touched me in so many ways, as I’ve been there myself – I can very much relate with your high school experiences, as a teenager, I have always felt unseen and even now at 23, I still do sometimes. I wish more articles would deal with the aspect of desexualisation of brown and black girls.

  49. A fellow brown girl on June 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    thank you so much for writing this article. As a fellow brownie organizing in the NYC area, I can’t tell you how much crap I get by basically all my non-Black & Latino friends and fam about simply having black friends…just this past weekend I called out my friends and fam for being racist, and had zero support not only because of their stereotypical/traditional ideas, but just simply being uneducated and ignorant about the Black community…so thank you so so much again for this, I feel for and with you on your experiences and I’m so glad to know I am not alone :)

  50. A fellow brown girl on June 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    thank you so much for writing this article. As a fellow brownie organizing in the NYC area, I can’t tell you how much crap I get by basically all my non-Black & Latino friends and fam about simply having black friends…just this past weekend I called out my friends and fam for being racist, and had zero support not only because of their stereotypical/traditional ideas, but just simply being uneducated and ignorant about the Black community…so thank you so so much again for this, I feel for and with you on your experiences and I’m so glad to know I am not alone :)

  51. A fellow brown girl on June 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    thank you so much for writing this article. As a fellow brownie organizing in the NYC area, I can’t tell you how much crap I get by basically all my non-Black & Latino friends and fam about simply having black friends…just this past weekend I called out my friends and fam for being racist, and had zero support not only because of their stereotypical/traditional ideas, but just simply being uneducated and ignorant about the Black community…so thank you so so much again for this, I feel for and with you on your experiences and I’m so glad to know I am not alone :)

  52. A fellow brown girl on June 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    thank you so much for writing this article. As a fellow brownie organizing in the NYC area, I can’t tell you how much crap I get by basically all my non-Black & Latino friends and fam about simply having black friends…just this past weekend I called out my friends and fam for being racist, and had zero support not only because of their stereotypical/traditional ideas, but just simply being uneducated and ignorant about the Black community…so thank you so so much again for this, I feel for and with you on your experiences and I’m so glad to know I am not alone :)

  53. reshma on June 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

    As a South African Indian woman I was really moved by this article. I live in africa, I was born here and so were my parents, I see myself as South African with Indian ancestry. But we are still a very young democracy, so moving beyond the boundaries of Indian culture and communities is still something very new and difficult for “traditional” indians to accept. I find your article a brave and refreshing perspective on the issue. Inter racial relationships are still few and far between within South African Indian communites, because we come with the added difficulty of years of segregation. So as a minority group indians have tended to marry and associate with other indians. But I feel I can easily relate to your experiences. This is surely an accurate reflection on the experiences of many diasporic communities.

  54. reshma on June 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

    As a South African Indian woman I was really moved by this article. I live in africa, I was born here and so were my parents, I see myself as South African with Indian ancestry. But we are still a very young democracy, so moving beyond the boundaries of Indian culture and communities is still something very new and difficult for “traditional” indians to accept. I find your article a brave and refreshing perspective on the issue. Inter racial relationships are still few and far between within South African Indian communites, because we come with the added difficulty of years of segregation. So as a minority group indians have tended to marry and associate with other indians. But I feel I can easily relate to your experiences. This is surely an accurate reflection on the experiences of many diasporic communities.

  55. reshma on June 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

    As a South African Indian woman I was really moved by this article. I live in africa, I was born here and so were my parents, I see myself as South African with Indian ancestry. But we are still a very young democracy, so moving beyond the boundaries of Indian culture and communities is still something very new and difficult for “traditional” indians to accept. I find your article a brave and refreshing perspective on the issue. Inter racial relationships are still few and far between within South African Indian communites, because we come with the added difficulty of years of segregation. So as a minority group indians have tended to marry and associate with other indians. But I feel I can easily relate to your experiences. This is surely an accurate reflection on the experiences of many diasporic communities.

  56. reshma on June 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

    As a South African Indian woman I was really moved by this article. I live in africa, I was born here and so were my parents, I see myself as South African with Indian ancestry. But we are still a very young democracy, so moving beyond the boundaries of Indian culture and communities is still something very new and difficult for “traditional” indians to accept. I find your article a brave and refreshing perspective on the issue. Inter racial relationships are still few and far between within South African Indian communites, because we come with the added difficulty of years of segregation. So as a minority group indians have tended to marry and associate with other indians. But I feel I can easily relate to your experiences. This is surely an accurate reflection on the experiences of many diasporic communities.

Follow The Feminist Wire

Arts & Culture

  • 3 poems by Sarah Kortemeier SarahKortemeier-_Baby_Fever____Stone_with_Nineteen_Corners____The_-sarah_kortemeier_outdoor_color_by_jennifer_mcstotts

    The Mountain   The mountain is really a series of itself. Deeper pockets of sky color float in its canyons. In certain seasons, it’s difficult to tell rock face from snowfall. The ridge line looks much sharper than it must, in actuality, be. When you climb, the summit is sometimes [...]

  • 3 poems by Arielle Greenberg Wormwood portrait LA

    Who I’d Like to Meet   I am on tiptoe scanning our tallest bookshelves for something to pack to read on the plane.  I am scanful, tippy-toed: a girl without boots.  I am shorty.  I want to read something great, as in literary, and beautiful and daring, and something hobnailed [...]

  • From Corpses, Artworks and Dreams of by Raha Namy

    The novel Corpses, Arts and Dreams of is a triptych that hopes to tell the story/history of a people of a place and time, from three different angles, in three different styles. The first book deals with life in the city of Tehran. The second is on the people who [...]