Silence is gold. It’s not often that I find myself going into a period of silence, but for the last few years it’s something which has gradually happened for a number of reasons.
And in the last few months, it’s intensified (which explains why I haven’t been blogging as regularly as before).
I’ve been blogging about issues that many Asians, born and raised in Western countries, experience such as Islamophobia, colourism, Feminism, hair, culture vs assimilation etc. These are all topics which affect us on a daily basis because it is these experiences which eventually shape who we become, our outlook on the world and where we stand in it as individuals.
But the silence that I’ve been going into comes as a result of the observations that I’ve been making, the conversations I’ve been having with many Asian women and the literature that I’ve been reading.
There’s a lot of Feminist literature on the aspects of womanhood and social conformity which affects white women. And I say that because Feminism has generally been geared to benefit white women and has not always included the voices, stories and experiences that women of colour face.
Many of us turn to blogs, online magazines and conversations that we have with other Asian women to help us
But when it comes to understanding how this impacts Asian women (both in the Diaspora and the motherland) there isn’t much when it comes to academic literature. That itself is another issue altogether. Instead, many of us turn to blogs, online magazines and conversations that we have with other Asian women to help us.
All of which are extremely beneficial, but even then, that doesn’t fully help us. All we get is a temporary sense of relief from whatever it was bothering us. The root is not pulled out and discarded for good.
Last week, a very dear childhood friend of mine got engaged and it was a beautiful event. But all I heard from conversations around the table I was sat at were of worries, fears and concerns over whether or not they wanted to get married, what their families and communities would say etc.
I sat there, too, feeling a sense of worry mixed with shame. My own personal views on marriage are sadly distorted by my parents’ divorce, but I could relate to their worries as an Indian woman.
It added to the silent phase I’ve been in and a question I’ve had on my mind for many years. Why does it feel like Asian women are walking on eggshells all the time? It doesn’t matter whether we’re Diasporic Asians or from the motherland, it’s something which we all seem to have in common.
We’ve lived far too long in social silos and look what it is doing to Asian women.
For the last few years, I’ve increasingly noticed a flicker of self-doubt, a lack of self-belief and shame in the eyes of so many Asian women – regardless of faith, how progressive their families were or where they were born. And when I hear their stories, it echoes so many that I’ve heard before or directly experienced myself.
Which leads me to repeat my question and ask another. Why does it feel like Asian women are walking on eggshells all the time? Why are always in an uneasy state of flux and tentatively walk through our lives?
We are simply never left to be ourselves, or alone in general. We never really to get to know who we are as an individual. This is essential because it’s about establishing ourselves as a woman before the tags, labels and cultural expectations.
But this doesn’t mean that we want to be abandoned: we just don’t have any space to do the latter physically, emotionally or mentally. It’s crucial to our wellbeing and spending time alone is not bad or something to be frowned upon.
Scores of us grow up seeing our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other female relatives putting up with the most absurd social attitudes that erode their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Why?
Because of dard: fear. Fear of being ostracised. Fear of becoming ‘that woman’ who has no respect for her culture. Fear of becoming unmarriable. Fear of losing the support of your family and loved ones: we’re brought up glued to our families. Fear of being alone. And this fear is not obvious; it’s so discreet and heavily embedded in our subconscious that we don’t even realise it.
To combat this, we come up with pathetic hashtags on social media to try and show a sense of solidarity and unity. None of that translates into real life. We talk about empowering Asian girls and women, without even knowing what empowerment looks like or even being empowered ourselves.
It is always talk and no action: we do the latter for vanity and don’t realise that there are thousands of Asian women, including me, who can’t cope with these cultural expectations of what it means to be an Asian woman.
It’s us who gets to decide that because we make up our communities and our cultures: not outdated and toxic ways of thinking. And it is us who brings in the next generation.
Support each other. Love one another and sincerely help each other. Write it out. Draw, paint, kick, cry, scream, listen to each other and – most importantly – listen to yourself. We’ve lived far too long in social silos and look what it is doing to Asian women.