This post is an unseriously-serious one and is a result of my character development whereby instead of speaking into the twitter void, I do so in somewhat more extended prose in the echo chamber of my website. The other day I was watching a youtuber, who I don’t really see eye to eye with but you know quarantine has really got me trying new things, and he was doing a Q&A. I make the following observations with no bearing on individual character. When asked about his childhood movie crush, he answered Princess Jasmine when she was handcuffed by Jaffar. A reminder that I’m not cancelling him, on the contrary I think this is a representative case study which backs up my own ideas on how young South Asian women are perceived by wider society.
At first this alarmed me, because when I was younger that Jasmine was my favorite princess. The only one that wore trousers, feisty, curious and in retrospect importantly that she had brown skin. For me, and i’m sure many other young South Asian girls, Jasmine was our mainstream media representation, something that we subconsciously internalized and also those who weren’t South Asian girls also added to their schema of the stereotype of brown young women. Therefore hearing this almost 30 year old man conveying this information made me quite uncomfortable, and crucially allowed me to connect some dots in my head.
Stereotyping is a common phenomena and every human being has experiences which have been informed by society’s preconceived notion of them. Black women are attested to be angry, loud and strong, East Asians as studious and clean. I agree with Deeynah Khan here, when I say that I find these stereotypes extremely reductive reducing an individual’s humanity to a few tag phrases. From my experience common typecasting of brown women goes along the lines of remarks on ‘exotic’ facial features , ‘oh are you planning to become a doctor?’ and the ideas that we are suppressed by male family members.
This is where my issue with Jasmine comes into play, because not only does she feed these stereotypes but she is also the poster child for South Asian representation in media particularly for young children. There is a wide diversity of ‘white female’ characters in the film and books which antagonizes the formation of flat-formed stereotypes, but the same cannot be said for South Asian females ( though times may be changing now, certainly for my childhood this was the case).
Then one should consider the repercussions this has on popular culture, and by extension the impact popular culture has on individual perception. Mainstream rappers, many of who incorporate misogynist lyrics into their songs anyway, perpetuate these ideas
Girl from India, sweetest naani
Head so good, now I speak GujaratiDave- Location
Again I’m not cancelling people, I’m just making observations that such ideas are so pervasive in our society that we absorb them in our staple cultural diet. When these ideas intersect with male sexuality characterized with iterations of power and domination, what seem like quiescent remarks can find violent manifestations. One subconsciously, or maybe consciously urgh, removes the humanity behind the ‘girl’ making her the ‘girl from India’ and all the reductive stereotypes associated with that. Furthermore, it does worry me that the restrictive mixing of gender in some South Asian communities can perpetuate this ‘exoticisation’ in both genders.
Since Tik Tok has graced the earth, my brief stint on Instagram exposed me to alot of South Asain girls dressing up in elaborate saris which were color coordinated to look like snacks.
this is why I left, honestly, brain rotting content.
But in all seriousness, even among my circle, I witness girls idealised this type of beauty- thick eyebrows, voluptuous lips and caramel skin – which has such heavy parallels to the depiction of Jasmine. I may be reading into it to much, however I think we can agree that the media that we consume has a degree of influence on our perception of self. The internalization of such homogenized ‘caricatures’ of South Asian women are a counter productive in you know, being true to yourself yada yada yada.
Anyway these were some of my thoughts that I’m glad to have gotten out of my head. If this prompted anything do share in the comments. I’ll leave you with a lyric which I thought was quite beautiful and encapsulates my understanding of the presentation of personal identity.
a flowers bloom is only a fraction of what you representJessy Rose- Bloom