You are in Australia yaar, why don’t you get with a white girl?

Ok, so maybe the Indian guy on the bus didn’t put it that bluntly to L.

But he did put it pretty bluntly.

L and I started going out towards the end of 2007. NYE o7 was one of our first ‘proper’ dates. That morning I’d missed a flight from interstate back to our home city. Catching the late plane instead, I rushed from the airport to meet L around 10 pm. Now I usually feel very uncomfortable in make-up and jewellery, but those first few dates I did make the effort to look nice and dress up (a bit). So that night, running from the plane to the train to the bus in my jeans, red hoodie and old sneakers, I wasn’t feeling particularly glamorous.

As it was too late to find a quiet, romantic hideaway by the time we met up, L and I crammed into a bus heading towards the waterfront for a view of the fireworks. An Indian guy was sitting in front of us and he struck up a conversation. We started with the usual questions: “Where are you from?”, “How long have you been here?” etc.

One thing that always alarms me when speaking to South Asians – despite having a South Asian family myself – is how quickly a ‘general’ conversation becomes inundated by questions that are considered highly personal by  western standards. To give this guy some justice, he had very recently moved from India and I know over there it’s not necessarily rude to ask questions like, “what visa do you have”, “how old are you”, “are your parents strict with you?” This last one always irks me when I’m with L because we are obviously a couple and the underlying question really seems to be, “because if they’d raise you as a good Indian girl you wouldn’t be traipsing around with a black guy”.

Or with a white guy. I’ve had hotel staff in India directly ask me if my parents raised me strictly and – grrr – whether I’m a virgin (!!) when I’ve checked in with white male friends. Obviously no good unmarried Indian girl would go to a hotel with a white guy and therefore I’m a whore. I’m not ok with this, but at least when it comes to comments with white guys the insult’s on me. With L, with a black guy, there’s the added, “how can you even stand being with this guy” attitude. L and I once had a south Indian man, at a church BBQ, ask us whether we’re going out, ask if my parents are strict, and then say proceed to tell us that his daughters are ‘good girls’ who will only marry Indian men, “not from Africa or anywhere else”. Geez what a way to be insulting and racist. (Fortunately L is not as sensitive as I am to such South Asian comments, otherwise I doubt he could stand being with me).

But I’m ranting and digressing. Back to the guy on the bus. There I am trying to have a romantic NYE with L, not feeling my best-looking, when this guy asks L with a smirk and head waggle, “Have you ever slept with a white girl?”

Mate, I’m right here.

Clearly I don’t fit the ‘hot’ white beauty ideal (an ideal so impossible most women – black, brown, Asian, white and beautiful – struggle to meet) but can’t you hold your tongue? Firstly, it is insulting and makes me feel completely inadequate. Secondly, seeing you’ve just implied I’m a whore for being with L, it goes beyond double-standards to ask if L has slept with a white girl, and then tell us victoriously that yes, he has claimed the prize. Shut up.

As we’d just started dating and were kind of nervous around each other, L and I never spoke about it at the time. But lately I’ve been thinking more and more about beauty standards, probably because I’m on a bit of a downer with my self-esteem and most days feel puffy-eyed, grumpy and ugly. So I asked L last week what he’d really thought about that guy on the bus. It took a bit to prod his memory – L didn’t react to the guy as harshly as I did. But he admitted that when he first moved to Australia, he also found white women desirable. “If you’re from Africa, or India, or anywhere really, you’re taught to find white women attractive. They’re all over tv, in the media, in the magazine. It’s not unusual he thought like that. I wouldn’t take it personally” – easy for a guy to say – “And it’s not just men. Even women in those places are taught to strive for white features. Look at all the skin whitening creams all over Asia and all the hair straightening products in Africa”.

It’s the mainstream beauty ideal men are taught to desire and women are taught to emulate.

There are obviously all sorts of beauty ideals and fetishes out there, all kinds of things we’re taught about desiring the exotic other. L’s line is, “maybe migrant men are excited to be in a country with heaps of white women when the first come, just like white guys might be excited to be in Thailand or Latin America or somewhere, but I think everyone gets over it pretty quickly. You realise people are just the same”.

I’ll just go with that then.

28 Comments

Filed under Beauty, Feminism, Interracial Relationships, Race, Racism, Western Privilege

28 responses to “You are in Australia yaar, why don’t you get with a white girl?

  1. I don’t even know what to say in the face of such assholeyness. Seriously. But what do I know, I’m a crazy feminist — I might not even have real ovaries.

  2. That guy was a jerk. L’s right though, the novelty wears off after a short while. Which is a kudos to you. You’re exotic to him and he’s still choosing to be with you so that says a lot about how deep his feelings are. There’s no shallow shiny new white car type attraction that he’s lost.

    You shouldn’t beat yourself up about that comment though. It sounds like it was a while ago and he didn’t listen to it too much. That means he didn’t think the guy had anything worth listening to. Since you mentioned your self esteem is a lil low right now then knowing your man doesn’t listen to random morons and chooses to be with you over and over should help a little.

    Also, do something for yourself to get out of this slump. Even if it costs more money than you want to spend it’s still cheaper than therapy or doctor bills. A good mani/pedi with the full up to the knee massage could help. Maybe a new haircut or a trip shopping just for the fun of it – even if you don’t buy anything. Go out for that coffee you love or go meet some old friends. Do something just for you. You need it and you are worth it!

  3. Bharatiya Nari

    Taswin, saw your comment on another blog about where My Bangla Diary wrote about goris and their Desi hubbies and how white men paired with non-white wives work out better than the other way around. She tried to make a connection to race and patriarchy power but the bottom line is when a Desi woman marries a Gora, she is marrying into FREEDOM. There is a lot less to blog and complain about when you are not living with your in-laws, do not even see your in-laws that much, and are not expected to fulfill the role of a ghar ki bahu. Its just the Desi wife and her Gora husband living alone and enjoying their life together. The Gora husband will also clean toilets, cook and be an equal in domestic chores.

    This is because Gora men have been trained in their cultures for gender equality for decades now, thanks to Feminism.

    No Desi woman in her right mind would divorce a man like that!

    • Hi Bharatiya,

      Thanks for your comment. I guess life is less restrictive if you don’t live with inlaws (I can’t say for sure, I’ve never lived with them!). I’ve certainly heard a lot of my south Asian cousins…very strong women…express the view that they can only be themselves if they marry into a liberating relationship and have a liberal MIL. Fair enough.

      From my understanding of My Bangla Diary’s post, it was more about gender/racial power relations (which I at least find a pretty big factor in my own relationship) rather than interpersonal dynamics (or even cultural dynamics); or about trying to paint the non-white woman in a relationship with a white man as a demure good girl who is never going to rock the boat. I appreciate your perspective – there are obviously not that many South Asian women in relationships with western men who feel the need to blog (or maybe they do and I don’t know about them?)!

  4. Bharatiya Nari

    “Obviously no good unmarried Indian girl would go to a hotel with a white guy and therefore I’m a whore. I’m not ok with this, but at least when it comes to comments with white guys the insult’s on me. With L, with a black guy, there’s the added, “how can you even stand being with this guy” attitude.”

    Why do you make a distinction between racism directed at you and white men or racism directed at you and black men/your black partners.

    Racism is racism, point blank. One is not directed at “just you” and the other directed at both you AND your black partner.

    I really feel for white people these days. Its as if they are not even seen as human or someone who could feel hurt and pain and prejudice.

    As for the attitude of that Desi a-hole, men like him are the primary reason I’ve developed an unapologetic, unabashed “post-colonial-reverse-fetish” for the OTHER.

    And you know what? Men don’t really mind being “fetishized” by women. They quite enjoy it!

    • Great point!
      But I do maintain the distinction between racisms because there is a huge difference in the way South Asians treat me depending on the guy I’m with (especially when they make comments such blatant comments about skin colour…it’s not cool, and it’s hurtful when L is right there).

      • Bharatiya Nari

        That is colorism. A black man is just as dark and sometimes darker than Desis and we all know how there’s a “fair skin fetish” in the Desi community.

        However the racism is the same whether it is directed at a black or white person.

        Racism against white people is not any more excusable than racism against black people.

    • Isn’t racism discrimination based on colour?
      I don’t think racism against white people is any more excusable than racism against black people. Though considering how self-involved this post is I realise why I’ve come across this way (I don’t mean it that way!)
      But I’m very sensitive to the way my family talk about black people compared to white people because it is quite common in my family for cousins to marry white people…it’s no big deal. So it’s hurtful to hear relatives who accept white DILs/SILs (and their kids) say things like black people are ugly. The double standard is glaring and it matters to me because my kids will be black (I have a complex about this already…what a way to give my kids a complex hey?!)
      Obviously in this post, and in all my reactions to South Asian people who think it’s ok to pass funny comments about me and L (i.e. I see them being ‘more’ racist towards black people than white people; though in no way does that make racism towards white people ok or a ‘more excusable’ form of racism because it’s supposedly milder), I’m projecting my family’s petty ignorant racist attitudes onto all other South Asians I meet. Now that’s pretty petty, ignorant and racist of me (and trust me, I’m working on it). I’m not trying to rank various racist attitudes as ‘milder’ than others, but I do think the severity of discrimination/stereotypes varies according the attitude and psychology of the racist themselves, and that’s the point – discrimination is all about treating people differently based on (differing) factors essentially out of their control.

      • @ Amanda and Bharatiya
        I think another frustrating thing about all of this is that race is only one side of it…whether you’re a ‘gora/gori’ (which can be very demeaning terms in some Nepali contexts) or a corrupted South Asian tramp with a foreign guy…women are viewed purely through the lens of sex.
        Race comes into it for me because I do notice a difference in treatment from South Asians whether I’m with white guy or L…as in, I’m a whore either way but when I’m with a white guy all the comments/questions are about me; the reference to him being ‘gora’ is implicitly stated through the doubts expressed about my sexual mores. With L, unfortunately, references to him being ‘kaley’ just seem that much more explicit and in our face. Or maybe I’m imagining it?

      • I don’t think you are imagining.
        When one is with a white guy, one is never actually judged for finding him attractive. One is only judged for not actually being a good “Indian” girl but instead for giving in to one’s primal desires.
        However, when one is with a black guy, one is judged for actually finding the guy attractive.
        To me, at least, that is a pretty big difference.

      • Thanks koisok, it’s nice to be understood 🙂

  5. Being a white Aussie girl married to a Desi guy some of this makes me a little uncomfortable. I get that Desi girls feel like they don’t meet the standard set out by the media but white girls also have to deal with that. When I watch Asian TV, everyday i am bombarded with images of beautiful Indian women who are sexy, virginal and perfect housewives. Goras are just the slutty girls in strip clubs or trying to steal husbands. It makes it hard to leave the house everyday knowing the perception is that i corrupted my husband with sex and i’m probably a drunk stripper.Also I have to deal with people thinking my husband just married me for a visa or because i’m a dirty tramp who does exciting things in bed.

    The statements like Desi women are marrying into freedom etc just don’t sit right with me. Generalizing about other people’s relationships is something we should all be sensitive about and try to avoid.

    Anyway after that self involved rant. I liked the post, it inspired lots of self reflection.

    • I should clarify that this post is extremely narcissistic (like most of my posts); all ‘me me me’ and how I took it so personally. But as Sara and White Bhabi point out, this guy was an a-grade jerk, and his casual “white girls are just sex objects” attitude is equally hurtful. Like ally says, there is a total misperception in South Asia that white women are highly sexual (I don’t know whether people actually believe this or just want to believe it, to make themselves feel like they have some kind of higher moral ground. I have white friends who spend heaps of time in India and Nepal and they take so much care NOT to fit into that stereotype…but they still get stupid comments thrown at them). And from their own ignorant stereotypes people will generalise about other people’s highly personal relationships. It must be very frustrating to deal with that everyday – the pressure of such entrenched everyday stereotypes hardly compares to the once-in-a-while comments L and I attract in Australia. Thanks for your take and for the rant 🙂

  6. ally

    Those type of ‘drive by conversations’ are awful, have to admit I’ll never get used to them. I always handle them so badly, I find myself standing there stunned, mouth open like a ‘deer in the headlights’ incredulous that someone can be so cruel and dismissive of a stanger.
    Ive just always assumed that a large part of the fetish had to do with the misguided idea that white women were highly sexual, who indiscrimately sleep with everyman we meet, because were not ‘good girls’ worthy of a commited relationship.

  7. It was so hilarious when you wrote “He claimed that prize” lol…I really appreciate your sense of humour in your postings, you have a great narrative style in blogging 🙂
    But I also have some concerns about others’ preconceived notions about me being with an Armenian guy also. SA people will jump to classify me a “statistic” if I marry a non SA guy and make assumptions that I must not be in tune with my SA culture . But I try to remind myself that it doesn’t matter. Those who spend enough time with me know full well that I don’t fit that stereotype either. Maybe it’s best to have a sense of humour about it and find it amusing when someone starts to show their own stereotypical SA questionnng and judgements…

    • Yes definitely. Whether we’re SA or not, and whether we’re with a SA partner or not; it’s good to remind ourselves of who we are and how our relationships don’t fit into other people’s stereotypes. And have some fun while we do it of course 🙂
      I enjoy reading your blog, you obviously don’t fit the ‘out of tune with SA culture’ stat. Thanks for your comment!

  8. kay

    “L’s line is, “maybe migrant men are excited to be in a country with heaps of white women when the first come, just like white guys might be excited to be in Thailand or Latin America…”

    I actually agree with L on this one. Also, I think it depends on the kind of migrant men. The creepy Indian guy [and most others like him] on the bus was probably someone who never had a girlfriend before leaving India [well maybe an imaginary one]. It’s disturbing because, at the end of the day, the women [whether they’re white, thai, hispanic, what-have-you] are being completely disrespected.

  9. Hi taswin, boy, it’s been a while since I dropped by your blog last…been distracted I guess….
    What a stupid guy, and unfortunately he’s not alone, most desi guys will come to western countries with a mindset that they will be able to ‘get with’ the western girls easily…
    I totally agree to what kay said above, and also to L’s quote made by kay…

  10. Bharatiya Nari

    Most Desi guys who go over to the West do not have what it takes to attract women in the first place, so their dreams of being surrounded by hordes of White women eager to have sex with them get shattered within the first few days.

  11. Bharatiya Nari

    “There are plenty of decent Indian men around.”

    Sure, but they also don’t have what it takes to attract women on their own merit. When you are raised in an arranged marriage culture with no dating you don’t develop those social skills. That’s why alot of Desi guys who go over to Western countries appear ‘awkward’ to women.

  12. gmx

    Bit late to this party but has no one else noticed the blatant hypocrisy of some of these Indian guys. They would give their right arm to be with a white woman yet an Indian woman with a white man is a whore?

  13. mayur

    Literally,the indian girls who marry out of race always finds a way to degrade indian men.From your perspective,we indian men dont have what it takes to attract girls in western countries and on other hand you indian girls have it easy.Its what you mean.This is the reason why stereotypes form.Stop generalizing.Your father too was indian.There are many indian men who date and marry girls of different races.

  14. Paresh

    Indian women are not saints either,and stop generalizing us indian men.We are all different individuals,i dont know whats the problems with you south asian girls.Whenever even one of the south asian girl get into an interracial relationship,she will start degrading us south asian men as much as possible due to her feeling of insecurity due to beauty of white girls represented in respective country.You must be from a small village where all marraiges must be arranged ones.Indian men in big cities and town are very social and know how to attract girls,so stop stereotyping us that we dont have what it takes to attract women.

  15. Paresh

    And let my comment be shown in this post,why are u not allowing them to shown.You are deleting them,because you know what i am saying is completely true.

  16. Paresh

    I dont care if you are with a white,black,yellow,grey,green man… Or if it matters even a dog is dating you!Just stop this nonsense that we all indian men are jerks,bastards,players,etc etc…Enough is enough!Learn to respect your own race,you are existing in this world where your identity is your race.You have a screwed mentality.

    • Hi Paresh, I’ve been MIA on the blog world and have logged in for the first time in ages. I did think carefully about posting your comments though because I don’t want trollers. I removed your very last comment which contains an offensive description of one of your fellow commentors. That said, I’m not surprised this post invoked a strong reaction. I’m detailing an experience I had which made me rather angry, and which prompted me to reflect on how that particular guy viewed interracial relations. I’m not generalising about Indian men. If somebody reads this and thinks it applies to all Indian men, it’s the reader who is generalising.

      I’m aware that such representations, when generalised, promote some pretty racist attitudes. I have to say, when I travelled in India alone I came out with a not-so-great view of South Asian men, even though the majority of men I met were decent and hard working. Yet unfortunately there were enough indecent men and harassment to really dampen my trip – and result in some pretty scary encounters. I remember once trying to explain to my partner the difficulties of travelling in India, but he didn’t want to listen to me at first because he thought I was just sprouting racist stereotypes (e.g. all Indian men are sleazy – a stereotype he can’t stand because black men are subject to it too). But I wasn’t – I was talking about real, specific incidents that happened to me, and that I’m not going to forget very quickly.

      One of the issues with writing about these incidents is that it’s only the indecent men (and women of course, of any background) who will come out and harass you, or make stupid, insensitive remarks about your relationship to your face. I’ve met plenty of great South Asian guys on buses and trains all across Australia and India, but they never said anything to offend me or make me angry, so I haven’t written about it. That obviously skews the representation. But keep in mind I’m talking about one particular guy, who said some pretty brazen things which annoyed me immensely at the time. I’m not talking about all Indian men.

      And for the record, I do find South Asian men attractive, and am certainly not implying that they all have trouble attracting women.

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