I am sharing a the thoughts of a girl I found in Instagram. Nrivana Bhandary says:
I was born a very fair girl in Kathmandu, and I remember how my mother would be showered with compliments about how gori, and thus beautiful I was. The fair & lovely fairy.
Was I privileged because of this, even as a child? Probably, but it was invisible to me because a privileged person does not know they are privileged until they hear the stories of the oppressed. And I did not hear these stories.
In the 90s we hadn’t yet found the vocabulary to describe the discrimination dark-skinned South Asians face compared to lighter-skinned South Asians. Now we call this colourism.
Under the influence of an upbringing in the west I learned that being tan was the epitome of cool and came to value it. I too started laying on the beach for hours on end in my tiniest bikini.
I think that the western mentality regarding tans is on the right track in some ways. South-Asians shun the sun like they are vampires. They stay indoors as much as possible because they are scared that the evil sun will mar their beauty, make them dark and unattractive. But to be outdoors enjoying nature, being kissed by the sun, is undoubtably one of the most pleasurable experiences in life. Why deny oneself that?
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THE POLITICS OF TANNING (Part 2/3) I was born a very fair girl in Kathmandu, and I remember how my mother would be showered with compliments about how gori, and thus beautiful I was. The fair & lovely fairy. Was I privileged because of this, even as a child? Probably, but it was invisible to me because a privileged person does not know they are privileged until they hear the stories of the oppressed. And I did not hear these stories. In the 90s we hadn’t yet found the vocabulary to describe the discrimination dark-skinned South Asians face compared to lighter-skinned South Asians. Now we call this colourism. Under the influence of an upbringing in the west I learned that being tan was the epitome of cool and came to value it. I too started laying on the beach for hours on end in my tiniest bikini. I think that the western mentality regarding tans is on the right track in some ways. South-Asians shun the sun like they are vampires. They stay indoors as much as possible because they are scared that the evil sun will mar their beauty, make them dark and unattractive. But to be outdoors enjoying nature, being kissed by the sun, is undoubtably one of the most pleasurable experiences in life. Why deny oneself that?
And she says:
WOMAN OF COLOUR (1/2)
The term ‘woman of colour’ is only valid when we live in the west or compare ourselves in a global context. Why? Because everyone is the same colour in Nepal lol, except for variations in shade.
Rather than the power imbalance between white women and women of colour, in Nepal the power dynamics are based on class, caste, education level, and colourism.
Growing up mainly in the west in my formative years and now moving back to Nepal as an adult, I’ve had an interesting experience of transitioning from an environment of calling myself Woman of Colour to no longer seeing my race cast over me like a net, feeling only the heaviness of my gender. And what a massive relief and sense of freedom it has brought.
I had the rare experience of transitioning from Woman of Colour in the Otherland to Woman in the homeland.
In the land of the Other we call all brown women – from Asia, the middle east, South America – out sisters, for we are all oppressed by the white man (and woman). To him- we are all exotic caramel women from Exoticaland. We know our individuality but we bond as one force for our demand of our rights is louder when we are united.
This unity amongst diverse groups of women in Nepal is still very far away. The only time we break the same bread and reiterate the same drained dialogue is within conference rooms and forums, for international funders.
We preach our oppression by the patriarchy, while ignoring the degrees and impacts of that oppression in the sub-groups between us. A baun woman will still not eat at the same table as a Dalit woman. There is a 0.5 percent chance they will be friends.
We are so busy shouting about the shared injustice of the patriarchy that we ignore the power hierarchies amongst us.
Who is in our homes cleaning and taking care of our children so we can attend conferences and shout about inequality?
WOMAN OF PRIVILEGE (2/2)
We preach our oppression by the patriarchy, while ignoring the degrees and impacts of that oppression in the sub-groups between us. A baun woman will still not eat at the same table as a Dalit woman. There is a 0.5 percent chance they will be friends. We are so busy shouting about the shared injustice of the patriarchy that we ignore the power hierarchies amongst us.
Who is in our homes cleaning and taking care of our children so we can attend conferences and shout about inequality?
The same power dynamics that exist between white women and WOC in the west are replicated in Nepal between rich baun women and illiterate gaau women.
While at a social disadvantage as a WOC in the west – being fetishized, undermined, and invisible at times- I am in a position of significant social and economic privilege as an educated upper-class baun woman in Kathmandu.
I write and practice social activism from my position of privilege here and I acknowledge that.
Often transitioning between Australia and Nepal, wearing these identity tags simultaneously is a conflicting experience.
Transitioning from powerlessness & invisibility as Other, Brown, Ethnic, Immigrant to wielder of power and visibility as Upper-class, Baun, Educated it is imperative that I am not consumed by the power-high and sense of entitlement that comes from being the top 5 percent.
I must be highly attuned to not replicating the behaviours of the Oppressor. And it is clear to me that upper-class Kathmandu women have a long way to go…
Thank you for saying upper class! Too many people claiming ‘humble’ background either to hide our privileges or just because we’re blind to it or fail to understand it’s significance. This non-acknowledgement then reinforces the little silos we operate in, both intellectually and in everyday lives.
I think men aren’t attracted to me anymore when they read the stuff I write. They follow me with hungry eyes when they see scrumptious skin and blurred nips and then they see the words ‘fuck’ and ‘patriarchy’ in the same sentence and either – a) unfollow this crazy radical woman, b) view me as the token alien of my gender – with a mix of admiration and confusion or c) are intimidated by my mind and low-key scared that I could unravel their entire identity built on an elegant totem of male privilege.
I kinda knew this would happen all along but I’ve never given a fuck. The cause is too great to stifle my voice because men with fragile senses of self are threatened by the power of my words and lose their erections, because it’s no fun fucking a strong woman.
Men are threatened by strong women. We all know this, right? Even the men who are allies, feminists, and ‘get your art and activism’ are often still deep down, subconsciously intimidated by you on some level. They might admire your mind, but fucking a feminist requires men to embark on the next level of inner work that most are still hesitant/scared to do.
Fucking a feminist requires you to challenge the masculinity that was taught and reinforced to you for years and years, the persona you have embraced in the bedroom as dominant, in control, manly.
When a feminist is able to see right through your seduction techniques, confidently expresses her boundaries, needs, and limits – you see this as a challenging of your ‘Game’. The one thing you were good at – using your dick, is now under attack. How dare she.
Women who are subservient in their own oppression are just more fun in bed! They reinforce your male dominance and ego. They make you feel big and smart and powerful. In this millennial world where every good man is under attack of being a perpetrator with #METOO – subservient women are even more appealing. She won’t have drunk sex with you and scream assault. She will stay silent as you do all the things you want to her body, and it will make you feel fantastic.
(FYI- THIS IS IRONY)
I am always going to be a sinner. My sins used to be the basic bitch universal ones when I was younger – pre marital sex, binge drinking, discreetly bleeding inside temples, some light shop lifting, but now I’ve noticed my sins are more refined, better articulated and often validated by a subculture of other sinners.
What are intellectual sins?
The things that our society has branded bad or illegal, that conscious, informed adults use in moderation to enhance their sexuality, spirituality, existence. Microdosing, BDSM, polyamory & anything else that challenges the norms dictated by the State to keep us as docile hamsters in the wheel of patriarchal neoliberal conservatism.
I no longer sin to prove a point, to push myself to extreme boundaries that leave me feeling more deprived, but I sin to claim what is mine as a free, thinking, consenting adult woman in this world. I sin because my desires exist outside of the paradigm of normal and convention, and I am not going to apologise or cut off my juicy edges because people might call me a devil woman.
Little Bethany was told by her mother that she could play with anything in the house, but to never go into Mommy’s first drawer. But Bethany was a bad bitch and found Mommy’s extensive collection of expensive German sex toys.
Bethany and I have alot in common. We want the things our universal Mommies/ the moral police/ ethical voice of reason/ authority figure has forbidden us from exploring.
In a world that shames pure female expression and punishes curiosity and eccentricity, I will always be labelled as a sinner.
I resist the mainstream duality of relationships and desire eg, gay/straight, virgin/slut, monogamous/swinger by daring to ask & assert – who says we can’t have both? I give myself permission to want both as a polyamorous, bisexual woman.
Sinning 4 lyf yo.
Fraught, complicated relationships with our families can be incredibly stressful, consuming and painful. I never experienced this until right now. Until I was 27 years old. And how lucky I have been. What a beautiful, supportive bubble I have lived in.
How do we navigate our familial relationships when we operate from completely different value systems from them? When we believe in the healing, therapeutic powers of opening up, expressing our feelings, our pain, our tears – but they are not received with the support we need so desperately?
The one thing that upsets me the most about Nepali family dynamics is that so much emphasis is placed on blood ties while heart ties are completely neglected. We are taught to cling onto the humans who share the same genetics as us with every inch of ourselves – that this is no greater love and community as family, and yet – how many of us feel able to be completely authentic with our families?
Do we feel understood by our families?
Do we feel comfortable to share the messy, complicated feelings and experiences with them?
We brag that we are so lucky to have a communal culture, with dozens of relatives, and tight-knit community. Oh those poor white people, who are so deep in an individualistic culture, so isolated from their very own families! Poor them.
But I want to openly challenge and critique this. How authentic are our communities? How many of our families are courageous enough to support us through the sticky shit, rather than bury it and pretend it does not exist? To have honest conversations about alcoholism and mental health and sexuality and domestic violence?
We give generic blessings during Dashain, celebrate weddings with grandiosity, and gather quickly to give condolences during funerals. But if we were to reach out to a family member with complete vulnerability and say – I am struggling with depression, I am addicted to drugs, I am gay – we are treated as the black sheep of the family. We are often isolated, punished or ostracised – in both explicit and implicit ways, with micro and macro actions.
Blood should not be the only criteria to define family. This genetic tie should not exempt people from offering true support and connection, simply because relation can never be changed, questioned, removed. We need to collectively step up our game in our familial relationships.
NB: I know family is a sensitive subject for many. It can be triggering. We have a spectrum of experiences. The views above are my own. I do not claim that they are representative of all Nepali families.
I feel aligned. The lightness of nomadic Nirvana has been restored after a long time. I was scared I had lost her. I didn’t realise how much I was being weighed down by the apathy of modern existence until it was lifted.
I am in touch again with how to live with ease. To flow, to adapt, to love without expectation. Loving with ease is a freedom unlike anything else.
Lush nature, small island living & the kindness of strangers has restored my light. It’s so easy to feel heavy when we are on our phones all the time, our minds constantly running with stimuli, unable to unplug even when we sleep. The chaos of cities can seep into our souls, making us grey & bleak just like her. We learn to adjust to non-emotive existence, trying to find happiness through shopping & substances, sinking lower & lower when we realise that no amount of shoes or vodka can fill that void within us.
Sit amongst the trees. Leave your phone in a drawer. Look into the eyes of a stranger and smile. Be nice to people for no reason! You will be amazed at how good your insides begin to feel.
Thank you Lanta – for giving me more than I expected.
THE POLITICS OF TANNING (Part 3/3)
The issue becomes complex when we look at the cultural phenomenon of white people wanting so desperately to be tanned that they hurt themselves in the process; spending hours in solariums, risking skin cancer by turning into bright tomatoes on the beach.
There are the rare few that take tanning to such an extreme, it becomes a form of blackface. White people want to look exotic on a superficial level, but they have the privilege of being unaffected by all the oppression that actual brown people experience because of their skin colour.
White people lust after being tan for purely aesthetic purposes, but brown people desire to be fairer because they suffer real discrimination being darker-skinned. South Asians can usually determine a person’s class which is linked to caste, status and power, just from one look at their skin.
Lighter-skinned South Asians are preferred in both the private and public spheres; more likely to attract mates and get jobs. White superiority, internalised racism and unachievable standards of beauty all play on the psychology of South Asians. We try to align ourselves with the elite, copy the traits of the coloniser, because that is sometimes the only path to upward mobility.
Humans covet and glorify that which we don’t have, especially when it comes to our appearances. We put our bodies through uncomfortable and harmful processes to appear more beautiful, successful, privileged, elite. For races in positions of power, this is a personal choice with minimal social or political repercussions. For the rest of us, we feel the weight of our skin tone on a social level.
Deciding which crayons to shade our skin with is not a black and white issue.
THE POLITICS OF TANNING (Part 1/3)
When I am travelling there is one particular image that ignites a strong emotion of fullness and freedom within me. That image is of my tanned arm immersed in sea water as I float in the ocean. The sight causes my heart to burst with elation. The fact that I value this image so highly is revealing of my values. It has layers.
The act of tanning is a political one. It indicates privilege, romanticises a certain lifestyle, and is a measure of beauty. Amongst backpackers the tannest of them all is the one who has had the most adventures under the beating sun.
One of the most popular white people hobbies is to lay under the burning sun for hours on end to achieve that glorious summer tan. Tanned skin has come to be associated as a status symbol. It means you spent your summer holidaying on the coast of France, rather than bagging groceries or selling rich people sunglasses for eight hours a day.
There is a right shade of brown. Crossing it on the upper end indicates that you are the unattractive sort of ethnic. The actual ethnic whose exoticism is more than skin deep. Falling short of it on the lower end assumes that you are a pasty boring bitch who can’t afford a holiday and dare to unabashedly parade your Casper-white skin. Your name is probably Doris and your hobby is watching reality television shows while eating Oreos.
For South Asians the deep tan that is coveted by westerners is equated to being poor; a life of gruelling work under the beating sun. To be fair-skinned is to be protected by four air-conditioned walls of privilege. Fairness is the epitome of beauty, class and elitism.