The White Feminist Savior Industrial Complex

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Racialicious Crush of the Week is “Oppressed Brown Girls Doing Things,” run by a young brown woman living in Canada. Now as you all know, this is a topic very close to my heart, because I, too, am oppressed, a brown girl, and sometimes I do things.

You can check out the Tumblr: http://oppressedbrowngirlsdoingthings.tumblr.com/

But be forewarned, this Tumblr is somewhat misleading. It shows brown girls doing things like reading or hugging or wearing make-up, but we all know those are free activities associated with the free world. Sure, you might think, some women in India do things, but certainly not all of them! The ones who do things are just the less oppressed ones.

Or, as a commenter over on Racialicious points out:

While not all Indian women are oppressed the kind of freedom available to the average Indian Woman in India (Indian is an ethnicity and a nationality. I am Indian ethnically but I am british Indian) and indeed some families in the UK is not the same as we expect as a norm.

It’s simple. If you are forced to display your independence in other ways then you are not free, because you are being forced to display independence in ways that won’t get ostracised by your community.

Not every woman has the freedom of those on the blog and in your photos. In India atleast the women who you have portrayed are in the minority.

I agree. When Indian women read or knit, they’re just trying to be independent in a way that won’t get them ostracized. I’ve seen white women read and knit and hang out with friends, and the dynamic is totally different. Less… oppression-y. You know?

Hell, I know, because I grew up in India. At the tender age of 13, I moved to the U.S. with my family, and man, the last nine years have been great! I’m totally not oppressed here! Probably because we are no longer within Indian boundaries. On the contrary, white people are so interested in my culture. I love it when they ask me how I feel about marrying a stranger, and whether or not I’m allowed to date white men. (By the way, am I??)

I like this Tumblr because it reminds me of the hell I left behind, where I was so oppressed, I could only show my agency by reading books and hanging out with the kids in my neighborhood. Sure, some of us read Harry Potter in India, but we were totally a minority. A minority that loved to read? No, a minority that was truly free. Even when I was in India, I recognized my privilege and always felt sorry for those poor oppressed girls not reading Harry Potter because of their oppression. Here in America, everybody reads Harry Potter and rides bicycles because everybody is free and nobody is oppressed.

And I like that comment because it ties oppression to national boundaries in a way that we all need to do more. It defines freedom very helpfully. Reading Harry Potter in America –> normal. Reading Harry Potter in Pakistan –> a subversive, but pathetic way to fight oppression. Got it.

I think I learned something today. Oppression comes in many shapes and forms, and so does freedom. Just because brown women read books and wear make-up doesn’t mean they’ve attained full equality in society… any more than white women have. But just because they haven’t attained full equality in society doesn’t mean they can’t read books or wear make-up or articulate their grievances.

Now, on to saving them!

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