When I was growing up in Asia feminism was seen as a far away concept associated with White women in the Western world who burned their bras. The secondary role of women in Asian society was accepted as a binding social norm. An Asian woman’s worth was measured in her servility, submissiveness and humility.

Any female self-expression was only socially sanctioned if it was expressed through cookery or clothing. A well dressed Asian woman who cooked delicious curries for armies of relatives and friends was the epitome of womanhood.

It was a pretty unforgiving way of living. Women were forced to put up with domestic abuse. I had female relatives who endured years of abuse because the status accorded to a married woman was non-transferable to a single woman.

A lot of this still goes on in the Asian world but, contrary to the yesteryear societal acceptance of it all, a fightback is in rapid progress. Asian feminism is the  resistance movement to the patriarchal treatment of Asian women.

White feminism and Black feminism receive a lot of publicity but Asian feminism is a little known concept in the Western world. Feminism has enough elasticity to accommodate diversity. Chinese feminism is rapidly gaining momentum too.

In the Western world Bollywood is the cultural epitome of Asian representation. Not all of us can sing and dance. Nor do we dress up in an endless array of expensive and colourful clothing while bursting into song and dance at the drop of the hat. The worst part about Bollywood romance is the endless harassment of women in the guise of ‘eve teasing’.

Asian feminism is a fightback to the way the patriarchy requires us all to live a singular life with a predetermined trajectory of education, marriage and children with submissiveness being the thread that is woven through every tapestry of our lives.

We do not live the Asian equivalent of ‘Stepford Wives’. We are active in Asian liberation struggles in our own ways. As a result, I am going to explore Asian feminism in my blog and to show case those Asian women who are doing great things.

I write for an India based website called ‘Feminism In India’ which constantly pushes boundaries and breaks down barriers that obstruct our lives. The articles challenge the caste and class system through forensic feminist analysis.

‘Women’s Republic’ is run by Sai Sailaja Seshadri, a 20 year old Asian student who is studying Political Science at Arizona State University. She is the founder of ‘Women’s Republic’, an online magazine that serves as a platform to discuss women’s rights and empowerment. Sai’s main goal is to be able to give women of all backgrounds a voice through ‘Women’s Republic’.

There is a movement on Twitter with the hashtag #SouthAsianWriters to raise awareness of South Asian literary works. It was started by Nadia Hadid on https://twitter.com/cocoapatootie. Nadia blogs at ‘My life as an imposter’ about Asian intersectional issues. 

Here is a badass article about more Indian women who have made a difference.

Being an Asian women is a politicized experience. As examples, I am often asked for my views on the Rotherham case and whether having Asian British politicians in office makes me happy. These are my answers – the men who were guilty of child abuse in Rotherham and Rochdale are evil men who deserve to be put away for life. Right wing Asian politicians whether men or women do not represent my values.

My Asian feminism is therefore an integral part of my existence.

 

My late father, bless his soul, would have a cutting remark to describe people he didn’t like. ‘Shop people’ he called them when I was growing up in Asia. This snobbery and prejudice was embedded in his psyche as a little boy when opening a shop was seen as something that people who were not educated did.

To put things in context, becoming a retailer was perceived as easy work. Shop spaces were cheap and plentiful. In those days of pre-regulation people could hand over rent, sign a contract and hang their shop sign all within 24 hours before becoming a fully fledged retailer. Health and safety did not extend beyond not letting your child close to a boiling kettle. Loose electrical fittings, rickety entrances and poor quality ware was no barrier to becoming a shopkeeper/retilaer. This was a long time go you understand.

Retail was the sphere where, as far as my father was concerned, no-hopers went to make their mark. As someone who loved shopping none of this made sense to me but Asian parents can be a minefield of confusion.

“Do they understand history or politics?” he would say.

Quite by coincidence a street food seller who lived local to us set up an Indian food stall with his sons and went from living in a tiny low income house to a mansion within years. I kid you not. They were a capitalist success story and had done it without knowing history or politics. History to this family would be as unimportant as being familiar with the regional politics of Spain would be to Mongolians. Why should they care?

More often than not I was embarrassed by his biasness. The richest people on earth are retailers. My siblings and I all went to university but pose no threat to the wealthy folk’s position on the Forbes rich list. I could never find a nugget of substance in his analysis but my father must have had some prescience about Donald Trump.

The President of the USA has  tweeted about his refusal to visit London to open the new American Embassy because it has been sited in an “off location”. Trump reserves the sting in his rejection till the last line of his tweet when he proclaims that he would not be cutting ribbon.

The opening of most retail stores involves ribbons being cut. Location, location is paramount for drawing the punters in. Trump is a retailer – he sells real estate, his name as branding, franchises and whatever else it is that the Trump Corporation sells. Retail was his life. Quite obviously Trump is still immersed in retail and has found it nigh impossible to make the transition even after a year of being President.

Why else would Trump not consider the American Embassy located in Britain, one of the most important global economies in the world, as being a politically important outpost for his country? Instead, he is highly irked by the area within London where it is situated. Trump seems to think that this is an episode of a property programme or, worse still, a task handed out on his former  ‘Apprentice’ programme where participants have to find the best location to sell their products. But this is Trump we are talking about. He does not have a clue about political strategy. Trump doesn’t understand politics.

He probably would have come quite happily if the embassy had been situated next to Harrods or, come to think of it, as a retail space within the store. All that glitz would have made him feel quite at home resembling his gilded apartment in Trump Towers.

Neither does Trump, otherwise known as the ‘stable and genius’ moron, have any knowledge of the history of diplomacy. Embassies conduct the business of the home country in a host country using the soft power of diplomacy to advance national interests. Embassy officials headed by an Ambassador promote trade and economic ties which, as part of the Liberal world order, is intended to foster peaceful global relations.

To equate an embassy with location and ribbon cutting demonstrates a profound ignorance of politics and history. If only my father had lived to see an American President prove him right.

I am delighted to say that this blog post made it into the ‘Top of the blogs Lib Dem Golden Dozen weekly round up’ on 14 January 2018

Photo taken off Twitter from Simon Dudley’s account. No homeless person in sight

Who on earth uses the word ‘detritus’? How many people on the night before rubbish collection day announce that they are going to put the “detritus out”? I don’t know about you but my family would look at me in confusion wondering whether I had had one too many.

The answer is a Tory, of course. As sure as night and day you can trust a Tory to resort to language that goes beyond making a point. If you are going to open your mouth to speak you may as well put the boot in it too while you are at it.

Simon Dudley, leader of the Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, rose to the occasion when he wrote to Thames Valley police about the problem of homeless people sleeping on the streets of Windsor. According to Dudley, “bags and detritus” belonging to the homeless is a problem.

Dudley was so troubled by this “detritus” that he even tweeted about the problem while SKIING in Wyoming.  Amazing what the problem of ‘detritus’ can do to one.

The Tories have been insidious in their use of language. Boris Johnson is, of course, the high priest of this practice of using or making up words which don’t add anything of substance apart from to further the Tory ideology.

The Tory party has become a faction in the political sphere. It doesn’t behave like a political party. Yes it exercises power and occupies democratic institutions but does this equal responsible political exercise?

If it were a properly functioning political party it would recognise that homelessness is a problem caused primarily by its’ politics. Causality. Now there’s a concept that ought to be taught to every Tory. If you do X you will cause Y.

As an ordinary member of the public who has to live with this party’s ideological practices, I find it tremendously offensive that a privileged Tory like Dudley intentionally uses words that seek to portray the vulnerable as being no more than rubbish lying around on the streets. Rather than seeking to help these homeless folk he treats them as if they were ‘detritus’ themselves.

Get rid of the ‘detritus’ and everything will be alright. The British obsession with all things aesthetic is profoundly vested in the Tories. Dudley wants Windsor to look pristine before the royal wedding. Never mind the reality. Never mind old fashioned values like care and compassion. Creating illusions that figure in fairy tales is far more preferable.

I am no longer going to be silent about racism. I am no longer going to pretend that racism is a thing of the past. Racism never went away. Ask any person of colour. Racism is alive but lies hidden under the carpet of Liberalism and so-called ‘progressive politics’.

What is manifest is what I describe as ‘pop-up measures’ or, to be blunt, ‘tokenism gestures’ like diversity tick-box initiatives and training in ‘Unconscious Bias’ so favoured by corporations as knee-jerk actions to demonstrate a ‘willingness’ to tackle racism. These are no more than attempts to blunt racism and not to deal with it.

How do you tackle something when you don’t acknowledge it in the first place?

People have become so fearful of talking about race that even people of colour don’t want to discuss it openly. The number of times I have encountered the latter who brush racism aside as an inevitable that should be accepted and internalised is galling. When pressed further these people of colour will cave in and admit that, yes, it happens to them and they are fearful of raising the issue for fear of being seen as ‘troublemakers’.

The belittled don’t want to upset the belittlers despite the belittlers seemingly going to some lengths to address the problem of racism. The belittled don’t want to seem ungrateful so lie low in attempts to deflect labels such as ‘troublesome’.

The belittlers. to be fair, are often well-meaning and don’t realise that they are part of the problem. They too will brush aside discussions on racism. I have been given the most ludicrous of reasons for why they think racism does not exist anymore – because Britain is now a multicultural country and because Ethnic Minorities regularly appear on TV. EastEnders is held up as a prime example. The classic reason though has to be the one about how racism could not possibly exist in the Western world anymore after Barack Obama’s appointment as President of the USA not once but twice.

A Black and an Asian family on a popular TV soap does not equal the snuffing out of racism. Multiculturalism often is used as a byword for ‘large numbers’ as in ‘there are so many of you here that you can’t possibly be discriminated against’. Well, UKIP has used multi-culturalism to ignite racism quite well hasn’t it? In reverse, their reference to multi-culturalism has been a byword for numbers too in stoking fears over how there are so many of us that we will take away life and liberty from the dominant culture.

Dealing with manifestations of racism through corporate training and ‘be nice to your Asian neighbour’ behaviours isn’t the solution. Burning the Daily Mail before it hits the shops might be but that isn’t a practical solution either.

It’s a structural problem, stupid.

Applying the historical approach of the long duree towards nation building since the days of the Empire goes a long way towards explaining how and why racism is a structural problem.

There exists a paradox though because if Liberalism, which advocates equality, has been the prevailing political ideology in Britain since the post-war consensus then why does structural racism still exist?

Liberalism and racism, sadly, do make for compatible bedfellows. In an article that appeared in The New York Times the origins of racism in Liberalism are described as being found in John Locke’s ‘Second Treatise of Government’. Locke states that the social contract and the right to own property is withdrawn from “lunatics and idiots, women and savages”. Locke’s treatise also offers a “Just War” theory of slavery.

I am not a historian but my lived experience and those of countless people of colour speaks of racism still being alive and, sadly, doing quite well in the Brexit age and Trumpism under Liberalism.

Much as I would like to give up talking about racism because it often feels like I am hitting my head against 10 brick walls all at once I will carry on doing so. It is time for Liberals to stop trying to shut me up with their non-lived experiences of racism. Just because a Black man won Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 does not mean that the problem has gone away.

I was inspired to write this blog post after re-reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s articles titled ‘Why I am no longer talking to White people about race’. I completely understand her stance. It is extremely upsetting when political parties put forward ethnic minority candidates in elections so as to be able to boast that they are ‘diverse’ but will happily introduce policies that discriminate and stigmatise people of colour.

The Tory party’s racist stance during the Brexit referendum, London mayoral election and in their unstinting support for racist Donal Trump are fine examples.

This is why I will carry on challenging Liberals about racism. The structural actors hold the power to make changes and will not do it unless challenged by the ‘troublesome’ lot.

Happy New Year