By: Reenita V Connecting with my culture has been a process I have recently just begun. As a first generation Canadian, I grew up with parents who were heavily immersed in the new Western culture which offered new beginnings and opportunities. I grew up with […]
By: Saipriya V In recent years the definition of ‘beauty’ and an ‘ideal body’ has changed among women. Looking thinner is considered to be beautiful. This is due to the harsh critiques of our society which consider women being ‘thin’ as beautiful, hard working and […]
By: Reenita V
When you are a 30 something women, single and no prospect of a marriage or children, you get put into the lime light, especially when you are surrounded by friends and more so when you are surrounded by family. I found that in the last ten years, while I have focused on my life, career, education and personal growth, people were more interested in when I am going to have a baby rather than the accomplishments made thus far. I find it incredibly difficult to navigate those conversations, especially when they involve older generations and I have this sneaking suspicion that I might not be alone.
Growing up, the consensus was that after high school comes college, then love, marriage and a baby carriage. This plan played out for aunts, cousins, uncles and friends – marriage and babies were always the end game. This idea seems to be heavily imposed by our community and it works for some but where do the non-baby makers fit in?
Let me start off by saying that I do love babies, especially when this baby is a new family member. Having a new addition to a family is a beautiful reminder that we come from a community that truly works together to ensure the wellbeing of each member. I loved being involved with such a large family. In the Western culture, family stops at the parents and children, in our culture, it goes way beyond that. Contributing to the grown of the family is a huge accomplishment of itself but I have decided that it is not for me, at least not at this time in my life.
I envy the dedication and patience displayed by my parents, grandparents and family members and friends who do have children. I also respect those that have chosen an alternate path. No matter what your decision is to not have children, it should be respected and not questioned. You may voice your thoughts and wishes and receive backlash at least this has been the case for me when I have expressed myself to family. If you find yourself secretly wanting to step away from these expectations, I am here to tell you that you are not alone.
Would it be too far fetched to create this awesome support system for South Asian identified women who want to go against the imposed ideas of what their futures should look like? I think not. Not wanting a baby does not mean that you hate kids, your parents, and your culture. Not wanting a baby is a choice each women is allowed to have.
By: Reya D
We’re about four months in 2015, so now is a pretty good time to check in with that New Year’s Resolution.
I always set a similar resolution for myself every year, I say to myself in the mirror: “This year you will loose those extra 10 lbs”. Then after researching visits to the gym to find out about memberships, and budgeting the cost, I end up deciding to save the money and put on a cardio video at home. I plan out a whole 28-day meal plan and make a grocery list and stick to purchasing only the things on the meal plan (i.e. NO COOKIES, but fancy dark chocolate is okay). I start to feel great about my body because I’m sticking to my “resolution”, and then right about now I get off the wagon. It was my choice to start; therefore I believe it’s my choice to stop working out, and my choice to stop eating healthier than I’d normally do. Yet, somehow my loved ones seem to have an issue with me stopping, when I don’t. They want me to continue, and make comments about my “lack of commitment” when I really couldn’t care less for their opinions. I have never seen these commentaries as encouragement, rather it feels more like nagging.
I really did feel great about working out and eating right, but I was doing those things for myself when I started. I think that this is where a lot of the time, New Year’s resolutions to loose weight or change our diet plans get confused for all age groups of women alike, especially young women. I know that social media and pop culture boast the ideal body figure, and every Cosmo magazine I pass by has a quick-step solution to the perfect buns/thighs/abs, etc. However, none of these media outlets has a quick-step solution for changing how I think about me, or how women should see and support each other. They all aim to changing my body and not my mind-set. I believe that the whole eat right/fitness prone agenda is really set up as a way to keep women in competition with one another. That the ideal body image of a “toned, 20 something year old” is out of date with the reality of most working women’s lives.
I’ve changed my resolution. I want to cultivate healthier thoughts and improve my well-being. My solution is to believe in myself and work on improving how I can encourage others to do the same. I believe that there needs to be more efforts put towards women appreciating themselves as they are—before beginning that work-out and eat right regiment. Women need to encourage each other, not compete. It’s so much more fun to have a workout buddy than a coach. So I say: “there really is no better time than ME time, enjoy it!”
By: Surita Parmar
I can’t count the number of times my friends have told me that Homeland is “the best show on television”, and that I absolutely “have” to get into it. A few weeks ago, I finally caved and watched the first three episodes. I’d read that its depiction of Muslims is controversial, but I was too distracted to form my own conclusions. What stood out to me—to the point of obliterating everything else—was the character Jessica Brody. A mother of two children, living an apple pie, middle-class existence. (That is, asides from being the wife of a political prisoner recovering from years of brainwashing and torture.)
Jessica Brody is played by Morena Baccarin. She’s one of the most beautiful actresses I’ve ever seen. And, according to Wikipedia, she was born in 1979.
Toronto—my hometown—is typical of many North American cities in that it’s cram jammed with thirty-something Peter Pans who seem more preoccupied with playing Candy Crush than paying off mortgages and having babies. (Myself included.) We’re the polar opposites of our baby boomer parents, and perhaps not the best measuring stick for adulthood. Still, the fact that actresses our age continue to be relegated to “mom” roles is perplexing.
If Homeland began airing in 2011, Baccarin was at least thirty-one when the show was in production. One of her on-screen children is portrayed as fourteen or fifteen years old. Maybe viewers can suspend belief and buy that a woman who looks like a living incarnation of a fashion editorial spread is a typical mother and wife. But I draw the line at accepting that she married and had her first child during her mid-teens. The show doesn’t try to explain why Baccarin’s character looks like her kids’ older sister—her situation is presented as run-of-the-mill. Conversely, her on-screen husband (played by Damian Lewis) is nearly ten years older than her. It’s a shame. Homeland has received a lot of hype for its female protagonist (Claire Danes), and amazing writing. But, Jessica Brody is all I see.
I’m not quite sure if the blame falls on the creators of Homeland, or cultural norms that condition us to gauge women’s worth on the basis of their youth and sex appeal. Particularly actresses, who seem to disappear from the limelight once they grow a few gray hairs.
Homeland certainly isn’t
an anomaly. How many movies and television shows center around schlubby men with youthful, svelte, sexy wives? From The Honeymooners, to The Simpsons and Family Guy (granted, they lampoon the trope), to According to
Jim, to Judd
Apatow movies. Now that I think about it, even Breaking Bad—a show universally acknowledged as genius and groundbreaking—is arguably guilty. At first glance, the character Skyler seems rather young and glamorous to be the mother of a teenager, and the wife of a man in his fifties. Online discussions about the show have touched on how “shrill, “annoying”, and “hypocritical” she is, and (to their credit) have noted that many of the show’s villains are psychopathic Hispanic men. But nobody questions why intelligent, stunning Skyler is married to geeky, angry (albeit brilliant) Walter White. If their genders were reversed, it would be a different story.
Once you start scanning television shows and movies with a political eye, it consumes your entire viewing experience. You try to enjoy a lazy Sunday watching a charming indie movie you loved when you were in your mid twenties…and realize it’s a beacon of ingrained, systemic “isms”. The manic pixie dream
girl character you once swore was your clone now comes off as underwritten and trite. You’re irritated because the director—an auteur with relative creative autonomy and liberal tendencies—limited the cast to Caucasian actors. (Except for the Indian cab driver.) And wow—how did you not see how homophobic that “gay best friend” character really is? You chide your younger self for believing the movie represented you, when the reality is you don’t belong in its universe. And if you think indie films are bad, don’t even try watching Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese movies. You’ll no longer be dazzled by their cerebral plot twists, snappy dialogue, and Steadicam shots after contemplating their poorly written, miscast female characters. As interesting are their films are, you’ll end up wondering why they tend to be so, well, “bro”-ey.
In desperation, you turn to award shows like the Oscars for entertainment. Surely you can still turn off your brain and enjoy mindless red carpet fluff? Not a chance. You see that beneath the glister of couture gowns and borrowed Harry Winston jewels, actresses’ faces radiate a waxy, preternatural glow. No exfoliating cleanser or light refracting bronzing powder cultivated that smooth incandescence – it’s the unmistakable hallmark of the cosmetic surgeon’s knife and/or botox needle. (Can you blame women in Hollywood, when they’re expected to play moms once they hit thirty?). You also bemoan how few female filmmakers are on the red carpet. And while it’s great to see visible minorities nominated for acting awards, you wish they weren’t being celebrated for playing slaves and pirates. The pièce de résistance is when you finally throw an askance eye at all the pomp and splendour…and mull over how many starving children could have been fed instead..
your remote aside in disgust.
Not so fast. It’s disheartening that mainstream media continues to perpetuate power imbalances and double standards in society. But, to quote Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a-changin”. Sure, film and television trade publications keep publish reviews criticizing the casting of “chubby” Jennifer Lawrence as starving Katniss in The Hunger Games—while ignoring that the muscular physiques of similarly malnourished male characters are far more improbable. Or op-eds questioning whether Lupita Nyong’o is too “dark skinned” for mainstream audiences. (Which is depressing. There should be no debate whether a lovely, talented, award-winning actress has a future in film). But there are also many articles that lament the lack of diverse and well-rounded characters in media, and urge industry power players to shake things up. Networks like NBC and CBS are listening—they’ve kick-started initiatives aimed to bring in more diverse
I admit that I’m forgetting that ten to fifteen years ago, it was enough to have women, visible minorities, and members of the LGBT community featured on screen, let alone cast as leads. The demand to see them realized as fully fleshed human beings is a sign of positive change. So what are we to do until mainstream movies and TV shows quit casting women as generic moms, Indians as cab drivers, and Arabs as terrorists? Boycott them? Figure out a way to turn off our politicizing eye? Or we could do neither. It takes some digging, but it’s possible to find media that’s more forward thinking than regressive. If you don’t feel like scouring Netflix for obscure foreign art-house movies, you can watch the television show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It features a lot of diverse characters whose ethnicity and sexual orientation are incidental instead of defining personality traits. And it’s hilarious—it isn’t sanctimonious or obvious in its attempt to appease all audiences
in the slightest.
We can also compromise our politicizing eye. Just a little. For example, while watching an action movie, we can appreciate that its protagonist is a POC, while recognizing that it would be way better if his female love interest was the same age as him instead of fifteen years younger—and if the protagonist was female as well. It’s important that we continue discussing how media should reflect our changing culture. Who knows? Maybe years from now, films, television shows, and attitudes about how demographics are portrayed will have shifted so drastically that people will write articles outlining why Brooklyn Nine-Nine is problematic.
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