Why I’ll never marry a South Asian man, even though I’m South Asian
Our society has a serious problem in how we treat women
by Rezwana Khan
There are two reasons I’ve decided not to be with a man from my own ethnicity. The first is something that many South Asian women will be able to identify with. That is: I associate South Asian men as part of the family. I can’t help it.
The only South Asian men in my life are my family members: brothers, fathers, cousins, uncles, grandparents and extended family. Being born and raised in London, I was surrounded by many ethnicities, but anyone who was South Asian, I presumed was an extended distant relative. After all, any Asian you’re introduced to by an older relative will always refer to them as a ‘brother’, or older ‘aunt’.
My second point is far more complex.
Let me give you an example, during my time as a teenager in London, I was asked by my older relatives if I knew how to cook. I always said “no”, as I knew it really meant “have you learnt to cook for your future in-laws and husband?” Is a girl’s whole life in preparation for her married life?
Many young Asian men I have come into contact with, claim they are feminists and love and respect women: yet objectify and oversexualise every white blonde colleague, believe every South Asian woman is secretly infatuated with them and believe their way of working is better than their managers.
South Asian society has a serious problem. It sees itself as the greatest culture in the world, yet treats women as second class citizens. South Asian families see sex outside marriage for a woman as a disgrace, in line with being barren, and it can be the defining factor for a woman to be unable to get married (in rural smaller towns and areas), or lead to a quick divorce (for wealthier families in large cities).
Yet, South Asian men can have as many sexual partners pre-marriage and have extra marital affairs, if they are lucky enough to not be caught by their wives.
South Asian men tend to have very fragile egos. They are taught from birth that they’re the greatest gift to have been bestowed upon on to their parents and have been given everything to them from childhood.
In itself that’s not a problem. Parents want the best for their children. But what is the problem is teaching them through everyday gestures and social norms that they are superior to females – in all aspects. Women are seen as subservient and weak, therefore needing the support of a ‘male power’ for protection and guidance.
With the global outcries against India’s rape epidemic and countless stories of unhappy South Asian women in marriages or divorces, it all stems from one problem in my opinion. The attitudes of South Asian men.
My own personal experiences range from ‘mild eve-teasing’ on the streets of Dhaka to street staring and general misogyny, even from family members. As South Asian culture is family oriented misogyny tends to blend with cultural norms and practices. After all a decent girl can’t stay out too late. A decent girl can’t wear miniskirts after dark. A decent girl is always with her parents and grandparents. A decent girl doesn’t have or go to sleepovers.
Another way in which women are undermined is her appearance. I’ve had enough experience of being called ‘pretty for a dark girl‘. In South Asian society the fairer a girl is the prettier she is. She’ll have far better marriage prospects as men will want the fairest women to marry and be the mother of their fair children.
And that’s all a woman can aspire to do – to land a rich good husband and family. This outdated view of colourism is of course only applied to women. If a man is darker skinned it’s not a problem as long as he comes from a wealthy background. He can still get himself a beautiful ‘fair’ woman.
Oh and you must cook for him, the kids and his parents, and his brothers if he has them, who are also living with you, for every meal and cooked fresh please – no Tupperware in sight. This tends to be the most common pattern for South Asian degree educated British young women, even in the UK.
After university it’s expected for her to think, even plan to get married to a nice South Asian guy from back home as soon as possible. When you marry a South Asian man you also marry his entire family. It’s not just duties of a wife, but of a daughter-in-law that must be upheld at all costs.
Once she’s married she’s expected to start having children, sacrifice her career for kids and home life, while the husband should be the sole provider. It’s OK to want that, but it’s not OK to have it forced down your throat by in-laws and your own family – that’s a problem. Family honour is important.
It doesn’t matter if you are living in poverty in rural India or in a middle-class town in England; if you happen to be South Asian, these are the norms which you have to accept, as it has happened for generations.
But not anymore. This is the 21st century and more and more South Asian women can decide on their own matters, from education to sexual health, to even who they want to marry or not. South Asian men are increasingly becoming more in touch with reality, with an understanding of equality and fairness, but unfortunately, it’s not in the majority.
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