You’ve probably watched a film/trailer featuring your white middle class woman having to battle against inequalities she is facing. It usually features her having an argument, whether it’s about fighting against marriage ideals, being a strong woman, getting an education and just generally being appalled by the double standards when it comes to how different genders are treated. Now, there was a time I loved watching films like this and they honestly gave me joy, but now I just see that they’re just not relatable at all.
It’s not even about the topic as most women can relate to being told that they have barriers based on their gender. Personally I’ve been told I shouldn’t even go to University and get married because I’m a woman and I kicked off – this was at mosque though so that made the argument even funnier as I used religion as a basis against the Imams teachings. That might be a blog post for another day.
The reason this genre of film has just been lost on me is that I can’t relate to the struggles of a white middle class woman. Yes, they still have to fight against the impact of being a woman in our society, but they also have a lot of leverage and privilege that someone in my position would wish to have. Our world makes it difficult for women, and women of colour and having both of those barriers working against me just makes it so I can’t relate to these movies.
Imagine living in a world where your ethnic name leads to your CV being put away before they’ve even read it. Or having to navigate racism in general, whether it’s being yelled at and told to ‘go back to your country’, or the subtle things like the looks people give, or the racial stereotypes being linked to your inner being. If I had a penny for every time someone assumed I was more aggressive than I am, I would be rich – and that’s the real tea that white women can’t relate to. Or having your hair be deemed inappropriate and unprofessional, when its natural state isn’t what is considered the ‘norm’.
When your parents are immigrants you also have to deal with a lot of unique issues like having to navigate education and future decisions without the help of someone who’s been through the system in the country you’re in. Personally I’d love to be in a position where I could also receive financial advise, but my parents had to learn this the hard way because they had to seek asylum and escape a war torn country when they were teenagers – so they weren’t the best with finances for the longest time.
So watching a privileged woman who has a lot of help that we would wish to have, claiming to fight the ‘good fight’, when really her fight is 5% of what a lot of us have to deal with. Her ‘fight’ is my Monday morning as a teenager, it’s not inspiring because it’s in the background of every woman of colour. Having to battle inequality they face is just something we’ve learned how to deal with and it lacks the power to move me because it’s minuscule compared to every single fight I’ve had to face against inequality.
I’m in no way trying to belittle their experiences, but at the same time you can’t expect me to feel anything other than ‘blah’ towards this.
Personally, I’d consider my battles quite easy compared to a lot of Somali women out there. I planned my arguments with my parents against a lot of the sexism, set a standard when they tried to implement a strict curfew and generally was ready to fight whenever I was treated differently to my older brother. I wouldn’t say they were too harsh as I understand why they were worried about me, but at the same time I recognised that I needed to fight against this stuff so that my little sisters would have it a lot easier.
I also never had to deal with the FGM issue, which is something that is huge in our community. The only time I was ever even spoken to about this was by one of my aunts (who I don’t talk to that much), I was either 6 or 7 and she spoke about going back home and getting a snip snip, she claimed it was cleaner and that it should be done as soon as possible. It’s one of those times I’m thankful to be a child of divorce, because if my mother was aware at the time that she even said this – all hell would have broken loose. When I told her years later she was very pissed off, it was kind of funny to watch, but many young girls are actually taken away and having this horrific act done to them.
I’m also grateful that my parents focused so much on education for everyone regardless of gender, as many women of colour don’t get this same response. Some have to fight in order to be allowed to go to college and university as their parents would rather they get married off as soon as possible.
So yeh, this is my very long winded way of just saying, I can’t find these movies inspiring because they’re not relatable. I’d rather see different cultures represented and more layered experiences out there in modern media because right now all we’re seeing is the white narrative.