“…..women who venture out of the nest to seek a mate must lack decency. And there’s the drive towards conformity: the ugly head that raises itself at the sight of anything that dares to deviate from the norm”- Sukhada Tatke narrates her and other women’s experiences in American Renaissance on facing backlash for choosing to love/marry into different cultures. She had been subjected to rude remarks not only from neighbors and people she knew, but unwillingly, also got attention from complete stranger only because she being a brown woman chose to marry a white man!
Many people love to experience the thrill of falling in love, handle the challenge of inter-cultural or inter-racial marriages. Some people have an inclination towards people of different cultures. However, it is never an easy ride if you are a woman! Patriarchy has clearly defined our places-we must stick to our own community. What about men? They may bring women from another community into their homes. But what happens when a woman or a girl expresses that she would like to marry into a different culture? This is considered a blasphemous behavior, a disgrace in many cases. A woman is often mocked by men, and in some cases, even by women of her community. A woman is not entitled to have any such desires! Her womb is meant to increase the population of her community (ethnicity, nation or religion wise!).
I think another very important point needs to be addressed is that in this era of globalization and immigration,it is simply a normal outcome for anyone coming across other cultures, regardless of gender and ethnicity. And an interracial relationship should just be treated as such, a relationship. An interracial or intercultural relationship is already complex enough. Especially if the woman is already being judged by her own family and community for it, it adds a lot of unnecessary pressure on the relationship, that often jeopardizes any possible success of the relationship even before it can begin.
The other day, I came across a Facebook post by a brave woman I deeply respect. She had been shamed ample of times by a stranger with whom she shared the same ethnicity. He rebuked her about why did she choose to marry a white man. He wanted details of her sexual experience with a man who was from another culture altogether and wanted to compare if it would have been better or worse if she had chosen to marry within the community. Likewise, I know a South Asian woman (she prefers to be anonymous) settled in the West who has been slut-shamed by her family for dating a white man! She has been told that this is an evil deed; that she has insulted the pride of her community by her act!
This is what patriarchy has taught us. So what if you really love someone from a different culture and wish to spend rest of your life with him? It is shameful, dear woman. You are a woman and your body belongs to your community. If you are raped, your community’s honor is apparently violated as patriarchy says, a community’s honor, a woman’s honor lies between her legs! If you marry a man outside your community, you have forever turned your back on your community. You have to chosen to deviate, you have chosen to stray!
In recent times, I have stumbled upon news of foreigner women traveling all the way to Bangladesh for their love; they befriended Bangladeshi men online, fell in love and traveled to Bangladesh to meet their newfound love and get married. Such news are well-received by the audience. The divine beauty of inter-cultural love is glorified. But what happens when the genders are reversed? Not so much appreciation for the latter! It may be 21st century, the era of globalization, but patriarchy exists? We have not really progressed much from the time of Mircea Eliade and Maitreyi Devi. Mircea and Maitreyi had to separate, due to her family’s opposition. Times may have changed, women might have become braver and many are bold enough to get married, but it is also true that many a times, the women are looked down upon only because of who they have chosen to love and live with.
Likewise, I have known women from other countries who have faced backlash of their communities to choosing to ‘deviate’. And for those unfortunate ones, whose love stories didn’t work out, they became examples of ‘this-is-what-happens-to-shameless-women-who-betray-their-community’! For men, if their love stories didn’t work out in the long run, its okay. They can fondly say “You know, I had a girlfriend from ‘X’ country.” They can be nostalgic, or they can be bitter. In short, they are never made to feel ashamed. But for women? Often they are taunted and made to feel ashamed, for making a choice and furthermore, for daring to challenge the norm.
Patriarchy, while it is the most depressing thing I have seen, nevertheless it never ceases to amuse me- how rules are often different for us women because of our gender!
Shucheesmita Simonti is from Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has completed her M.A. in International Relations, New Delhi, India. She is working as editor at the Women Chapter English and acting editor at the Women Chapter (Bengali site), a feminist portal founded in Bangladesh.