“Black Men, Asian Women” Article by Rinku Sen

Since I don’t watch these television shows, it’s a bit dicey to comment on the spate of shows featuring romances between black men and asian women, so I’ll let Rinku Sen do it for me: parminder_er.jpg

The sugary romance between the excessively noble characters played by Parminder Nagra and Shafiq Atkins on ER follows the much hotter one between Ming Na Wen and Mekhi Phifer that ended two seasons ago. GreyÂ’s Anatomy features Sandra Oh in an up-and-down relationship with Isaiah Washington.

What accounts for such interest? ItÂ’s as though these couples have been pouring out of medical schools and producers decided to capture the trend.

The representations tread the line between cultural authenticity, sometimes considered stereotype, and colorblindness. The women exhibit some level of conflict with their cultures and are slightly neurotic: Ming Na dreaded telling her immigrant parents that she was having a baby out of wedlock; Nagra quit her job in a bout of rebellion against family expectation to work as a convenience store clerk. The men are dangerous but tender. Phifer grew up without a father and has a temper; Gallant went off to serve in Iraq. I did laugh at the effort to bridge cultures, though, when NagraÂ’s character got married wearing a white sari. White is the Hindu color of mourning.(link)

If it’s on TV, is it a reflection of a real sociological trend, or simply a convenient image of happy multiculturalism from television fantasy-land? Sen’s article gets into some sociological explanations for the phenomenon, none of which are terribly convincing (I don’t think these romances have much to do with “American Empire” or colonialism). But she does argue that it goes beyond “submissive Asian woman”/”sexualized black man” stereotypes:

HamamotoÂ’s theory would suggest that such a preference was grounded in a sexual stereotype of submissive Asian women. I am familiar with our so-called seductress image. My Asian girlfriends and I spent our college years snottily rejecting the few white men who came around as “rice lovers.” While I did experience an American man mentioning the Kama Sutra within five minutes of meeting me recently in New York, my adolescent self-image was much closer to nerd than slut. To see all these Asian women who might also have been high-school nerds paired up with the most sexualized actors in American culture has been, I will admit it, a thrill. However, in real life, Asian women and Black men donÂ’t get to be both equally sexy and smart. “ItÂ’s easier for a Black man to get his foot in the door when heÂ’s with me,” said Aarti, “especially if weÂ’re working.”(link)

Class dynamics may be important in the appeal of Asians to some African Americans. And the “bad boy” image (stereotype) may make people of African descent more attractive to children of immigrants traditionally considered too studious and repressed (spelling bee/ math team champions) to be generally attractive.

Or maybe not: since there are no hard statistics, this could be just another Dubious Trend Story in line with infamous New York Times stories about baby gyms in Manhattan, or Ivy League women who decide to drop out of the rat race to become trophy wives. The next time you see an East or South Asian woman dating a black man … it may simply be that they are two people who happened to meet, and fall in love — irrespective of Parminder Nagra, and sociology be damned.

(Incidentally, for Bollywood fans, guess who played Nagra’s parents in a recent episode? Anupam and Kirron Kher, of course.)

552 thoughts on ““Black Men, Asian Women” Article by Rinku Sen

  1. Sahej buddy, you are a funny guy ;)

    Well, it’s been an interesting thread, and in my view it has also made me aware of some transatlantic differences between the desi populations in the US and the UK respectively. I had no idea that the whole concept of dating/marrying white people was still such a controversial issue over there, at least amongst the younger generation. The only desis (at least those older than 25) who still think like that here in Ingerlaanda — or at least in London, which may not be representative of the whole country — are the older (ie. parents’) generation — who have well-known issues with racism towards pretty much everyone else — and some of the more neurotic members of the 2nd-generation. In my experience, the latter is a minority these days, except for those who live in extremely insular desi areas or are the type who want to blow up trains and nightclubs.

    I also don’t buy the relation to “power dynamics” because it alludes to ascribing “collective guilt” to the white person, and I also don’t agree that “self-hatred” (another trendy-but-misguided American term if ever there was one) has anything to do with it either; in some cases, yes, and I’ve seen both men and women from the 2nd-Gen desi population here in the UK motivated by this (they’re trying to get as far away as possible from being Indian/South Asian etc)…..but not in all or even most cases. Personally I think that, in relation to attractiveness, this term is only appropriate if one feels irrationally unattractive compared to members of one’s own gender from other ethnic groups. Having a different aesthetic towards members of the opposite sex doesn’t necessarily apply here; using an analogy, a brown-haired brown-eyed white guy who has a strong physical attraction to blonde-haired blue-eyed women doesn’t necessarily “hate” his own appearance. I guess it depends on the particualr individual and how they think of themselves and sexual/romantic relationships in general.

    If I may politely make another observation — and I do not mean any offence to any desis based in the US — I don’t think the trend towards identifying oneself as “brown” if one is from a South Asian background is the best way to go about things. If we agree that the notion of racial classification according to skin colour (“white” and “black” most notably) was a mistake — for various historical reasons — then South Asians following that example and similarly referring to themselves in this manner is possibly a backward step. As far as I know, American-Chinese/Japanese/Korean people and Native Americans don’t do this, although please correct me if I’m wrong.

    It is clear, however, that the “race question” is still a huge issue over there in America, as is the concept of interracial relationships. With regards to the latter, generally-speaking it’s pretty much a non-issue in modern Britain — especially London — both in the majority population and in its depiction in the media/entertainment industry. It rarely raises any eyebrows and, in British television and films, isn’t even regarded as a “big deal” in any major sense, at least from the “mainstream” perspective. Basically, everyone is shown getting it on with everyone else. Hell, even the winner of the British version of The Apprentice — a very attractive blonde woman — is now reportedly 3 months pregnant by one of her rivals on the show, a British Bangladeshi from London’s East End who she had a fling with during the filming of the show and shortly afterwards; yet the “interracial” nature of the relationship has been ignored completely. I’m sure some of the more regressive “local” Brits aren’t thrilled about it, of course, but it hasn’t been mentioned at all either in the television medium or in the national newspapers. I think that’s a very positive sign.

    Perhaps it’s true what they say about Britain and America: “Two nations divided by a common language”, along, perhaps, with different attitudes to race and interracial entanglements in 2006. Quite ironic, when you consider Britain’s colonial history and some of the negative attitudes perpetuated post-1857 ;)

  2. Jai,

    thanks dude.

    In the US, I think the generation younger than most of us are not concerned with inter-ethnic dating as a problematic thing. Similiar to what you’re describing in the UK. California seems to be a model, but the entire West, to me, seems really relaxed about the whole thing. Maybe it has to be with the fact almost everyone in California is a migrant; either from the Dust Bowl or later.

    I still maintain too much of the thread has been crap-tastic. Not least because….wtf with my pick-up lines? I chalk it up to lack of advice from my elder generation on macking. I recieved no help from the rents. There, that’s it.

  3. meant to say Sahej up there in the name, but what the hell, yet another reason this thread’s annoyed the heck out of me

  4. Having a different aesthetic towards members of the opposite sex doesn’t necessarily apply here; using an analogy, a brown-haired brown-eyed white guy who has a strong physical attraction to blonde-haired blue-eyed women doesn’t necessarily “hate” his own appearance.

    I don’t think this is an accurate metaphor, for one, the blonde-hair blue eye archetype of beauty is a distinction reserved for females. And secondly, (with the exception of Germany) blonde-haired blue-eyed’ness was never subtly positioned as something superior in a general human, civilizational sense.

    Whereas being white, has continually fit into that category.

    But this I find extremely interesting:

    a very attractive blonde woman — is now reportedly 3 months pregnant by one of her rivals on the show, a British Bangladeshi from London’s East End who she had a fling with during the filming of the show and shortly afterwards; yet the “interracial” nature of the relationship has been ignored completely.

    When interracial relationships occupy TV/movie land, they tend to carry more weight, and thus have stricter filters. Ironic that the original post described a TV relationship and very little discussion has ensued on the distinction (of which I’m partly to blame, I agree!)

    An interesting aside, in the movie “The Pelican Brief” with Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, the producers were willing to pay Denzel to leave the movie after Julia came onboard (Grisham’s novel had a much stronger romance between the two leads) When Julia found out, she threatened to leave if Denzel wasn’t kept on. So the producers toned down the romance.

    I know the UK is “further along” when it comes to dealing with interracial relationships in mainstream discussion. But in the states, I think the race/relationship dynamics work this way:

    For minority males, white women are positioned as things of beauty, but not much more. So on the show, Average Joe, the minority men were basically shown ogling the prize, [bad] actress, Melana Scantlin. But you rarely see minority men on shows like the Bachelorette, and if they are, they’re usually edited to not take the woman seriously as a prospective life partner.

    For minority females, white men are positioned as better men (not necessarily better looking, as was stated by someone earlier, every race has its attractive subset), but, firmer, more confident, laid-back, and even more open-minded, and just generally, “cooler”. So, on shows like The Bachelor, you’ll find minority women (in particular, east asians) that producers are all the more willing to “egg on” as potential relationships, because they re-inforce the minority woman succumbing and being woo’d by the big, powerful, secure caucasian male.

  5. Dert,

    There’s a difference between what you see on TV and movies and what pertains. Especially when you take into account that media in the States is driven not by the coastal markets, but a desire to be the least offensive to the largest demographic. If you take a look at websites in which the production is more consumer-based, like MySpace, there’s very little attention placed on classifying racial categories on selectivity. Its almost the most un-cool thing you can do.

    I think our generation will hopefully be the last generation that had to actively think about racial choices in dating. That would be awesome.

  6. There’s a difference between what you see on TV and movies and what pertains. Especially when you take into account that media in the States is driven not by the coastal markets, but a desire to be the least offensive to the largest demographic. If you take a look at websites in which the production is more consumer-based, like MySpace, there’s very little attention placed on classifying racial categories on selectivity. Its almost the most un-cool thing you can do.

    Oh I totally agree, that’s what I was saying about TV relationship filters being more strict. I was just offering a little more detail on the nature of those filters. Because it’s not as simplistic as “interracial relationships are offensive to rednecks in nebraska, period” I’m contending that certain IRs “sell” better than others, and offered the reasons why.

  7. Dert,

    i think there’s some unfairness in the system, as there is with other segments of society, including education and jobs. i do think media is going to change as society changes.

  8. An interesting aside, in the movie “The Pelican Brief” with Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, the producers were willing to pay Denzel to leave the movie after Julia came onboard (Grisham’s novel had a much stronger romance between the two leads) When Julia found out, she threatened to leave if Denzel wasn’t kept on. So the producers toned down the romance.

    This book analyzes the interracial dynamics of Hollywood films:

    In Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks, his seminal history of blacks in American movies, film historian Donald Bogle argues that African American actors have been relegated to five offensive stereotypes. Perhaps he might add a new category: “Kens,” emasculated black superstars who are never more than escorts for white females in formula action pictures. The Skin Game

    Which might explain why Denzel has himself declined to do interracial love scenes even when it was in the script, with a view to the boxoffice numbers:

    Washington, the most potent (and bankable) black screen actor of his generation, has always been sensitive to the racial dynamics of the American marketplace. While filming the 1995 film Virtuosity, Washington — the son of a Pentecostal minister — refused to kiss white co-star Kelly Lynch. During an interview in Jet magazine, Lynch later suggested she had no trouble with the scene, “but Denzel felt strongly that white males, who were the target audience of this movie, would not want him to kiss a white woman.” Link
  9. Dert,

    I don’t think this is an accurate metaphor, for one, the blonde-hair blue eye archetype of beauty is a distinction reserved for females.

    Yes, but amongst South Asians, the ideally-as-light-as-possible archetype applies much more to women — of any ethnic background — rather than men. So if a South Asian man happens to prefer very light South Asian women, it’s not such a huge leap for him to extrapolate that preference to (logically) include white women too, assuming that he’s looking at both with the same perspective.

    If it goes beyond aesthetic considerations and has more to do with (actual or perceived) behavioural characteristics which he may — rightly or wrongly — associate more with white women than South Asian women, that’s of course a different (albeit possibly overlapping) matter and adds a slightly more complex dynamic to the whole thing.

    But you rarely see minority men on shows like the Bachelorette, and if they are, they’re usually edited to not take the woman seriously as a prospective life partner.

    Hmm….That’s not good. Maybe it’ll change in due course as South Asian men continue to gain a higher profile in the American media (isn’t Naveen Andrews regarded as a sex symbol in the US, for example), and the public and media image changes from the “nerdy” stereotype into something hopefully a bit more positive. We went through the same thing here in the UK during the past 10-15 years or so. Showing a South Asian guy as a bit of a stud in British dramas isn’t a big deal these days — in fact, during the past couple of years, the most popular British soap had an Indian character (played by a British Indian actor) as the most notorious lothario in the entire show. There were entire story arcs dedicated to him and his “adventures” (along with his hapless desi wife, and his not-so-hapless psychotic desi mistress).

  10. Sahej,

    Especially when you take into account that media in the States is driven not by the coastal markets, but a desire to be the least offensive to the largest demographic.

    If tha’ts true, then it’s quite a disturbing reflection on the mentality of the largest demographic — that they would still, in the 21st century, find the idea of a desi (or minority) man in a romantic relationship with a white woman to be “offensive”.

    One notable example of such a scenario, as I mentioned much higher up in this thread, was Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos in The West Wing. I thought it was quite cool that he was shown as being in a perfectly normal relationship with his white wife, and the “interracial” aspect of it was not a big deal at all.

    The Denzel Washington examples by Vikram have reminded me of Wesley Snipes in high-profile (filmi) relationships with white women — Jungle Fever, where his entanglement with his white partner was a very big deal indeed, and more recently, another film (whose name I can’t remember, dammit) all about infidelity (Robert Downey Jnr was their gay friend dying of AIDS, I think) where Snipes played an architect, and it also starred Nastassja Kinski. The latter in particular was very steamy stuff indeed, but the interracial angle was a total non-issue there. Quite a good film, I thought.

    I still maintain too much of the thread has been crap-tastic.

    Some of it’s been total bukwaas, I agree ;) There seem to be some very neurotic desis over on that side of the Atlantic, at least when it comes to the topic of dating (both other South Asians and people from other ethnic backgrounds)…..

    Not least because….wtf with my pick-up lines? I chalk it up to lack of advice from my elder generation on macking. I recieved no help from the rents. There, that’s it.

    Man, unless you happen to be lucky enough to have the Bill Cosby type of desi father (and they are around), I think the whole flirting/dating thing is a teach-yourself matter for many 2nd-gen Indians out here in the Vest. Don’t worry, you were quite good. You even managed to throw in a refence to gazelles and African safari scenarios, for God’s sake. Although I’m sure it sounded more poetic in the original unadulterated Punjabi ;)

  11. Jai,

    If tha’ts true, then it’s quite a disturbing reflection on the mentality of the largest demographic — that they would still, in the 21st century, find the idea of a desi (or minority) man in a romantic relationship with a white woman to be “offensive”. One notable example of such a scenario, as I mentioned much higher up in this thread, was Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos in The West Wing. I thought it was quite cool that he was shown as being in a perfectly normal relationship with his white wife, and the “interracial” aspect of it was not a big deal at all.

    West Wing is a show thats geared toward the more progressive end of the spectrum, so thats more of an expected thing. For TV in general it seems to be nothing more sinister than simply, lets not rock the boat. But I think its improving. In general, its a vestige of racism, and as such its lame. I don’t think the vast majority of people of any color at this point care, but media seems to lag behind the rest of the country.

    Man, unless you happen to be lucky enough to have the Bill Cosby type of desi father (and they are around), I think the whole flirting/dating thing is a teach-yourself matter for many 2nd-gen Indians out here in the Vest. Don’t worry, you were quite good. You even managed to throw in a refence to gazelles and African safari scenarios, for God’s sake. Although I’m sure it sounded more poetic in the original unadulterated Punjabi ;)

    Hahaha, I wish that was in Punjabi man….now that would be something!

  12. I think our generation will hopefully be the last generation that had to actively think about racial choices in dating. That would be awesome.

    Really? Hmmmm I like being different. I like my race and identity and being part of it and wanting to be part of something larger that represents it. I’d hate to see one big homoganized world where everyone is the same and being “different” or wanting to preserve being different is unimportant.

  13. Really? Hmmmm I like being different. I like my race and identity and being part of it and wanting to be part of something larger that represents it. I’d hate to see one big homoganized world where everyone is the same and being “different” or wanting to preserve being different is unimportant.

    I mean more so, not agonizing over a choice of partner as if means something significant about one’s identity. That choosing someone does not result in facing a leap of faith moment where we are deciding all sorts of important questions about ethnicity, place, power, language, heritage.

    I agree, it would be a loss if we are homogenized and without difference, as this would mean a lot of culture would be lost.

    Related, it occurs to me trying to preserve culture without practicing can be problematic.

    on that note, how’s this….. meeri jaan theri akh heerni vargi lagi

  14. Hahaha alright you are off the hook Sahej. I know what you mean but part of the reason conflicts exist is because there are differences that are culturally important. Even if the parents offer their blessings there is so much cultural baggage it’s not always easy to manage and hence the differences are taken into consideration and cause strife. I’ve seen so many couples go thru it and it may not be fair but I’m not convinced yet that it’s totally unnecessary.

  15. depends i guess, i think there’s enough people who can negotiate these things without inordinate amounts of conflict. but then again what the hell do i know.

    although i think in order to explain yourself to someone else, you need to understand yourself first

  16. Post no. 501 was not written by me – SM administrator, are you out there? Second time I’ve been impersonated on this post.

    Jai: If I have to choose between being ugly, or arrogant (and according to your argumentation, I do, as I must somehow be defective not to be attracting desi men), I’ll choose arrogant, thanks very much.

    Sahej: I do not find you clumsy; on the contrary, the stealth and power of your approach are natural to a beast of prey. Let me hear you roar. (Groan. See what I mean, people – I was not built to chase anyone.)

  17. The Denzel Washington examples by Vikram have reminded me of Wesley Snipes in high-profile (filmi) relationships with white women — Jungle Fever, where his entanglement with his white partner was a very big deal indeed.

    Jungle Fever is a Spike Lee film, or more accurately, “joint.” Spike Lee has final cut for all of his films, essentially he’s not under the whim of some producer. Also, the very purpose of Jungle Fever was to explore interracial relationships, particularly black male, white woman. His films are not indicative of mainstream American cinema to say the least, not saying you said otherwise, but just wanted to clarify.

  18. Chitrangada,

    Sahej: I do not find you clumsy; on the contrary, the stealth and power of your approach are natural to a beast of prey. Let me hear you roar. (Groan. See what I mean, people – I was not built to chase anyone.)

    if you ever wanted to chase someone, i have no doubt at all you’d do it with style ;-)

  19. Dert,

    Jungle Fever is a Spike Lee film, or more accurately, “joint”…..Also, the very purpose of Jungle Fever was to explore interracial relationships, particularly black male, white woman.

    Agreed. By the way, I remembered the name of the other Wesley Snipes film I mentioned: It was One Night Stand.

    Sahej,

    ^^ thats my Salman Khan impression right there

    Put your shirt back on. Have you no shame ? ;)

  20. Chitrangada,

    If I have to choose between being ugly, or arrogant (and according to your argumentation, I do, as I must somehow be defective not to be attracting desi men), I’ll choose arrogant, thanks very much.

    Good for you. And congratulations on your failure to understand the reality of male psychology in this matter, at least when it comes to the kind of person any man with a modicum of common sense would want to pursue a long-term relationship with. The criteria for short-term flings is a different matter.

    Arrogance negates a woman’s physical attractiveness, regardless of how beautiful she may be on the outside. There is such a thing as “inner beauty”, to use a well-worn but appropriate cliche. Unless you understand this — the fact that being conceited or excessively narcissistic is a very unatttractive quality indeed — then you will never gain a true appreciation of the “real” dynamics of the situation and you will continue to blame men (from some ethnic backgrounds more than others, it seems) for what you appear to perceive as their own shortcomings, instead of acknowledging that your own inflated opinion of yourself may have a hand in affecting the outcome and other people’s reaction to you (and, as I said before, men do pick up on these things too). I have seen many young South Asian women make this same mistake over and over again, reinforced by the fact that a) desi culture, partially due to the influence of the older generation, is very ego-driven indeed and encourages arrogance on the part of people who think they are justified in behaving that way, b) their own female peer circle make the same mistakes themselves and therefore nobody knows what they’re doing wrong, and c) their arrogance means they refuse to listen to what other people may tell them. It doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t have some self-assurance, of course, but it does mean that sometimes we have a hand in creating our own problems, to some extent.

    The most attractive women (in the true sense of the term) are well aware of how physically beautiful they are, but they rarely refer to it (if at all), and if they do then they only mention obliquely and reluctantly. They are also aware of the degree to which their own personalities can enhance or negate any initial attractiveness based on their physical appearance.

    Anyway, this is just an objective (and non-malicious) opinion from an unrelated person in his early 30s who has had some life-experience in the matter. It’s your life, your decision, and therefore your responsibility. Good luck.

  21. what a funny word – ‘interracial’ : sounds like inter-galactic. of course if you consider someone to be ‘alien’ it would be a bit funny to then think of having a ‘relationship’ with ‘it/them’- goodness!;-)

  22. what i find funny is this:

    assuming that there isn’t an ‘increase’ in black men/asian women combinations – wouldn’t that signify that given the amount of interaction there is, it’a bit strange that such combinations wouldn’t form a percentage of all combinations? it would certainly point to the continuation of prejudice and stereotypes in the younger generation of desis as seen in the older generation – against black people.

  23. what i find funny is this: assuming that there isn’t an ‘increase’ in black men/asian women combinations – wouldn’t that signify that given the amount of interaction there is, it’a bit strange that such combinations wouldn’t form a percentage of all combinations? it would certainly point to the continuation of prejudice and stereotypes in the younger generation of desis as seen in the older generation – against black people.

    Oh there abslolutely continues to be an immense amount of anti-black prejudice among second generation desis; they even use the word “kallu” to describe back people among themselves. why just look and see how this thread morphed into desi-white love, which just goes to show which ethnic group desis consider worthy of dating.

  24. this thread itself shows the prejudice against black people -and generally perceiving people as categories rather than individuals. oh why would you date a black man unless you’re trying to make a statement type thing. erm..yeah..perhaps..given the prejudice the conformists ain’t going to be the ones are they? in any case, it reflects a certain preconception towards a) that dating outside your own group means you’re looking for something ‘else’ – ie. that dating within one’s own group is the preferred norm and that b) that one sees people primarily not as an individual rather as a representative of group x or y – and taking on the qualities the group is meant to have.

    i wonder what anyone would think of this thread, if they weren’t a desi.

  25. I need to admit up front that I have not read every one of the 500-odd comments written above, so I hope that I’m not repeating something that has already been said (although that’s quite likely given the amount of activity). But I’d like to make a couple of observations…

    I find that when I am in social situations, I find that I’m either the only desi person in the room or I’m in a room full of desi people, there’s very little in between. The social interactions that go on in these two situations is quite different. Being a person who finds desi women attractive, the former situation is difficult because there just aren’t any around. Being in the latter situation is difficult because there are two different problems because I’m in a roomful of old friends or in a clubby type situation. Being around old friends doesn’t lead to much because, let’s face it, it would be kind of odd dating someone you’ve known for 25 years (or maybe that’s just my personal hangup). In the latter, I feel very uncomfortable because there is such a pressure to conform to a certain image (the trendy clothes, the gelled hair with the patented desi-boy “flip” in the front, and the omni-present “OM” tattoo). If you are not of this image, you don’t get a lot of attention. I doubt my situation is unique, but that’s just been my experience.

    Oh yeah, another beef of mine is that desi women aren’t impressed by jazz musicians. Sigh.

  26. Jai,

    Thanks for the psychoanalysis. Given that you know almost nothing about me, your willingness to lecture me repeatedly as though you do says a lot about YOUR arrogance. Perhaps you need to undertake some self-examination as well. You obviously missed the irony in my last post; I was pointing out to you that you had me between a rock and a hard place – either I had to be unattractive, or I had to be arrogant (or have some other personality flaw) to not be attracting desis.

    Earlier in the thread, I was not ‘blaming’ desi men for not pursuing me, I was puzzled. I then became deeply offended after several desi men on this thread said they found white women to be more attractive than desi women.

    Your hectoring about arrogance and ‘inner beauty’ is not only tritely expressed but deeply ironic in light of the myriad superfical and self-serving statements by various posters on this thread. I notice, however, that you did not take anyone up on the superficiality of their going on about ‘light eyes’ or fair complexions, when they gave you the perfect opportunity…

    Lastly, I’ve also had a fair share of life experience, including a couple of long-term relationships (one lasting seven years). I don’t need advice from you on male psychology. I agree that inner beauty is paramount for both sexes, which is why I called Sahej the only clearsighted desi male on this thread, after his comment about colour not mattering to most people.

  27. have seen many young South Asian women make this same mistake over and over again, reinforced by the fact that a) desi culture, partially due to the influence of the older generation, is very ego-driven indeed and encourages arrogance on the part of people who think they are justified in behaving that way, b) their own female peer circle make the same mistakes themselves and therefore nobody knows what they’re doing wrong, and c) their arrogance means they refuse to listen to what other people may tell them.

    Woah. I’ve too often seen people quickly put down justified confidence as arrogance. I agree desis are plagued with arrogance but coming from a culture which until gen X did not believe in making women feel pride in themselves and rather prescribed serving the man and playing second fiddle; a little bit of self confidence is necessary and about time.

    And what do you want the women who are confidant about themselves and not exactly Cindy Crawford to do? Admit to themselves that they are somehow ugly and just live with it? I’m not understanding your line of thought. As a woman I’ve too often been put down and quickly dismissed by desi culture because it’s not used to seeing confident and successful women. You are judging Chitrangada based on opinions on one topic on the web. It’s really unfair to suddenly decide she must be really unattractive and imply that she gain some humility because she has an overinflated ego.

    As a woman I read her as someone that has an opinion about something she feels strong about and for petes sake she is entitled to it. Her experiences have made her who she is. Guys are brutal and single women have to deal with dicks on a daily basis. I’d be damned if I’d let someone tell me I should take it in stride, not have pride and gain some perspective. Sometimes men really are just jerks, you gotta accept that and move on and continue to hope you will meet one that isn’t. As a woman that is something I have to repeat to myself everyday and like your preaching I get the same from the occassional others as well. And like you I’m older as well and understand the balance of humlity and pride so I’m not shooting from the hip. I’m trying to understand you.

    The most attractive women (in the true sense of the term) are well aware of how physically beautiful they are, but they rarely refer to it (if at all), and if they do then they only mention obliquely and reluctantly.

    Not really true always. I can’t speak to the concept in India but in the west the upper crust of attractive women know they are attractive and know how to use it to their benefit. When you are attractive a lot of things, opportunities, people, life comes easily and in plenty and you learn it early on why it is so. There are entire studies about attractive people out there to corroborate this. Attractive people make more money than average people for starters. Most women by the time they hit 30 know how to milk the attractivness.

    BTW I so believe this thread really needs to die :-)

  28. Jai,

    Welcome to the 12-yr old clubhouse. I’m the president and CEO. You can be VP.

  29. Janeofalltrades,

    There is a difference between self-confidence and arrogance. It’s a fine line, admittedly, but there is a material difference between the two attitudes. To give some obvious examples, there are several women who are regulars on SM — including one “core” Mutineer — who are physically very good-looking indeed and who I chat to frequently here (you know the people I’m talking about), but who are clearly not arrogant about their looks. This also follows through into how they treat people.

    There’s also a difference between someone who is aware of how good-looking they are, and actually being conceited about it.

    It’s really unfair to suddenly decide she must be really unattractive and imply that she gain some humility because she has an overinflated ego.

    I never said she “must be {physically} unattractive”. In fact I said the opposite. This is clear in my previous message (and also in the one much higher up this thread regarding the same subject). You and I both know that “attractiveness” in the true sense of the term goes far beyond just superficial physical appearance. Someone can be the most physically beautiful woman in the world but if she is ugly on the inside, this will rapidly come to the surface if the other party interacts enough with her to be able to pick it up. Such a personality can make the most stunning woman around look very ugly and unattactive indeed.

    Humility is a good quality to cultivate regardless of whether or not one is good-looking — in fact, even more so if one is actually very beautiful on the surface. It doesn’t matter how stunning the person is on the outside — if they are arrogant and conceited about it, it is going to make them off-putting to the guy from an emotional perspective, unless it’s a short-term affair or some kind of “relationship of convenience”.

    My point is that something about one’s own behaviour can frequently repel members of the opposite sex, regardless of how glamorous and “polished” we may appear to be on a superficial level. Unfortunately, it does sometimes take a degree of humility and internal honesty to be aware that we may partially be precipitating the negative behaviour in others.

    I can’t speak to the concept in India but in the west the upper crust of attractive women know they are attractive and know how to use it to their benefit

    We may be experiencing some crossed-wires in terms of terminology. When I was talking about the concept of attractiveness, I wasn’t just referring to physical appearance. I’m stating the obvious (and yes I know you’re aware of this already), but personality is a massive factor here. I don’t just mean the ability to appear to be vivacious and knowing how to make flirtatious sweet-talk — I mean the person’s qualities as a human being and how they treat other people. Again, you can extrapolate that definition to some of the women who frequently participate here on SM too, but there are numerous real-life examples whom I have met in my life and I’m sure you have too.

    I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t originally going to comment on Chitrangada, as some things were becoming very clear during the course of her participation on what is now a 500+ post thread. I’d been observing some of the comments she’d been making in reference to herself — and, as a point of comparison, I’ve met quite a few extremely beautiful women who are very self-assured indeed about themselves but would never dream of making detailed public declarations of how gorgeous they think they are (ref: post #482) — along with her treatment of some of the other commenters here, especially her continual misinterpretations of other people’s statements and intentions. My own most recent post was an honest suggestion of where I think she may be going wrong — because I’ve seen these signs far too many times in real-life people I’ve met and have known (sometimes extremely well), with an almost-inevitable crashing-and-burning in their lives by the time they hit 30. They sabotage their relationships, both actual and potential, not because of the way they look or how “sexy” they may be, but because of some aspect of their personalities and their behaviour towards other people. Whether Chitrangada wants to take this as some well-intentioned constructive criticism is up to her — especially as, unlike some people here, I have no interest in hurling verbal abuse at complete strangers across the internet — but I would have bet money on the guarantee that she would react negatively to it, she would attempt to turn it back at me by insulting me, and she would misinterpret both the message and the intention. Yet again. Which is why I am not going to respond to her own, very predictable, offended reaction directed at me.

    You’re hopefully familiar enough with my own personality from my participation on SM since last year to know that I do not make such statements lightly or easily. One can interpret all this as “preaching”, or one can interpret this as what is known in my line of work as “360-degree feedback” and based on extensive personal experience, especially people I have been close to who have wrecked their lives because their arrogance doesn’t allow them to have the mental clarity to understand the reasons behind what is happening and because their own girlfriends are blindly heading off the edge of the cliff while simultaneously taking everyone else down with them.

    It’s not all about what the woman wants. There’s a trend in some quarters — and it exists back in India too — where some desi women are incapable (or at least unwilling) to honestly think about the guy’s perspective towards her (beyond negative assumptions, generalisations, and exaggerated, self-centred views on one’s own attractiveness and ability to “land” a “suitable” man as per their ambitions/preferences), and assume that if the guy reacts negatively to her, then it must automatically be some flaw in his character or perspective rather than something misguided in her own behaviour or aspirations. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, but we all need to have the integrity and modesty to be aware of our own behaviour, how it is perceived by others, and try to objectively assess who is really ethically and logically “in the right”, rather than everything being blurred through the prism of our own arrogance. And yes I am fully aware that all this applies to men as well as women.

    Whatever I have said is from the perspective of providing some “inside information” on male thinking; not the negative kind, or the misogynistic, partriarchal type, and regulars here on SM (of which you are one) will know me well enough by now to be aware that neither of these apply to me.

    Shrug Who knows. It could be some problem with the men Chitrangada meets, or it could be something wrong in her own behaviour towards them, it could be a combination of the two, or something completely different altogether. What I do know is that being conceited about one’s looks — not just being aware of them and “knowing how to use them” — makes a women very unattractive indeed, regardless of how beautiful she may be on the surface.

    The bottom line is this: It’s not just about how physically gorgeous one is on the outside — it’s about how one psychologically & emotionally handles being good-looking, how much it feeds one’s ego, and how it causes one to treat others. And this applies equally to everyone, regardless of one’s ethnic background and that of the other party.

    Which, of course, takes us back to the whole debate about so-called “interracial” relationships. Over to you ;)

  30. Awww Jai it’s ok I was just trying to understand your thought process. I agree with everything you have said 100% so far. I was just commenting on tangents about mistaking arrogance for confidence which happens just as often as people thinking they are being confident but are rather arrogant I suppose. We are on the same page and always have been. Thank you for taking the time to articulate and clarify. I appreciate it.

    I related to her on the level that I don’t have desi men approach me either, and no it doesn’t stop me from approaching them if indeed I am interested but it doesn’t happen often and there are tons of them in NYC. And yes men of all other races do approach me and I find the fact that desi boys will look and admire from afar, make lots of eye contact but never say anything extremely perplexingas well.

    Men are men, I can’t imagine that a desi man or a non desi man for that matter are so totally different in the environment here based on their approach to women. And I may not be Aishwarya but I know I’m not unattractive nor a bitch. The men that I have approach for their lack of approaching me I’ve ended up dating and/or becoming friends with. And when I’ve asked them why they didn’t come talk to me first their simple answer was ‘once bitten twice shy’.

    I understand I have been burned by the ‘I’m too good to talk to you’ men as well. We all carry so much damn baggage. It’s tough navigating with it sometimes :-)

  31. Ho-hum and double ho-hum. One for the both of you.

    Jai, your response and the rudeness in the fact that you do not respond to me directly, are evidence that no matter what, you’d prefer to cast stones at me rather than listen – which, based on a few web comments, is fairly astounding. You do not even respond to my defense. That speaks volumes about YOUR character. My ‘detailed description’ of my looks was a defensive measure against the assumption that I must be ugly not to be attracting desi men, not something I would have done gratuitously (read the posts concerning this issue). However – you’ve decided that my personality is deeply flawed (without knowing me at all), so any argument I make, any statement I make, any position I take is dismissable. Very convenient.

    Verbal abuse hurled at strangers is more decent, in my opinion, than the kind of hasty, black-and-white, inflexible judgments you make.

  32. JOAT,

    Thanks for your comments – while my character is being vilified by Jai and Dert, you have a measured response.

    I do not think I’m wrong in saying that if a bunch of desi women came onto this thread and starting openly stating their preference for white men, the scorn and anger from desi male posters would have overwhelmed SM. Futhermore, if a desi male stated that he was good-looking and did not have desi females approach him, that he couldn’t understand why, but was angry that so many desi women preferred white men – I bet you that desi women would NOT proceed to heap scorn on and vilify his character.

    All of this is perhaps a testament to the fact that, to some extent, desi culture still raises spoiled, self-willed boys and self-denying women…

  33. Janeofalltrades,

    No problem about my earlier post, I’m glad you understood what I was trying to say and interpreted it in the benevolent spirit in which it was meant.

    Regarding desi men not approaching you, well based on experiences from my college days up to the present day, there is a tendency amongst many (South) Asian guys here in the West to blatantly ogle women they fancy but they will not just go up to them and talk to them. It’s a complaint I’ve heard quite a few times, including from Indian girls who are very obviously quite stunningly beautiful. The opposite “babe hound” type does exist too, of course — ie. the sort of desi guy who will lock onto an attractive woman like a heat-seeking missile and will keep hitting on her until she “submits” to his dubious charms ;)

    Those of us who fall into neither category but do have a “backbone” do like “forward” women, by the way, but obviously it does take a very, very high level of self-confidence and a certain extrovert personality for the lady concerned to be able to pull it off. Different strokes for different folks. It’s quite nice to be on the receiving end of that, assuming that the attraction is reciprocal, of course.

  34. Chitrangada,

    You’re just continuing to prove my point and, even worse, are still misinterpreting large swathes of my previous comments due to your cognitive dissonance on the matter.

    Nobody is “villifying” your character or “heaping scorn” on you. To be blunt, nobody cares that much and I don’t think you are important enough to anyone here for them to be excessively concerned with wasting their time on the subject. So enough with the belligerent hyperbole and persecution-complex rhetoric, please.

    And yes, I have a vicious, completely unscrupulous character, with no integrity or empathy towards others, I’m a hypocrite and the worst example of stereotypical Indian misogyny and patriarchy, etc etc etc. As everyone here on Sepia Mutiny would confirm ;)

  35. All of this is perhaps a testament to the fact that, to some extent, desi culture still raises spoiled, self-willed boys and self-denying women…

    As an Indian – the original desi – it is amusing to note that rarely, if ever, have I seen “desi culture” being used in a positive sense. I also get the feeling that even though “desi culture” is a fully American product – it does have relations to both South Asian and “American” cultures obviously – almost all of the “negative” aspects of it are attributed to the South Asian inheritance. (The quote above does not blame the South Asian inheritance explicitly, but I get that feeling – apologies if i’m wrong, Chitrangada.)

    Sorry for this off-topic post: I guess something in the above quote provoked me to respond.

  36. Jai,

    If I may politely make another observation — and I do not mean any offence to any desis based in the US — I don’t think the trend towards identifying oneself as “brown” if one is from a South Asian background is the best way to go about things.

    This is something you said earlier that I wanted to address, but, oh gosh, got caught up in the whirlwind of this thread, which we should call a rope by now. I echo your sentiment, because the nomenclature doesn’t sit well with me either. The terms “black” and “white” to define human beings, originated out of a cultural dilution/erosion, and the only difference is, for the African people’s it was forced, (Slave traders didn’t give a shit if they stuck someone who spoke Kiswahili with someone who spoke Mende, and for the people of European descent, they did it willfully (Like, for example, How the Irish became White) to gain favor with those in power.

    We have no such history. We came willfully, and are not rewarded the same way European immigrants were by “phasing out” our culture. In fact, in some sense we’re rewarded by reveling in it, ie. Deepak Chopra.

    But I understand the spirit of the word, as it acknowledges that the white majority perception doesn’t differentiate between Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.. rather just sees us as “brown” as we’re not as dark as “black” but darker than “white” Although, maybe chestnut would’ve been a smoother word? Think about it! Chestnut Mutiny.

  37. Dert,

    I just think identifying oneself by one’s skin colour (something South Asians here in the UK don’t do, by the way) is a very, very bad idea. In my view, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a “step backwards”, and I also have reservations about the notion of desis using something as superficial as their skin colour as their primary form of self-identification, even if the term is just casual slang.

    It’s also inaccurate, considering desis as a group span the entire spectrum from white-as-white-people to dark-as-many-Africans.

    In any case, I’m not sure if usage of the term “brown” is common amongst South Asians in the US or if it’s just something specific to Sepia Mutiny. Perhaps you could clarify this ?

  38. hairy_d,

    Leave me out of it man, I’m not part of the whole “will they won’t they” Dert-Chitrangada extravaganza. It’s like romantic slush fiction — the protagonists hate each other at the beginning, but you know that by the end of the story it’ll be all about strong manly arms, unravelling corsets, and waves crashing over and over and over and over and over again.

  39. Please be advised this thread will be put out of its misery shortly. You may make your closing arguments now.

  40. In any case, I’m not sure if usage of the term “brown” is common amongst South Asians in the US or if it’s just something specific to Sepia Mutiny. Perhaps you could clarify this ?

    Honestly, I haven’t heard it verbalized as much as I’ve seen it written down. And I think it’s written down here more so than other places. It reminds me of a tongue in cheek discussion I had with a friend way back in 1996, we went to a “desi party” and one of the more “urbanized” desi’s, as I like to call them, starting saying things like “wassup n*gga, where you at.” – to another desi.

    So afterwards, my friend lamented the fact that we didn’t have our own word a la “n*gga” and the best he came up with was “brownie”, so he called me “brownie” for a week before it wore off. In his case, it was a sorry attempt to sound more “street” when clearly our history doesn’t dictate or warrant it, in the least.

    and hairy_d, what gives man? I already realized I wasn’t “stellar-ass” worthy!

  41. I’ll have you know this: I’m beautiful. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been puzzled at the lack of desi attention. I’ve got it all: 5″6, 125 pounds, fit, large eyes, regular features, long, thick hair, full lips, long legs, stellar ass if I do say so myself.

    This quote is so sad. Do secure people really (over)react this way? As far as I can tell, this rah-rah rant came as a response to some poster (Jai?) mildly and accurately pointing out that more attractive women get more attention. Chitrangada’s response, to me, sounds like someone protesting too much. No woman who’s genuinely confident about her appearance – hey, no mentally sound woman that I know of — would objectify/demean herself like this and for what? Besides, I think most people take www declarations of beauty, brains, wealth etc with a veritable granary of salt.

    Regarding the above quote, taken together with this:

    I once had with an ex, when after much interrogation he confessed I didn’t have the body type he had always chased after. This was a puzzle to me, because the guy was always all over me, totally devoted, told me I was the sexiest woman he’d ever been with, we had amazing sex etc

    apart from massive insecurity, the phrase that comes to mind is “inappropriate self-disclosure.” While I can’t say with certainty that you personally need to learn how to set boundaries, I would certainly think that people who make these sort of statements might want to consider it.

    What kind of person is so in need of the approval of people she doesn’t even know that she would actually announce to these strangers that she has a “stellar ass”? Hey, I think you forgot to mention your cup size. Also, I think this discussion is too one-sided — men, please post descriptions of your noteworthy sexual attributes because God knows, we all want to know. It really adds class to the forum.

    In her response to Jai:

    Your hectoring about arrogance and ‘inner beauty’ is not only tritely expressed but deeply ironic in light of the myriad superfical and self-serving statements by various posters on this thread.

    Lady, I have read the man’s posts and IMHO, there is nothing hectoring or trite about what he said. Not only does the good man spare us an description of his anatomized anatomy (nothing personal, Jai ok, you know what I mean:-)), he has been mild and even courteous, more courteous than you deserve. He even pays you the courtesy of responding with reasoned analysis to your unwarranted hostility. On the other hand, while you occasionally make a salient point, your “argumentation” often consists of taking general statements/observations as personal attacks and reacting with thinly-veiled insults.

    Moreover, when you referred to “superfical and self-serving statements,” I wonder, did you have this prize example in mind?:

    I’ll have you know this: I’m beautiful. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been puzzled at the lack of desi attention. I’ve got it all: 5″6, 125 pounds, fit, large eyes, regular features, long, thick hair, full lips, long legs, stellar ass if I do say so myself

    Hey, begging everyone’s pardon, I just had to see that inanity again! I laugh every time I read it.

    I was also struck by this:

    I agree that inner beauty is paramount for both sexes

    Yes, which is why you posted that gem. Now, maybe I missed something in the mass of messages up there, but I don’t recall any statements from you that would support your belated claim of believing in “inner beauty”. I guess that while readers can go without reading about your intellect, your interests and hobbies, your spirituality etc, nevertheless we MUST know that you have “large eyes” and “full lips.” Yes, it’s all about inner beauty, folks.

    Finally, I’m not sure how to read “regular” features. Should I think “modesty” or “ouch”? Never mind; if it’s the latter, it is possible that you got them beat in the ass department.

  42. Quick post by me, since Abhi is already loading his rifle in order to blow this thread into oblivion

    Aditi,

    Thank you very much for your kind words in my support. I also agree with everything you said in post #548, as indicated by own previous (apparently unsuccessful) attempts to say the same things but in a diplomatic and sensitive manner. Not that it made any difference in the end, of course. I would say that, to some extent, this is a textbook case of the “desi princess” with a chip on her shoulder who is partially (possibly significantly) responsible for the problems she encounters in this regard. I guess we can do our best to offer some objective analysis and constructive advice, and hope that the egotism and sense of grievance is controlled sufficiently to allow the person concerned to at least take some of it on board.

    Dert,

    Buddy, back in ’96 I think most of us college-age desis here in the UK were “black gangstas” as far as we were concerned ;)

  43. This one cracks me up every time I effing read it:

    As for the Dert-Chitrangada love affair, just shut up. Please. You don’t need to explain yourself.
  44. Please be advised this thread will be put out of its misery shortly. You may make your closing arguments now.

    Thank God.

  45. Quick post by me, since Abhi is already loading his rifle in order to blow this thread into oblivion

    Too late. Abhi already used the rifle on himself about 200 comments ago. It is not he who is threatening violence here.

  46. I also get the feeling that even though “desi culture” is a fully American product – it does have relations to both South Asian and “American” cultures obviously – almost all of the “negative” aspects of it are attributed to the South Asian inheritance.

    Oh yeah I hear ya. For all the ‘desi culture’ bitching I do to my coworkers, one German, the other Italian, we have all agreed that it’s the first generation culture that causes friction…because they experience pretty much the same thing with their parents.

    Chitrangada,

    I think you are assuming that you are alone in your offense to desi men who claim they dislike desi women and find only white women attractive. You aren’t. There are plenty of men so far that have taken equal offense to this. I’m unsure whether you are new on SM but rest assured I take nothing for granted here because there are so many strong readers here from all spectrums that any one particular line of thought is almost impossible to maintain. The one thing that doesn’t exist here is monopoly of a mindset. It takes all kinds. If you made a post about only loving white men and dissing brown brothers an equal number of brown chicks will come after you as well. Of course to each their own and I respect your entitlement to your thought process but you have by and large misunderstood Jai.