It’s believed that the best way to learn more about a community is to enter a relationship with someone from that group. From doing a bit of couple-watching in London over the past year or so, it’s starting to look like the two groups keenest on getting started with this particular form of romantic anthropology are Indian women and white men. Even in a city with limitless mixed race pairings, this end of the Indo-English axis seems to be the one that keeps on growing. Now, it could be that there is no social trend at play here, that it is purely coincidence. But these couples seem to be appearing too regularly to dismiss them so easily. Could it be a result of unfavourable perceptions of Indian men combined with many middle-class Indian women’s goal of assimilation?
They say that Indian women are more progressive than Indian men, that where the men are scared to adjust, the women find it easier to move with the times. Talk to some Asian women and the generalisations come thick and fast - Indian men are chauvinistic, they don’t respect Indian women, they are all just… the same (this last one might be the most damning). Soho Theatre even staged a play titled The Trouble With Asian Men. Is it true? Does the average Indian man’s attitude to women need urgent modernisation? Is it in need of more of an overhaul than other men?
With long lists of criteria from families and the wider community (even if you live in an area with no other Asians) to meet, dating outside the race must look like a way for many Indian women to make a decision that is theirs and theirs alone, a way to resist the status quo of Asian female typicality. It’s also a way to mark yourself out as more open minded than all those other, staid, close-minded Indians. Thanks to western mainstream media, white men are a fast-track ticket to fitting in, to seeming more like everyone else - they are individuals, forward-thinking, stigma-free, a passport up the social hierarchy (they also do all the cooking and don’t demand perfectly round rotis round the clock if an old Bombay Times article is anything to go by). Indian men meanwhile have to settle for being backward-thinking dictators or socially inept, sexually repressed pervs.
An Indian female friend who moves in virtually all white circles told me she likes to date white guys as she enjoys seeing her own culture through their eyes; that their interest in Indian culture in turn makes her more excited about it. Why exactly she needs their inspiration (or validation) to ignite that interest, I’m not sure, but it’s likely a common feeling. A recent status update on the wall of a Facebook friend, after starting a relationship with a white guy, read that she has finally ‘had enough of brown boys’, followed by a strangely humourless series of comments explaining her reasons why. You wonder whether this extends to the men in her family – are they equally worthy of derision? There is nothing wrong with ‘going Gora’. Scorning Indian men beyond lighthearted digs however seems a bit more worrying.
Photo credit: erasenothing.blogpsot.co.uk