To be on the outside is to be a force of resistance. I like that. I like that a lot. Why? Because it reframes my race, my ethnicity, my politics, as choices that empower me.
One of the reasons I created this blog was because I realised the lengths to which I was going in order to compensate for not being white. Keeping my body to a conventionally attractive size. Wearing clothes that subscribe to a stereotypical image of femininity. Shaving most of my body hair. I have been trying to present myself as close to the middle-class, white ideal as possible while simultaneously making a conscious decision to be public and occasionally confrontational about the fact that I am a feminist and will not stand for sexist comments and jokes when I hear them.
This becomes even more complicated when you consider not just how I present myself visually, but how I present myself verbally. Witness, in a selection of lines that, I am ashamed to say, I have come out with relatively recently:
“I’m not half-Indian, I’m completely English!”
“I have to shave this much, I’m a hairy Indian girl!”
“My mum was born in India, but she’s legally, linguistically and culturally English, and if you spoke to her on the phone you wouldn’t think otherwise.”
“I have large, dark brown eyes and a natural tan.”
To put myself visibly on the inside is a way of compensating, apologising for my skin colour and politics, which are different. However, for those parts of me that I just can’t hide (or have made a decision not to hide but am still struggling with the reality of that decision), I employ the tactic of presenting them to people in as socially acceptable a way as possible. I am English, just like you! My mother is middle class, just like you! I’m dark-skinned, but in an exotic, unthreatening way (because I remove any icky indicators of my racial background, like body hair)! Also, feminism is just about equality! I’m not angry, I don’t hate men! Those radical feminists are nothing to do with me! Look, see me conform to conventional social norms!
To be on the outside is to be a force of resistance. I need to learn to show a little more respect for this force, in myself and in others who are braver than I am.