The rise of positive brown girls on social media is a phenomenon that I am not just in awe of, but as desi guy something that I envy. The global desi community in the past and present is a patriarchal society. As we slowly shift away from this misogynist way of life, the role of what it means to be a desi man is changing. However, role models for young desis are few and far between. I understand that there are big names like Hasan Minhaj or Riz Ahmed who are influencing the desi community in a positive sense, but it’s a top down approach. This is not the same as the brown girl’s movement of reclaiming our culture from previous generations, which is what the boys are completely lacking. To understand what the desi boys’ community needs to be, we first need to understand what the brown girl online movement is, why I think it’s commendable, my thoughts on the current role models, what I want the desi boys’ movement to be and how I’m trying to play a part in the process.
The brown girl movement online is simply a part of the fourth wave of feminism, with sections of third wave feminism (in a South Asian sense). Where brown women are standing for their rights & appropriating our culture for the better. You can go online and see the works of Simmi Patel with her page Paper Samosa or Maria Qamar’s hatecopy page (whose pop art features as my laptop’s background). There are several Facebook groups that my friends have made me aware of the solely exist to provide a support network for brown women in various cities across the world. Essentially this community is not only taking control on how they wished to be perceived but an actual community to help out in the “real” world. Just look at current Indian soaps or most films, to see that women still have a mountain to climb to be perceived as equals. A community to deal with the uncles and aunties of this world, is something that doesn’t exist in any sense for guys, outside a close few friends. This sense of control of the community’s own destiny, that being a brown boy I envy the most.
The two most famous male desi role models in/from the West would have to be Hasan Minhaj & Riz Ahmed. Hasan has his hit show Patriot Act talking about politics to doing AMAs (ask me anything) on Subtle Asian Traits. Riz Ahmed is an actor who was in Wired, Rogue One, Jason Bourne and Venom (though personally Four Lions is my favourite). Riz is also a musician and has spoken in the UK parliament about Islamophobia and the lack of portrayal of non-stereotype Muslims in the media.
The brown girl movement online is simply a part of the fourth wave of feminismWhat I mean by Brown Girls on Instagram
Both guys have been breaking barriers for desi representation and helping to redefine what is it to be a desi guy. However, it’s not a community or a movement. It is an approach that relies on the few that breakout. Not a sense of togetherness or vulnerability that is controlled by us.
Our Cultural. Our Revolution.
Jameela Jamil is right, that the biggest failure is not to try. What should this online desi/brown boy community try and be, in this online world? My number one issue is that we need to be a feminist community. To the unengaged, this may seem counter intuitive for a male focused community. However, if we are to forge a future of equality then we have the same aims as the desi/brown girl gang. A movement that is progressive and wants us (this generation) to be in control. It is important to recognise that these are somethings that we all want for the future and thus we need to work together.
This sense of control of the community’s own destiny, that being a brown boy I envy the most
The second is a space for brown boys to start reclaiming our culture from the “men” in society. I suggest that guys start with the simple rebellion as being engaged when it comes to tidying up at family events. A place where I see aunties harassing girls to help clean up, but never seen an uncle do anything more than lifting a glass of whiskey. Nor do I see many guys my age helping or even making a real attempt to not become a spectator. It’s not right that our sisters are cleaning up and we just sit & chat. Yeah, it’s nice Now, I fight and argue that I should be allowed to help and just do it regardless of the protests. While this makes me the bau diyo child of the family, it really shouldn’t be that special (even if I am the bau diyo child of the family). Other things that can be done is wearing more traditional garments instead of shirts and jeans during festivals such as Eid/Diwali/Xmas. It’s not as though we can’t rock them at other events, I do try and wear Indo-Western to more functions, but I have no concern to go full Trudeau and wear it everywhere.
Thirdly, there is need to find an environment to talk to each other in a more open and loving environment. Not one that’s immune from criticism, but one where we can express ourselves knowing that the community is there to get to a better version of the past. One that’s more inclusive than before. Can a group of individual nobodies make this change if no major star can? Yes. Of we can. To be more than a flash in the pan, we will need a bunch of nobody’s talking to each other having this dialogue.
I have no concern to go full TrudeauWhen it comes to wearing more traditional clothes
No point just talking.
Personally, I host a podcast with about being Brown in the West and through the show, I want people to know what it is meant to be a normal brown boy. No Instagram filters, or just highlight reels. The flawed human beings that we both were and continue to be, even as we strive to be better. We are bringing on guests to share more ideas and provide perspectives that we couldn’t imagine, because sometimes it’s better to have someone to empathise with instead of us just sympathise. This openness is what will drive the community forward. Where would this community be? I would love if people started using the blog to start having these conversations (there is a comment section after all). My blog is great for me, but honestly it doesn’t have the same reach as single hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. It probably needs to blow up on a social media site. Do I need to up my social media game then? Yes, but I’m still figuring how to do it, without sounding like a dick.
What I think will happen?
Personally, I don’t hold out that there will be an equivalent brown boys’ movement, at least in my age group. We haven’t been raised to challenge the world in the same way as our sisters. Instead we still have the same tropes and expectations that our fathers had been raised with, which will take more than a blog to overcome. Should we not bother then? Fuck no. Small movements will be needed to challenge what it is to be a brown boy in the future and if we want the future to better than we must raise the next generation differently. To be desi with pride no matter where they are from. Not one where there is no brown girl/boy movement in the future, the next generation will always try to better (whatever they think that is) than the previous. I just want a future where every brown kid is there own movement to change the world.