We need to move past stereotypes of South Asian women being over-protected, oppressed and blindly traditional.
For most starry-eyed participants, Take Me Out is about having a laugh, meeting a ton of new friends, getting glammed up and potentially bagging a free holiday to the Isle of Fernando’s with a sexy new bae.
For me, however, taking part in the show is also a chance to challenge stereotypes about South Asian women.
Think this is a grandiose and pretentious statement? Well, you’ve probably never worried about being ostracised for making eye contact with a boy on the Tube.
I, too, have never had this concern. Yet when I told my non-Asian pals that I was going to be part of Paddy’s flirty 30, the first things they asked were: ‘Won’t your parents disown you for dating? How will your community react?’.
To be completely honest, their comments didn’t surprise me. As George Gerbner’s cultivation theory suggests, the media shapes our perceptions, beliefs, values and attitudes.
Sadly, representations of South Asian women have often been woefully lacking for decades. And some of the most recent examples are from years ago – be it Manjula’s arranged marriage to Apu in The Simpsons or Bend it Like Beckham’s Jess, who dated and played football in secret.
Growing up, my home was nothing like these portrayals – we celebrated Western and Indian culture in unison. I wore both Saris and jeans, ate roti as well as pizza and was free to date whomever I chose.
There was no talk of arranged marriages nor fears about ‘the community’. My experience wasn’t unique, as most Asian gals I know enjoyed similar upbringings.
Over the past decade, Take Me Out has continually welcomed women from almost every corner of the UK (Barnsley, anyone?), reflecting the variety of personalities, styles, ambitions, and accents real women have.
Taking part in the show, I hope to demonstrate to millions of Saturday night viewers that South Asian women aren’t oppressed and can be just as sassy as every other British lass and just as happy to voice our dislikes and likes.
Take Me Out keenly encourages us to show off every facet of our personalities, which includes bringing our own wardrobe.
I’ll wear my brightest and boldest looks – from PVC trousers paired with a brightly patterned shirt, to a pink power suit – to reflect the independent, free-thinking woman that is typical of my culture, but also ensure that I stick out to all of the hotties coming down that lift.
Of course, breaking stereotypes is hardly about looks, but more about attitude.
Take Me Out is filmed in front of a live audience and nothing we say is pre-planned, so we have to think on our feet.
It’s here I can show off my sassy personality, serving piping hot one liners and saucy comments to woo the boys from the elevator – a world away from The Simpsons’ Manjula, whose arranged marriage was fixed without her input when she was just a child.
A key problem with characters like Manjula is that they are written by white men, whose idea of Indian women are antiquated and therefore these ideologies are further perpetuated to the masses via their platforms.
To better represent South Asian women, we need our voices heard in the mainstream; so it’s pleasing to see baby steps in terms of representation with Indian women in media rising to the challenge.
Mindy Kaling started as a writer on The Office and has since gone on to produce and act in several popular US TV shows and movies, such as The Mindy Project.
Her characters demonstrate the richness of opinions and styles that South Asian women have, just like Take Me Out allows for.
So, even if I don’t bag a date to the Isle of Fernando’s, at least I can leave my podium knowing I’ve shown that South Asian women aren’t anything like our stereotype.
Instead, we’re driven, sassy, independent free thinkers… and yes, you can take us out.
You can follow Meera on Instagram and Twitter. She is the author of The Little Book of Sass.
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