gender

How much do I charge for a night?

I wrote this in the moment after the incident. Some statements are just personal expressions due to the frustration and confusion of the moment, but I choose not to edit them to retain its original feel.
I wear a white crop top, through which the shade of my bra can somewhat be seen, and a bodycon black skirt that hugs my hips. I apply a Wine Maybelline lipstick and do my eyebrows. It’s a good morning.
The day I spend in a mutual friend’s house – there are six African men and the lone girl, me. I sit there, a little distant because I am a mere acquaintance to all but one. It’s a small, cozy apartment we are in. The cleaner comes knocking, and enters to take out the trash. He tells one of the men in the kitchen, that I’m pretty and all that. I laugh when I’m told that. Well, I guess, thank you.
Then I happen to venture out the apartment door, wanting to explore and also escape the awkwardness I’m experiencing with strangers. I am just about to return inside when the cleaner comes outside. He greets me with a smile and asks me how I am in Hindi. I reply politely. He then proceeds to ask something I took a little while to register: “How much do you charge…” I’m blank. “… Per night?”
That question takes me by surprise. I am astounded by the audacity this man has to dare ask a young woman how much she charges these African men per night, and just through this simple question, I see several layers of complexities merging.
“I’m not a fucking prostitute!” I exclaim in English, when I finally register what he is saying. I am ashamed to say this, but I am unable to say anything beyond that, unable to confront him.
He, at that moment, asks me if I understand Hindi. I think I just looked at him in anger and shock. He says, “no? Okay, thank you. Bye bye.” He walks away.
Dumbfounded, I enter the room and tell them what happened. They’re also irked by the man’s actions. I want to cry, but I hold it in well. I am able to blink my tears away before they fall. It is all good until my friend asks me if I want Fanta or Sprite – my tears burst out.  Outside the apartment, he comforts me; the cleaner happens to be right downstairs. Upon confrontation, the cleaner tells me that he never said that, that he never asked that, that he was only asking if I knew Hindi. I want to spit on his face.
He grasps the rosary around his neck when he hears the accusation. And I scoff – you’re not a good person just because you have faith in a god. He tells me I am confused and that I misunderstood. I tell him to stop bullshitting. In the end, he offers me an apology that is not sincere and I walk in back to the room.
I feel ashamed and embarrassed, apart from the anger and hurt.
1) My clothes… Could they have sparked this incident? I remind myself that it is not my fault. Despite what some people might say, despite what the society might say, the length of my clothes do not determine my worth or my promiscuity.
2) I am a fair Asian woman, dressed very cutely, in a room with six dark-skinned African men. Most Indians here tend to have a negative view of Africans, and the traditionalist and conservative culture of India ensures that any such woman with several men must surely be a prostitute or engaging in some sort of sexual relations with them. I mean, of course, she must be! They can’t possibly be platonic friends. She must be fucking them all for money, or at least one of them.
The conclusion I came to today: I looked as cute as I felt, and no ignorant man can take that away from me. He is a fool guided by judgmental and inherently sexist views that only draw clear lines between men and women, unable to see them as just people, unable to see them beyond a romantic/sexual relation.
This incident only proves to me the ridiculousness of some people out there.
My point no. 2 may come off as a bit of a concrete statement, but I am well aware that the culture there may not always be like that. Not every Indian is like that, no, I could never say that, for someone who believes in individuality and for someone with a good number of beautiful Indian friends. But I do stand by the fact that a fair-skin-preference does exist in India and it manifests in untoward ways.
I was very upset and taken aback by this incident; it’s the first I’ve ever had that was of this extent. I experienced another one not so far after, however.

Identity

You are more than your skin colour, your race, your gender, and your physical attributes.

Recently, I was in a heated discussion with a friend of mine about a few things, one of which was the topic of identity.

He defines ‘identity’ in regards to physical attributes – what you first see in a person.

I disagreed. I define ‘identity’ as the collection of the unique features and characteristics of an individual (in this case) has that sets him or her apart from the rest. (According to some websites online, that might be generally what identity is defined as too.)

I have this thing about identities. The first time I actually spoke about identity was with another friend of mine on the topic of race and skin colour. I couldn’t stand with his point of view that he is only his race and skin colour; I almost couldn’t understand.

I told him – “You are more than your skin colour, your race, your gender, and your physical attributes. You are you.”

You are the person who loves football. You are the person who loves to read. You are the person who is so sweet and charming, and you are the person who gets happy at certain specific things. You are someone who likes to make people laugh. You are you. You are beyond what the world sees at first glance.

You are beyond these physical attributes.

That is what I truly believe.

Of course, our identity also constitutes of our race, sex and physical attributes. But does that define us wholly? Are you only a twenty-year-old Caucasian male? Or a forty-year-old African woman? What is it that makes you truly you?

My friend in this discussion asked me who I am. I told him I am someone who loves this and someone who loves that; I gave him my name. He scoffed, “There are other people with names like yours.” But isn’t that my point too? There is another person who has the same first name as mine, or even the whole name. But what makes her, her, and I, I? Isn’t it our values and our beliefs, actions and inactions, and our likes and dislikes? There will be another person who is of your height and weight, someone who looks similar to you even. An Asian teenage boy and another Asian teenage boy who look similar – but are they the same? No.

Do all Asian men act in the same way, as do all African women? Do all dark-skinned individuals have a similar behaviour, or do all females have a similar attitude? No. There will be ten Caucasians who all act differently, so how can they only be defined by their physical attributes?

It all boils down to individual differences that make us who we are.

It is important, our biological roots, but there comes a point where people have to understand that that alone won’t define our behaviour, our actions, our beliefs, and our identity wholly.

I am proud of my race, my gender and my physical features. But that is not my sole identity. I am a person who is passionate, loud, stubborn, hopeful, loving, emotional, and so much more. I am more than my physical attributes.

Just like you are. Just like he is. Just like she is. Just like they are.

Just like we are.