Representation? Really?

Pic taken at Sugarhouse Coffee, SLC.

Before we start this blog, I want to make one thing extremely clear.

I am neither a big fan, nor a huge indulger of entertainment media. I find it quite unnecessary, time-hoarding and the mother of a whole league of unwarranted thoughts, ideas and followings. Additionally, I also feel it gives rise to a type of interwoven coexistence of God-complex and inferiority complex between the entertainers and consumers. Ironically, it is also a widely celebrated practice by those suffering from both.

Now my views might be completely biased, yet I do realize that regardless of me disliking this whole culture, it does have a huge impact on the minds of basically every single individual in the society in one way or the other, regardless of their preference for it. Including yours truly. No matter how much I or any other person screams that certain debates  or discussions are not worth our time, it still would change nothing to less of causing a shift in the way we prioritize things. Yet again, prioritization also remains subjective to each person or a collective group of people. To think (imagine!) that one or a few of us might be speaking or representing a whole mass of differently abled people is, hmmm….delusional maybe…? But here, I am not about bashing the entertainment industry because frankly, I am not looking forward to getting bashed by the lovers and followers of it. I am writing this piece featuring my own two cents (before someone else calls it that) because in the course of me pitching my works for publishing, I have noticed a strange phenomenon. On closer inspection, I realized that publishing industry is one of the many industries that embrace it whole-heartedly. Hardly ever realizing, or even trying to realize, what is actually wrong with it.

Again, this is not a rant of a frustrated writer. If anything, right now I wish I didn’t have to write and could just go on to sleep for a couple of hours. So actually writing or typing it is a humongous task at the moment. And trust me, I will doze off to sleep as soon as I have written, edited, posted, promoted this post, and fed my two girls.

But what is this phenomena I have been writing about but not revealing like a poorly written thriller novel?

Well…its the Case of Missed Representation.

What is that?

It is when the majority thinks that they are doing their portion in amplifying and representing minorities, but in reality, all they do is grant them a spot for visibility.

VISIBILITY IS NOT REPRESENTATION.

In bold for the people at back. Didn’t mean to scare you folks out there!

You see, what I personally feel when someone says that such and such want to represent such and such voices (often BIPOC) in the USA, all I hear in a coded form is this:

‘Yes! We would like you, a BIPOC to feature in our so and so program.’

‘Oh…but we want you to provide us with something familiar.’

‘You know…something WE can relate to.’

‘What is that? Your own experience?’

‘Ummm…it’s really good…but you know…WE can’t relate to it..so it’s going to be a no…’

‘Oh…don’t get disheartened…I am sure you will catch up to it.’

‘Maybe if it were something for the masses…something more relatable…’

‘It’s all subjective.’

THIS IS NOT REPRESENTATION.

This is simply saying that you be provided with an already familiar experience without making the effort to understand that the experience of other communities can be and is, far removed from yours. Even if you live in the same country, attend the same schools or maybe live in the same building. Sometimes even in the same house.

IT.IS.NOT.THE.SAME.

It is like going for the first time to eat a quesadilla, but asking the chef to make it like a pizza because that is what is familiar to you. So now, you can tell your friends about how much you enjoyed your quesadilla, without having to really experience it.

Sounds silly? Entitled maybe?

So is asking other people to camouflage the experiences and stories of the majority and brand them as their own.

For example:

No, Muslim girls do not want to take off their hijab for the first boy that approaches them. Neither do they have extremely dramatic monologues about how much they have been oppressed by their families and how eager they are to rebel by completely changing who they are.

Buddy, high school and college is an extremely tough time for kids. Ask one in a brown household. We have a lot of pressure to perform a good report card, pick a career line, and also to be at the top of our game in family and social functions. The only oppression we feel is from the educational institutions demanding a high percentage to get into any decent college for further studies. If at all, we are wary of any man coming towards us. On our guard. Suspicions and comebacks ready at the tip of our tongue. Also, not every Muslim guy wears surma and topi at all times. Trust me, parents would love to see them in that, but they don’t.

If the depiction of minorities has less to do with how they want to be represented and more with how you see them as, I am sorry for your loss, but you are missing the whole point of representation. Its like people constantly painting prophets as Caucasian males when clearly the texts mention their middle-eastern heritage. It is again how you want them to be. Not what they truly are. Doesn’t make your interpretation a reality.

In short, interpretation remains just that. An interpretation. A speculation. How the said person wants to tell their story is up to them, not us. And if you feel that you have a right to demand them to change their reality to suit yours, it is privilege at its worst.

As a POC, I have first hand experienced it. As a Muslim, a Woman, a Homemaker, a Hijabi, a Mom, a Mother of two girls, I have experienced it. Even from other POC’s. From BIPOCs. From other moms. From other Muslims. From other moms of boys. From jobholder women. From other members of my family. From friends. From the other gender. From people of other races. And now, owing to my increased interaction, sometimes from other countries as well. And tell you what, none of what they perceive is my reality.

The same way I would be incapable to perceive theirs.

Do I have an issue with educating people?

Absolutely not! In fact, I encourage it. What I do have an issue is for people refusing to first make an effort to educate themselves and blindly asking questions or passing comments such as: ‘Oh don’t bother telling me your name…I would butcher it anyway…Ha…ha…ha…’

Not funny. Not one bit.

Make an effort, what’s so hard about it?

And if you are unwilling to do so in the first place, accept that nobody owes you an education without you willing to put some work. Not even your own parents and teachers. The student must seek and strive, not demand.

That, my dear student, is a lesson in privilege.

 

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