Hashtag Mixed Girl Problems
From the age of seven, I have been well rehearsed in detailing my heritage to those who were curious and confident enough to ask. I have been conditioned to prepare a monologue explaining my obscure mix, including how my parents met and tackling the “jokes” regarding whether my mother really was my mother. This routine deconstruction of my identity was tough for me growing up in a small country in Asia and as a result, I had a complicated relationship with my identity for most of my teenage years. I noticed this frustration amongst my peers who were also mixed, we felt like our existence would often fall to fetishisation or ostracisation.
It takes some of us years to embrace our identities. The blending of cultures, languages, traditions, and families is not only taxing but having the opportunity to explore your mixed heritage is a privilege. Even then when you come from two or more different cultures, you are often faced with the pressure to identify with a “side” and sometimes families even compete to claim you for their own. We tend to understand our identities differently to others- while our physical appearances are anatomized so is our knowledge of our cultures, our languages and our loyalties to our countries. I still struggle with the feeling that I am not enough of any of the identities that make me and it has not only affected my relationship with myself but the people around me.
Although not all my encounters have been the same, I could always catch the whiff of orientalism behind the fascination people seemed to have for my heritage. It's important to acknowledge that with this fascination, the fetishisation and objectification of being mixed race follow closely. Regardless of geography, there is no class of women entirely free of the problems that are rooted in the objectification we face in society, so it becomes even more complex when your race is contentious. It still surprises me how people think they can get away with masking their fetishisation as mere preference. Fetishising someone based on their ethnic identity is extremely problematic, demeaning and dehumanising. It doesn’t help that I see these issues on social media labelled as wife or baby goals. GROSS. There are accounts dedicated to these women and children, and they help perpetuate the stereotypes of the "mixed race beauty" and we all know the concept of beauty is white washed so this environment gets a little complicated). It is blatantly shown on these accounts that there is a euro-centric beauty standard mixed girls must adhere to be deemed valuable, worthy and noticeable. This eliminates a HUGE majority of people who do not meet this standard, especially those who do not have white heritage, not only leaving us without the beauty privilege but without the white privilege too.
The line between our existence being celebrated and fetishised deeply affects the representation of our diversity and our place within social, political and cultural narratives. Growing up in Asia it was apparent that mixed girls who closely identified with their white heritage faced these problems the hardest, most notably sexualisation at young ages. Old and young men alike would label these white-Others as special, exotic and as a result, their identities and bodies were oversexualised by the time they hit puberty. In contrast, those who did not identify with their white heritage nor have white heritage were often left in this weird limbo of Otherness which often resulted in being more so ostracised. It is they who do not face fetishisation until early womanhood or until they are exposed to a Western environment where orientalism runs free under the guise of compliments and praise like “you’re so pretty/progressive/smart for a ________ girl”.
The media has now moved from giving some modest level of acknowledgement to mixed-race women’s beauty, to completely fixating over it throughout my young adult life. It is not unusual to come across an article that points mixed-race women out as the most beautiful women in the world and speculating the desirable aesthetics of the children they could produce. At first, I foolishly thought this kind of thing was positive. POC understand that when you are rarely acknowledged and often feel like you are not enough to be accepted within your cultures/race, such exposure can seem empowering at first. Gradually I came to realise that this was harmful to women who are mixed race (who become increasingly objectified due to these messages or cannot meet the mixed-race beauty stereotype), especially those of colour. On the flip side, Mixed Race Faces is an organisation that positively portrays the growing mixed-race population and can provide us with a sense of belonging to a wider community beyond our biological heritage. “Their goal is to raise awareness of the vastly growing population of mixed-race people around the world and how their mixed background and cultures influence the unique way they navigate their every-day lives”.
We have internalised these expectations and fetishisations to the point that it takes us too long to create a relationship with ourselves that only serves us. We are not mysterious bodies where people or institutions can just pick and choose what parts of us they like and want to glorify...
I refuse to allow my identity to be a colonial love story, and this is why I think we need to call out the bullshit. We are more than aesthetics and our lives are not tales of triumphs against racism.
Article by Social Media & Content Manager Yaz Omran