Why do we police what brown women do with their bodies, but look away when brown men are violating those same bodies?

By:
Rumneek Johal (Twitter: @rumneeek)

CW: Non-consensual solicitation of nude images.

Having a public social media profile as a brown woman is always an unexpected invitation to men who feel entitled to your body. This is something I have learned to accept as “part of the territory.” 

But is it?

While I’ve noticed that the comments and trolls come from men of all backgrounds, brown men in particular begin to play respectability politics about how the behaviour of one individual brown woman is representative of the entire culture.

Every time I have posted a TikTok trend either by myself or with my friends, having a drink, wearing a swimsuit or both, the interrogations of my character, identity, and degrading comments flood in, most often by brown men. 

The same ones who salivate at the mouth while consuming the content, are the first ones opening those same mouths to be disrespectful, or even worse, to degrade women from our community due to the choices they make with their lives and their bodies. 

This was seen when Shannon Singh, a Scottish model was cast on hit reality TV show ‘Love Island’. Brown Twitter went into a frenzy, as many questioned her ability to represent the community, and the “shame” it would bring for her, a Punjabi, Sikh woman to participate in such a show. 

Taman Atwal writes for Baaz News: “From the continued harassing comments that brown women face under our Instagram and TikTok posts asking, ‘would your mom/dad/bibi approve?’ (in the case of Shannon Singh, they actually do approve of her appearance on the show and in fact, encouraged her to get into glamour modeling) to doxxing, and threatening us that our content will be sent to our families.”

Doxxing is a familiar tactic by brown incels on social media, who in some circumstances that I have heard anecdotally, have sent the content brown women are posting online to their families in an effort to embarrass or belittle them.

In other cases, they take private information or images of certain women and circulate them anonymously online. These are the same images they were likely begging for offline.

Far too often, the same men criticizing us for showing our bodies or even just simply having fun are the ones who are looking for reasons to degrade and violate the bodies of women in our community. 

Are these men not bringing us “shame?” 

Are the men responsible for sexual violence and assault within the community not responsible for “shame?” 

Why is it that women consensually showing their body brings more outrage than when brown women’s bodies are non-consensually violated and taken advantage of?

In recent months, activists including Harman Dhaliwal @Harmanoid/@brown.journals have been highlighting Discord and Reddit channels run in both Surrey and Brampton, where men have been sharing unsolicited nude images of brown women from both cities. These images are being shared and circulated without consent, and in many cases, without the knowledge of the women they are talking about.

In many of these instances, men would pass along or circulate these images, including images of minors, and leave degrading comments about the women whose photographs they have somehow acquired.

This is a gross violation of trust, consent, and of brown women's bodies.

In comparison, the discourse about Shannon Singh and Love Island continued on social media for weeks, prompting outrage and heated debate, while conversations like these gained far less traction.

Who should really be ashamed?

I am refraining from reposting the screenshots because some include identifying information of some of the women whose images are being shared, and in addition, some are explicit, but I will recount some of the language being used.

Text from one screenshot:

@NotaUsername: “I’ll pay you for x’s nudes.”

Reply from @Alexchov101 “No need to pay me, I’m working on it.”

@NotaUsername: “She doesn’t seem like the type but you’re a legend if you get it.”

Reply from @Alexchov101 “Had it on my phone but not anymore. Trying to see if my friends have it on theirs. Lol all girls have nudes fam.”

One screenshot alleges that one of the Discord servers in question has about 75+ users while another had over 220.

In another screenshot, some of the men drop specific names of women they follow on social media, asking, “Does anyone have anything on x?”

Others are asking for links to the new servers on other platforms such as Reddit, as some of the previous ones got deleted or reported. 

In another, one user is asking for the link to one of the servers.

@Anonsmatter: "U have the link to the new server?"

@SunnyS: "Send a nude to confirm you aint tryna report the group."

Harman Dhaliwal (@harmanoid) spoke with 5X Press about these screenshots, respectability politics in the brown community, and how brown women get policed for what they do consensually, more than brown men get held accountable for what they do non-consensually.

“People constantly have these expectations for women that are much higher than men,” said Dhaliwal.

“They also want to keep us in line, which is so weird because that’s what I always feel like whenever I get hate comments I feel like they’re trying to keep me in line, and it’s up to the women in our community to uphold our reputation.”

While women in the public eye in the community are subjected to harassment, hate, and threats, it is usually brown women coming to the defence of one another to try and keep us safe.

Dhaliwal says she felt this when she saw the gut-wrenching screenshots in these anonymous chat rooms.

“It’s been going on for years, and the people who make the most noise are other women because they are the ones being targeted,” she added.

“But you don’t see Punjabi women out here sending unsolicited nudes of other guys. We have these issues in our community which are not looked at.”

Even in the language being used to talk about these women, and many other brown women online, we see the deep-rooted misogyny and internalized racism coming to the fore.

“The chats I saw were so traumatizing, the way these men are in chats anonymously talking about these women, [and] sending their nudes but at the same time saying, ‘I would never date a girl from Surrey,’” Dhaliwal said.

She noted that some of the images being circulated in these anonymous chats were of underage minors.

“Men do not uphold themselves to any standards, but when it comes to women, it’s like she has to check off on this checklist that they have built for us in their heads.”

So, we as brown women have to be educated, but watch our mouths; we have to be pleasant, but not too friendly; we have to be appealing, but not show too much skin; all while the men who leave anonymous hate messages on our public social media profiles are the same ones who are silent when other brown men are perpetrators of violence and harassment against us.

The same ones that are telling brown women to be careful how they represent themselves online for sake of the community’s reputation, are the same ones disrespecting women without any shame in anonymous chat rooms.

Dhaliwal added that even by speaking out, brown women are under constant threat of opening themselves up to more harassment.

“It’s super scary being a brown woman on social media, especially with all the harassment. When I am posting consistently I get at least one crazy hateful comment a day, whether in my DM’s or in my comments,” she said.

While the community is quick to come together in support of one another when it’s needed, Dhaliwal said we need that same energy when it comes to protecting and supporting brown women.

“I have so much love for the way we unify, I’ve never seen a community unify the way we do,” she noted.

“The way our community is so small but we are so strong and we are so loud and we are so vocal. [But] it doesn’t happen as much when it comes to women.”

It’s long overdue that we hold brown men to a higher standard, and hold them accountable for their actions and how they harm brown women who are simply trying to exist. 

This requires solidarity from others in the community, and for those who are aware of these acts to speak out to keep women and young girls in our community safe. 

Brown trolls bring shame to the community, not the women they go out of their way to harass and degrade. Let’s start there.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rumneek is a journalist, blogger and podcaster, and Editor-in-Chief of 5X Press. She is also host of 5X's Youtube and IGTV show What's the VIbem breaking down hot topics inside Surrey and out. She is a graduate of The University of British Columbia's Masters of Journalism program, and has previously worked as a host at Decomplicated, and as a writer at Daily Hive Vancouver and CBC Toronto. She thinks she's funny on twitter @rumneeek

5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.

Related articles

#5XCANVAS

Gurkiran Kaur: A creative and activist who does it all with grace

Kaur is a fashion designer, activist, and mom-to-be.
Read Article
9/7/21
#5XCANVAS

What to expect at this year's 5X Fest

A sneak preview of all the festivities at this year's 5X Fest!
Read Article
9/6/21