South Indian femme
Chicken tikka masala femme
Sugar cane femme
Rice paddy femme
No electricity or running water femme
Cow dung femme
Peanut Butter and Jelly femme
to brown gurls, whose bodies have never been enough
by Janani Balasubramanian
As if eating disorders rain down in UV rays and we’re walking around lucky and sunblocked by our SPF 50 skin. This is one disease the colonizers couldn’t give us.
I’m a little brown dyke who has always liked math even more than I liked girls.
White doctors in white coats do not understand what I have ever had to starve for.
But they forget I can calculate the entropy of the universe. And an eating disorder is by comparison a very manageable amount of chaos.
My body is the most satisfying problem I have ever solved.
I was so good at measurements that I put the model in model minority, wrote equations for the lines that take us between art and death, grew exponentially backwards into my own mortality, defined my absolute value as distance from size zero.
At 14 years I was in multivariable calculus and 30 pounds underweight. I figured it would be just some weeks before my bones would show their faces, just a few more and my body temperature would fall 2.5 degrees permanently, 15 blood pressure points down I’d feel constantly high and faint everyday, two-thirds of my dinner needed to be discarded to make the other numbers work out.
At 16 years and 25% less mass I told my guidance counselor I might be anorexic. She told me eating disorders are only common in white girls that it was likely my genetics and I could try eating just a bit more, and if I didn’t it was all right I would fit perfectly in the corner of a Benneton ad.
That year I flew away to college. At the security checkpoint my mom held my hands. She said I was getting hard to hug, that my bones were so jagged that they hurt her sometimes. Her tears soaked through my hair which was falling out in clumps and I estimated that at this rate there were two more years before my heart would stop.
When I cracked the spine of my first college math book I thought, it may have been my own back breaking. I was shivering in the California sunshine, thinking my legs would not be strong enough to trace my foremothers’ footsteps, that I wanted to live to honor their stories.
To brown girls whose bodies are never enough, to those who have been disappeared in nighttimes and bleached away in daylight, remember, there are revolutions to feed, protest songs to be rung with our fullness. We are all more amazing in three dimensions. Keep the future in your hearts and love yourself for appetite. Because we are the most beautiful equations the world has ever seen.
Janani sometimes calls herself a queer South Asian scholar-activist, a poet, and an advocate for a more peaceful food system. She’s a senior majoring in Atmosphere/Energy Engineering and Queer Studies. More of her poetry can be found at jananiwritesthings.posterous.com
PLEASE support queer, trans*, and gender-non-conforming writers of color! GO HERE!!!
Aside from her professional character, I am also impressed with the treatment of Kalinda as a personal and sexual character. Kalinda’s sex life is exhibited as much as the other characters and, while the manner of it tip-toes around exoticism at times, it is impressive considering the frequent shaming of brown women’s sexuality on TV. The show speaks to me by creating a South Asian character in the media that does not feel the responsibility to prove her sexuality and womanhood to people. While Kalinda confidently told one interested woman that she “follows through” when she flirts, she pulled away from another as soon as she found out she is married.
I’m still struggling with this unnecessary need to validate my sexuality, since queer desis’ existence has so often been denied and mistreated. Healthy and realistic media representation, like in The Good Wife, can certainly help queer women like me. I now have a character on TV who is reminding me, each episode, to just be. These types of reminders help us come into our smoother, more natural identities. They also remind others that there is more than just tragic queer desis living double lives, and triumphant queer desis marching in Mumbai Pride.
Hey everyone, I run this blog by myself, and since my parents have put our house up for sale, I’ve had to spend a lot of time out of the house, and consequentially off the internet.
If anyone else is interested in being a moderator for this blog, that’d be great.