I’m not writing this in direct response to Ganni, though I will say that after seeing articles and images all about the culturally unsound portrayal of the South Asian community at their Copenhagen show, I was inspired to share my personal views on what I’ve learned from insensitivity in industries like fashion, and how I will continue to work against it on my platform. Here’s what I have to say:
We must empower people from all walks of life to do what they strive to do, share their perspectives, and continue to persevere in their path while doing so. It’s the only route to helping the people at the top see what’s appropriate when incorporating any aspect of identity in messaging.
The issues that continue to arise today are due to filters through which we hear stories, see content, and consume information. What is occurring the following: the individuals filling the important roles, especially in industries that share public information, are telling stories about controversies or people with which they might have very little to nothing in common with—naturally, this will result in biases that will be shared with the world. When you are indeed given the gift of an audience, in any capacity or form, biases are dangerous. Instead, I would encourage these individuals to stick to their innate voices and tell stories that stem from personal experience, or something they can relate to on a personal level. Don’t just tell a story because you are fond of the topic—tell it when you’re confident in your personal ties with it.
I’m proud that we have progressed to an age where social media has democratized conversations and has allowed everyone to have a voice, but I still feel that the higher ups, especially in media or creative industries, are accustomed and partial to a certain kind of storytelling that favors either people with extreme privilege who are in the public eye, or else the polar opposite (and often times, they do not have enough information or enough in common with these people to depict these stories or represent them with great accuracy). Not only can this result in a lack of sensitivity for those that do identify with these communities, but this favoring of people on two opposite poles of a spectrum certainly doesn’t leave much room for people in the middle, a vast majority of us, who genuinely have talent that’s being developed and voices that need to be heard.
That’s why I think it’s crucial for people to empower by example, regardless of who you are or where you stand. If you can continue to persevere in your journey and share bits of wisdom along the way, I certainly think it goes a long way not only in touching people’s hearts, but giving them hope in a world where almost every industry seems saturated. We’ve heard the phrase “there’s always room for talent,” but we’ve never given people the knowledge and wisdom about how to break into that room with their talent. And lastly, if we share our individual stories and anecdotes, these become the seeds to society taking note of the multitude of identities and stories that exist, which can work towards eradicating any typecasting, misrepresentation, and insensitivity towards a community.
I, too, have something I must change. I realize that by including in my tag-line in my Instagram bio the term “Indian-American,” I’m not being fair to myself because I am, in a sense, putting myself in a box. My identity is so much more than my cultural background, even if I am proud of both cultures that I am a part of. That is why, I will be changing the tagline from “Style files of an Indian-American driven dreamer” to “Style-files of a driven dreamer,” and simply inserting the Indian and American flags at the very end of my bio to showcase my pride in both cultures, without allowing them to fully define who I am, because I know I’m made up of more.
In the end, I only hope that we continue to hear more and more voices from each and every industry, community, age group, place, and background, for a better tomorrow—one filled with a bit more understanding.