Retaining Control, Negotiating Roles: Diasporic Women and their Parents
Part 1 of 4. Are you a good girl?
Are you a good girl? You know what we mean: you listen to your parents, there’s no gossip about you in the “community.” Or are you a bad girl? Were you caught smoking in high school? Did you marry that white boy against your parents’ wishes? This is part one of a four part series about “Mama Says Good Girls Marry Doctors”. This first post is about what the project’s all about, the second post is about what the project is NOT about. The third and fourth post will be stories that have been submitted whom we’ve gathered permission to publish.
“Mama Says Good Girls Marry Doctors” is for all girls from immigrant families who deal with good girl/bad girl issues often around topics such as careers and sexuality. These girls often run into clashes of values between what being a good girl entails (such as listening to the family, picking a career the parents approve, or finding a partner that is suitable for family).
Where this is a life journey that most women encounter, it can sometimes have upsetting consequences within immigrant families. The main reason is that often the good girl attitude is about holding cultural values for fear of them being diluted in UK’s culture. As such, it may be more important for families to have good girls or women who stay true to their cultural values for the sake of passing on the heritage from one generation to another.
However these situations can often be violent. The number of women who want to make choices with respect to their career, sexuality or choice of spouses are often NOT representative of what cultural values reflect as a good girl. There are many instances where young women are coerced financially, physically or emotionally in order to subscribe to the cultural good girl paradigm. This clashing of values can be extremely traumatizing for the good girls and their respective families. Some women have faced being ostracized by their family, suffered a loss of family financial support for their education and careers, or forced to be disowned in their community gatherings.
What is often mistaken is that this is a false dichotomy. There are multiple ways of being a cultural good girl, though it may not be recognized by our families. Currently feminism is redefining women and their roles in their cultural heritage. The idea is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater as there are multiple paths for women to express and strengthen their cultural heritage while be a key player in the UK. What results are women forging new roads and a new type of feminism. Young diasporic women are forging new feminist grounds and redefining how feminist tools are useful.
This new type of feminism is exciting to watch. I hope you’ll join me in spreading the word of this project. Stay tune next week for Part 2: Are you a bad girl?
Josephine is part of a two person team duo launching “Mama Says Good Girls Marry Doctors” along with Piyali. You are welcome to submit a story about your own good girl story. Check us out at Goodgirlsmarrydoctors.webs.com.