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Sex + Relationships

Navigating the Dating World as a South Asian WOC

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As a South Asian woman of colour, navigating the world is already a strange and extraordinary experience. From low representation in media to eclectic Bollywood movies, being a brown girl is truly a unique experience. But what about when it comes to love? One thing is certain: it’s hard dating and trying to find a significant other in a world that’s not in favour of South Asian women. We imagine being loved by someone who sees us for more than a stereotype and the colour of our skin. We imagine our culture being embraced and respected by whoever we’re with. However, the reality is much harsher and more negative.

It’s easy to find people nowadays with apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble. Still, there’s something so dehumanizing about getting messages like ‘you’re so beautiful for a brown girl’ or ‘you don’t look brown at all!’ Messages like that are far too common and are said by way too many people. It’s upsetting when people expect us to take it as a compliment—but is it really a compliment? Inside the alleged flirty remark is a jeer at South Asian women. Are you saying that brown girls aren’t typically beautiful? Or are you admitting you swiped on me because I don’t match your standard as a brown girl? Comments like that have started to deter me and others away from dating and trying to find love. Why should anyone be inclined to use dating apps when people don’t see us as anything beyond our skin tone and stereotypes?

Aside from dating apps, meeting people in the real world is just as hard too. Comments about how ‘exotic’ and ‘tropical’ our skin tone are far too common, to the point where it’s close to dehumanizing. If we aren’t being fetishized for the colour of our skin, there are other things that hurt just as much, things like 7-11 or call centre jokes that people think they can repeat because of the biased and discriminatory meme culture on the internet. No, the colour of my skin isn’t exotic and I’m not a foreign animal that people can marvel at. And no, gas station/call centre jokes don’t make me laugh. My ethnicity isn’t a joke and doesn’t need to be treated as an extension of me rather than a part of me.

So, what happens when we do find someone? What’s it like? The feeling is a nice, validating one. I’ve spent my whole life trying to fit into beauty standards that aren’t meant for me and appeal to men who don’t want me, but to be seen as a person who is worthy of someone else’s love, despite the biased dating world, is something immeasurable. When I think about my experience, I remember almost every guy I’ve been with telling me that they don’t typically go for brown girls or that I’m beautiful ‘for a brown girl.’ It’s a horrible feeling of belittlement and it hurts to think about it. I’ve spent years learning to love my bushy eyebrows and my tanned skin and it’s scary to know that it can all be ripped apart from me by just four words: ‘for a brown girl.’

I’d love to find someone to accept me and love me for who I am. But after years of trying to find someone genuine, I’ve decided that it’s far more important to find that love within myself. At the end of the day, external love is a luxury. True love comes from accepting yourself and knowing that you’re so much more than insensitive jokes and comments. It’s crucial to realize that before seeking out acceptance from anyone else.

Karina Sen

Wilfrid Laurier '24

I'm Karina! I'm a Writer here at HCWLU and I'm so excited to share my thoughts and work with the HC community! I really love listening to music and writing ficition and film analyses. I'm really thankful to be writing for HC since writing articles has been a goal of mine since I was 12!