This is a new thing I’m trying out here, whereby instead of talking about me, I talk with someone I admire. I met Vanny four years ago at my Brother’s cafe, where we worked together for a few years sharing dish duty and constantly getting in trouble for talking too much. Even though she is a few years younger than me, I never noticed the gap, and honestly I wish I was half as cool as her when I was 22.
This is thing, these days young females look to idols on an aesthetic level, blurring the line between inspiration and aspiration in the form of celebrities like Kylie Jenner. They don’t really care to know what she thinks about things, they just want to know what she looks like when she’s ‘thinking’ about things. And so it got me thinking, that Her Mati despite its lack of niche, could be a niche for girls and women who want something real to read about. This is a very real conversation I had with Vanny in her car the other night about everything from identity, culture and privilege. Read on if takes your fancy, go stalk The Jenner/Kardashian’s Instagram if it doesn’t.
How do you view your identity and how has it changed over the years?
I came from a sort of different upbringing as in I wasn’t brought up Australian and I wasn’t brought up Indian, and that was something I really struggled with. Sort of juggling those two identities unfortunately for me resulted in me kind of resenting my Indian heritage because I was surrounded by people who were following western culture and I just wanted to fit in. And I know for some people it works the other way, where they identify with their Indian culture and only hang out with Indian people. I more gravitated towards western culture and now reflecting upon that I realise that I have ignored this big part of my identity and where I’m from. I’m making a big conscious effort to understand that and fix it but it’s really hard. I think it’s important to recognise how hard it is for kids to juggle two cultures, as I’m sure it was for my parents as well.
You’re passionate about gender equality, do you feel the need to bring culture into that? Do you feel pressure to be a sort of spokesperson for young Indian women?
The intersection of culture and feminism is so important and it’s the reason why intersectional feminism is a very important issue at the moment . I think for me it’s a pleasure to be an advocate because I do feel like I do have a platform and an important one to talk about. Because I volunteer for groups that are aligned with my views I do like to use it as a platform to talk about my experience. And while it’s not super oppressive or a ground breaking one it is a different one and I think that it’s just as important.
We were talking about the Buzzfeed privilege quiz not too long ago (check it out here), what surprised you about taking that quiz?
I was doing it as research for one of my seminars, and I immediately thought I would rate pretty low. For instance I’m bi and a woman of colour so I assumed I would have a lower rating. But I think it was interesting and I guess this is the whole point, to find out that I had a lot of privileges that a lot of people do not have. The biggest one for me was education and questions like ‘Were you raised in a house with more than 30 books?’, and ‘Were you expected to go to university?’ These were things that were so obvious to me, and that I hadn’t considered about other people not affording those sort of privilege. It’s grounding in one aspect but the point of it is to reflect on other people’s lack of privilege.
You do quite a lot of volunteer work, what prompted you to do that and tell us about what you do
At the moment I’m volunteering for a few different groups. The first is the One Woman Project which advocates for gender equality and feminism. I’m the facilitator and I also run seminars on a weekly basis that discuss the different roles of women in society. I also volunteer for the Refugee Tutoring Club with tutors young refugees who want to go to university and I also volunteer at the Milpera school for refugee and asylum seeker students. It was interesting because it all came at once and my social conscious was born all at once. They were all issues that I was always base-line passionate about, and it’s so easy to align yourself with certain view points but if you’re not actually doing something about it then what’s the point?
Do you feel it’s an issue with our generation? In that we’re keyboard warriors
Yeah and that’s actually something that really annoys me that people often try and build this social media presence, and post about different things to make it seem as though they are really active and vocal. And people seem more concerned about building that presence instead of actually doing something about the issue. You should be going to local clubs, you should be volunteering or if you don’t have the time or skills then you can donate to cause you believe in. Either way just doing something as opposed to staying at home and talking about it online or with your family.
What would be your advice for someone who wants to volunteer but doesn’t know where to begin?
An important thing is to have your ears open because there are so many groups that I had no idea even existed when I was at university. I so wish I did because I would have been able to have such a wealth of experience in those positions. But yeah even if you just turn up on open day and find out which groups exist, or look outside of uni as there are a bunch of clubs you can support. Another really important thing coming back to what I said before, if you don’t have the skills or the time or the energy to donate to a group then.. money! So many not-for-profit organisations don’t have enough funding to back their goals.
How do you think things have changed for you since volunteering?
For me they came into my life at a time where I really needed a change, so for me its been the best experience. It’s so weird because I’ve always considered myself as someone who likes to help people but to actually do it is so much more different than to actually talk about. And it’s not even just about helping people it’s also the people you meet along that journey. They are so aligned with how you think and also really challenge how you think.
What does the future look like for you?
It’s interesting that through all of this I’ve still kept my main goal which is eventually wanting to get into medicine, but I definitely think my intentions for wanting to do it have changed. Not only that but I also think that social justice causes will play a big part in what I do in the future. It’s so easy to dismiss your own actions by being ‘I’m one person in a sea of humans’, but if you’re not doing anything there’s no point in advocating for something so..just fucking do it.
Well there you have it, I couldn’t have ended this interview on a better note. I’m also pretty damn excited to give you guys more blog posts like this, because I realise if I can’t see enough of what I want to see online then I simply have to create it myself.
CHECK OUT THESE RAD ORGANISATIONS OUT FOR YOURSELF
One Woman Project- http://www.onewomanproject.org/
Milpera State High School-https://milperashs.eq.edu.au/Ourcommunity/Volunteering/Pages/Volunteering.aspx
Refugee Tutoring Club- https://www.facebook.com/UQRTC/