Culture, Movies

Indian Matchmaking: Racism, Fat-Phobia and Misogyny

I am glad that this show has displayed some of the misogynistic, racist, fat-phobic and classist experiences involved in trying to get married in the traditional South Asian way. This is not to say that this doesn’t occur in modern dating- because a lot of this could apply to any one trying to find a partner; however, the traditional method is meant to be a serious way to find a life partner who is equally serious about building a marriage, and has similar values, ambitions and lifestyles as them. It is not a means for immature young people focussed primarily on visual chemistry to ‘swipe’ through biodata’s like a 1990’s version of Tinder.
Attraction is important, and the matchmaker does well to assess her clients criteria and steer them in the right direction. For example, by telling one of her younger male clients about the downsides of superficiality. However, the matchmaker also relays that one of her clients is not photogenic but carries herself well. Make of that what you will. But it appears that the clients criteria is actually not required at all, as they are mostly told they will need to compromise anyway. Very little is discussed in terms of compatibility over appearance and there is not much discussion about the values of a good marriage.

Here are a few things that I picked up from Indian Matchmaker 2020:

  1. Being fair, slim and tall count for more than your education as a woman- not only from the stand point of the potential grooms but also from the matchmakers; many still buying into the concepts of diet culture and racism. As was the case for Ankita, you will be told quite openly that you are not photogenic or that you “need to lose weight in order to get married”
  2. Being too educated is seen as a negative for a woman – as was the case for Aparna who Sima directly said to her that when people hear a woman is a lawyer they get scared. I could get into the underlying issues with this, for example, they think that they will not get a submissive wife that they would have dominance over and that is a problem.
  3. Taking your mother on a date is not so unusual, particularly if you are part of a culture that encourages closeness with your family
  4. Whether the cameras added a sense of performance, some men are really good at playing interested
  5. Some potential grooms will look at photos of many girls and quickly discard them without meeting them because they aren’t attracted to their photo as that is all that they think they are. As if a pretty face will allow them to tolerate a bad personality.
  6. It inaccurately presents arranged marriages as really quick and simple, involving very little conversation or time to get to know each other
  7. Matchmakers know less about who would be a good match for you and more often than not, encourage you to compromise in order to fit the people who are available on the ‘market’

But What Does That Mean?

  1. Traditional methods of marriage are still common and can be successful, but it is marred by a lot of old thinking values that are less applicable to the changed mentalities of today
  2. Even when you are serious about getting married, you will encounter many others who think that they are also serious about getting married
  3. Ankita was essentially told that in a marriage she has a ‘place’ and she must shrink herself to fit that (in more ways than one). Ankita is a modern woman and tells us that being independent does not mean that she is stubborn, however, this is the favourite word to describe a lot of the women in this series. One way or another, you will eventually be forced to be yourself, and then the position in a marriage you changed yourself for will alter.
  4. The metric that an attractive woman is one that is thin, tall and fair still exists. The patriarchy is real. But the values of a good marriage aren’t held in appearances or whether the person likes dogs or not.
  5. Aparna, a young female attorney is set up with an older unambitious male, who she doesn’t end up finding attractive. If you are an ambitious female, it is okay for you not to be interested in an unambitious male. Just as males are ‘entitled’ to not be interested in women based on looks, because they consider that significant to their compatibility long term. After all, traditionally a woman will be expected to look after children as if she doesn’t have a job. But in the UK it is difficult to live on one spouse’s salary and so she will be expected to work as if she doesn’t have children. Therefore, she should be ‘entitled’ to have a spouse who would be able to support her in this endeavour, right?
  6. If you are wondering how racism is portrayed even though all the people in the show are Indian. The idea that being fairer means you are more attractive is the same narrative bought from the more obvious racism in society. It holds the same sinister values that racism does which is that the colour of your skin shows your worth.

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