On a very basic level, a hashtag is a word or phrase preceding a pound sign which is used on social media as a way for making your post indexed or searchable by topic. Simple enough, right? But for those of us in the diaspora, where media representation is scarce, hashtags have become a cultural anchoring, a summoning of sorts to come together and discuss all the isms we as a community experience, be it racism, sexism, or colorism to name just a few and lest we not forget, cultural appropriation.

Some hashtags go viral to the point that the engagement they imbue is taken offline as well.  Particular hashtags have empowered South Asians one snap, tweet, or ‘gram at a time. Check out these six hashtags, all of which have left an imprint on and offline. (Read Brown Twitter is Real and a Force to be Reckoned With.)

1#SareeNotSorry

‘Be the *love* you want to see’ #sareenotsorry #kaalachashmaA post shared by Saree Not Sorry Project (@saree.not.sorry) on

Tanya Rawal is the face behind this epic hashtag that was created to use fashion for a political statement. Rawal was inspired to give minorities a way to safely express their hyphenated-identity. She wanted to create a world where she didn’t have to tone down her culture because of the growing intolerance around us. As her social media platforms say, she’s “using fashion to speak back to the rising anti-immigration discourse in America … because borders are for saris.

2#ReclaimTheBindi

@sakaanays looks gorgeous! #reclaimthebindi #bindiA post shared by @ reclaimthebindi on

Remember when you were teased by the gori for the paneer and paratha you brought to lunch and 10 years later that same chick is appropriating your culture and rocking the bindi at Coachella. WTF? Oh, so all of a sudden my culture is “trendy?” Girl, bye.

I’m not the only one who is offended when traditional kurtas and bindis are whipped out for the latest music festival. The hashtag #ReclaimTheBindi spread rapidly through Tumblr and Twitter as a way for South Asians to take back their culture. It is largely shared by women who are fighting not only cultural appropriation but promoting self-love and showing pride in their culture. It reminds others that our culture isn’t just a trend or fad.

3#UnfairandLovely

“I used to constantly be bullied when I was younger about my dark skin. Words like “Blacky” or dark skin girl was what I constantly heard in primary school and lines like “Youre beautiful for a dark girl” “You look pretty but if only you were a little fairer”. I am the last daughter and I have three older sisters which have much lighter skin than me. When I was younger my aunties used to always recommend creams or a certain facial that would possibly make me fairer but they never understood that I was happy with my beautiful melanin. I have to admit it was hard when I was younger but as I grew older I realised that god has blessed me with beautiful chocolate skin and I should embrace it so I did and that’s when my confidence grew than ever. My advice to girls that are upset about their skin colour , is that confidence is the most beautiful thing you can wear and that dear girls shows how beautiful and comfortable you are in your own skin no matter what people say.” #unfairandlovely #whatsyourstoryA post shared by Offical Page Unfairandlovely (@unfairandlovely) on

Colorism runs rampant in our community and today’s girls aren’t taking that ish anymore. It all began with three students at the University of Texas, Austin, Pax Jones, Mirusha Yogarajah and Yanusha Yogarajah.

Jones created a photo series starring sisters Mirusha and Yanusha to promote their love of their skin tone. The ladies behind the unfair and lovely hashtag attack the colorism in our community head-on by displaying their gorgeous “unfair” skin.

The name is a play on the popular skin bleaching cream Fair and Lovely.The campaign has struck a chord with women of all races and ethnicities and the outpour of support has been phenomenal.

4#CurryScentedBitch

 

This hashtag came about when desi girls grabbed the battle axe to bring down an artist for her racist views and support their boy, Zayn Malik. Rapper Azealia Banks posted an image with stills from her “Yung Rapunxel” video side by side with Malik’s “Like I Would” video claiming Malik was copying her. She captioned the image “Damn Zayn be mood boarding the fuck out of me 0_0. I’m not mad about this though. Zayn is a cutie pie.”

Though cool and calm Malik didn’t tweet directly at Banks, he did drop a tweet that he noticed her saltiness by tweeting “no lies… I see you reaching but I don’t care.”

This set off Banks in a frenzy, tweeting insult after insult, including “Imma start calling you punjab you dirty bitch,” and “you hairy curry scented bitch.”

Jus Reign hopped on the insults right away and pointed out Banks’ blatant racism, causing himself and millions of South Asians around the world posting fierce images of themselves with the hashtag #CurryScentedBitch. In a weird way, it united South Asians against all others to show the world that #CurryScentedBitches run the world.

5#DalitWithMoustache

 

According to the caste system in India, Dalits are a part of a lower class, at times known as the “untouchables.” Sadly even in 2018, the caste system holds weight and though it’s unconstitutional, Dalits face a lot of discrimination in society. Some people belonging to higher castes don’t allow Dalits to enter their home or share utensils with them. They are thought to be impure and even excluded from temples of higher-caste communities sometimes.

After a string of violent attacks on Dalits, a social media protest began. Allegedly, numerous Dalit men were attacked for having a mustache, which is apparently unacceptable because mustaches were traditionally kept by men in higher castes. Dalits protested by showing off their stashes on social media with the hashtags #MrDalit #DalitWithMoustache #RightToMoustache and #DalitLivesMatter.

Men from all castes joined in to support their Dalit brothers and to shed light on the injustices Dalits have historically faced.

6#NotYourDulhan

The hashtag #NotYourDulhan may not be as popular as the others on this list, but this girl-powered movement is just as important. Jasdeep Kang, Pragya Bhatt, and Reva Bhatt are the three stunning minds behind the photo series that started it all. Between the three of them, they have a background in filmmaking, photography, styling and art direction. The three friends come from different backgrounds, yet their family’s had the same perspective and the same lectures on marriage.

“Ultimately we’re terrified,” Reva said in an interview, “terrified of the abstract that still somehow has the power to control our everyday reality. It’s crazy to think that our identity will always live, for our parent’s generation at least, in a subconsciousness where marriage defines our success.”

Through their photo series, they challenge the stereotypes and expectations of the perfect Dulhan within our community. The perfect bahu has to be light skinned, thin, soft-spoken, cook for 20 in a snap, make chai the right shade of brown, clean like a maid and always keep their head down. Why should desi girls be raised like mail-order brides? Why is our success only defined by whether or not we are married with kids by 35?

They hoped to capture all of the colorism, ageism, sexism, and unnecessary pressures that revolve around marriage in our communities.

Reva went on to explain that #NotYourDulhan is about women “transcending beyond the guilt of choosing themselves by reclaiming a level of consciousness” and they hope that it will promote an open and global dialogue regarding marriage in our society.

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