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The NYT writes about Nepalese pedicurists practicing in New York City. These people, almost all women, face challenges if they move to the US. Some Nepalese women decide to go into the salon industry because licensure is affordable and relatively quick. When it comes to pedicures, however, some newly minted Nepalese salon workers balk:

Women in Nepal, especially Hindus, touch only their husbands’ or parents’ feet as a sign of respect, said Tara Niraula, an advocate of immigrants’ rights and a former administrator at the New School who was born in Nepal and is considered an expert on Nepalis in New York. To touch strangers’ feet is to show deference they have not earned, Dr. Niraula said, and to label oneself as low-class, or at least lower than the person whose feet are being handled.

A pedicure customer reacts to this cultural aversion with surprise and the following response: “You would think she was born to do this.”

Wow, how insulting. The customer's comment dismisses the salon employee's choices and hard work, not to mention the cultural differences and bigotry she endures. Instead, the economically privileged customer naturalizes a brown woman genuflecting in servitude before her by saying that the salon employee's skills seem innate. It's a subtle form of objectification that takes part of the same racist assumption that people of certain colors are just meant to be enslaved.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
condwiramurs
May. 14th, 2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I had a very "eww, what?" moment when I read that line in the article in particular, but lacked all the words I needed to say why. You've expressed it brilliantly.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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