Recently, there was this trend on Instagram in which people posted pictures of themselves and a cartoon character they looked like. I was excited, it seemed like fun. So, I went on the search for someone to transform into. After much thought and pondering with friends, I drew a blank.
My friend offered the girl from "The Jungle Book," Shanti, who barely makes an appearance. My other friend offered Princess Jasmine, an agglomeration of South Asian and Middle Eastern stereotypes. I was disappointed, but not surprised that I could not participate in this trend.
More importantly, I was disappointed, but not surprised that I could not find any accurate, positive South Asian female cartoon characters.
I was used to it by now. But I shouldn’t be. In the United States, we are constantly bombarded with negative images of women. Growing up as a South Asian woman in the United States I barely saw images of South Asian women and when I did, they were almost always negative. South Asian women on television screens were almost always depicted as terrorists, poor or submissive. In other mediums, such as mainstream animation, they were almost nonexistent.
Some people might argue that South Asian women are a very small percentage of the American population. However, even this small proportion is significant in terms of the sheer number of people. This means there are millions of girls who grow up without seeing positive images of themselves in the media. Girls who won’t be able to collect Barbie dolls that look like them. Girls who won’t be able to post a picture on social media of their cartoon look-alike.
Although this may seem silly, the impact is large, especially on the child psyche. When a young girl never sees other girls who look like her, she begins to feel like an outsider. Like she does not belong. That she will never really be considered part of this society. And no child should feel that way.