Bobby Jindal: Taking Us Backwards


I am a South Asian not for Bobby Jindal.

Why is this relevant? Because I am South Asian American in a country where race and politics is an inextricably linked conversation. And of course, race matters.  Race discourse can be about a common life experience, a shared narrative of a community’s history, and an opportunity for solidarity.

Enter Bobby Jindal, our conservative, "Pro-Life," Indian American, touted as the GOP’s "rising Republican star." Attention on Jindal’s life and career as a politician peaked in recent days, following his response to Obama’s State of the Union Address.  While the speech was criticized for being (simply) a "disaster," others continue to call Jindal the Republican Party’s "great beige hope."

Being "beige" myself, all this attention on Jindal has me thinking – is this guy good for South Asians?  Is he good for immigrant women? As the daughter of Indian immigrants I feel for Jindal.  I find his badly combed hair endearing. His awkward posturing and southern accent remind me of the struggle we all go through to fit in as an American in communities that can be harsh to people perceived as different (read "strange").  And honestly, it’s nice to see someone who looks like he could be my cousin on the news for reasons unrelated to terrorism.

What else do we South Asians have in common? Well, when it comes to the story of South Asians in America there is one that prevails for most: young South Asians can’t tell their parents they are dating.  Justified by culture, and often religion, "hanging out" with the opposite sex is not something one does, especially not girls.  For girls, dating ruins your reputation, your chance for marriage to a decent boy from a decent family, and in turn, an opportunity for a good life.  (Good life, of course, is defined by another series of assumptions).

So you can imagine how South Asian parents must feel about sex. And pregnancy (before marriage). And abortion.  For the hundreds of South Asian girls I have known througout my life these things are dealt with in private.  If sex is talked about its only amongst those other girls that you know won’t judge.  Pregnancy tests are taken in public bathroom facilities or friend’s homes.  Abortions are done on borrowed money and hidden by an intricate series of lies.  South Asian women and girls that are undocumented and don’t have insurance are even worse off – often with no place to turn.

When I think about these often traumatic experiences we South Asian women have, I stop feeling the love for Jindal.  Why? Because Bobby Jindal is the man who supported the 2006 "Abortion Pain Bill" requiring physicians to tell women that their fetus will feel pain during an abortion, a medically unresolved claim.  For all women, including South Asian women, this is just one more emotionally manipulative obstacle in seeking necessary services.  He also voted for a bill that criminalizes transporting a minor across state lines to have an abortion.  (Remember that time when you strategized about how you would get an abortion if you needed one – I bet that plan involved someone who could drive).

Jindal voted against immigrants’ rights which also impacts women’s health: he voted to build the border fence between Mexico and the United States, a plan that seems to have no real purpose except to crystallize anti-immigrant hysteria. And he voted for the REAL ID Act pushing undocumented immigrants further underground.  When immigrants are pushed underground they are less able to access necessary health care services.  Fear of deportation, mistrust of the health care system, cost and shame often mean immigrant women do not access the reproductive health services they need.

For many, including South Asians, what will matter more than Jindal’s retrogressive positions will be his veneer: a well educated young Indian politician whose family achieved the American dream and more. For Republicans, a party with almost no diversity, he will be something  different – a "beige" (instead of white) face that still has the long-standing and comforting desire to prevent women from controlling their own bodies and stop immigrants from trying to live a decent and healthy life.  Like many who oppose the right of women to choose, Jindal has turned a deaf ear to the known secrets of South Asian women’s lives  – the lives of women in his own community.

What does this mean for South Asian women? Well, left up to Jindal, navigating our access to sexual and reproductive health through the morass of laws, culture, religion, tradition, and gender roles will be even harder – and if you are poor or undocumented, potentially impossible.

So all in all, Jindal’s anti-immigrant, anti-woman stance makes me think that beyond our difficult to manage hair, he and I have little shared experience at all.  And that perhaps South Asian women should save our support for someone who might have learned some real life lessons in a public bathroom stall.

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  • harry834

    I’m a South Asian male who told his mother about his girlfriend, and faced a big backlash. I’m 29.

    I know I’d have it worse if I was a woman. I hear stories from my female cousins and sisters. I know they have a lot to protect.

    Anyone who thinks a woman is "indecent" or "unmarriageable" or that marriage is even a requirement for decency…this thinker, whoever they are, is an oppressor. That includes parents who are incapable of change (many if not most are incapable). We can’t say that out loud, but if we acknowledge it in our hearts, at least we know WE are not the indecent ones.

    To paraphrase Harvey Milk:

    "We are not sick, we are not wrong, we are not indecent, and God does not hate us."

     

  • invalid-0

    Well thought out; well stated. Brilliant writing! I trust we’ll be hearing more?

  • invalid-0

    YES! I’m so glad that someone is taking the time to write about this guy. I am South Asian and feel the same way when he comes on TV! I want to like him, but hate his politics and feel that he has chose the old boy network instead of trying to bridge the gap. I love your blog! PLEAAAASE write more.

  • invalid-0

    “face that still has the long-standing and comforting desire to prevent women from controlling their own bodies”

    how about controlling their own bodies from the lustful and consequential sex that causes pregnancy. where’s the control there? if you’re brought up in a society that bans pregnancy, CONTROL YOURSELF! if you’re against such norms and values enough to go behind your family’s back and have sex, then you should be loud and proud about your pregnancy. NOT TAKE THE LIFE of the unborn child- who’s not at fault. where’s the control there?

  • invalid-0

    Anti-choice mysoginists shouldn’t be allowed to post on here. I hope that you get kicked off the forum. You are the exact reason why women have to fight to have control over our own bodies. I hope that at some point in your life, laws dictate what you can and can’t do with your physical being. Perhaps you should re-direct your energy to fighting for EVERYONE’s equal access to safe medical care if you are SO concerned with the values of life.

  • invalid-0

    This guy is the worst opportunist you will come across in your life.
    I wouldn’t trust him for anything.
    To consider him and his wife as part of South Asian is a disgrace. He doesn’t take pride in his cultural heritage. If the Republicans provide him an opportunity, he will turn against his own kind.

  • invalid-0

    Then I am not going to waste my breath to explain it to you, other than to say, sexuality will NOT be controlled, and unwanted pregnancies will end by abortion, which is, the last time that I checked, perfectly LEGAL! Women do not have to face consequences for being sexual, as it is NOT a crime, either. Mind your OWN business!!

  • invalid-0

    I am not an Asian American, but an Indian from India living in the US for the past many years. I am lucky enough to have parents who are supportive and broad minded, but even so, if I were to become pregnant (ofcourse, pre-marriage), I’m sure they wouldn’t be as supportive as Juno’s parents. I can afford to get an abortion, and I could also probably find many friends who’d help me with it. But I know, since I see them everyday in my profession, thousands of women live in DC who can’t afford it easily, don’t have the support, and are immigrants. The average cost of an abortion (through decent resources)$250 -$400, and even upto $1,000 depending on the risk. Good quality condoms cost good money, and as a result, my clients buy the cheaper quality which “pop” a lot. A lot of the time, its lack of proper sex education in our schools which result in faulty beliefs regarding pregnancy and its prevention. Bobby needs to provides better access to health care, and as a result, make sensitive issues like abortions, which even without the humiliation of back-alley clinics and the associated web of lies, are a traumatic enough experience. It can happen, so lets not pretend that it doesn’t, and try and prevent the horrendous complications that result when immigrants or natives, illegal or legal, try and access these resources. Teen pregnancy is not any better than an abortion.

    Thank you for your writing Aziza Ahmed. It is excellent. Hope to see more from you.

  • invalid-0

    Firstly, sexuality is controlled all the time. Just because somebody feels a sexual impulse, it does not follow that they will act on it.

    Secondly, consequences and punishment (resulting from a crime) are completely different. The consequence of sexual activity is pregnancy. Nature made it that way, the human law has nothing to do with it. The fact that something is legal does not mean that you can escape the consequences. Abortion may be legal, but no law can change the fact that every “procedure” results in somebodies death. That is everybodies business.

  • invalid-0

    Hi Harry834,

    Thanks so much for your response to my blog. It’s funny because as I was writing I thought about how I might make it more inclusive to men’s voices as well–especially because I really do think South Asian men often have a similar experience to women when it comes to talking about sex and relationships in the context of our community. I also think it’s so interesting that you quoted Harvey Milk– I often think that we in the broad South Asian community have striking similarities in our struggle to those in the LGBT community who are also have to hide their sexuality and are ostracized and shamed by many (let alone being both South Asian and LGBT). I would love to hear more about your thoughts so please do post more.

    Best, Aziza

  • invalid-0

    Hi Anonymous-

    Thanks for your very honest and real comments–and for helping to put more examples out there for us to better understand the issues! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your experiences and hope you will post more.

    Best, Aziza

  • invalid-0

    Thanks for your comment Anonymous. What do you think it would mean for him to have pride in his cultural heritage? I would be really interested in hearing more about that.

  • harry834

    I think growing up with fears of being condemned for my romantic desires might have something to do with my being pro-LGBT. It’s a fight for freedom to love and feel hope and desire.

    It’s great to have you posting as well.

  • invalid-0

    Aziza,

    Eloquent, powerful piece. I hope that as a community, we can value people’s real positions on crucial issues like reproductive justice over our desire to simply see more brown faces in the limelight. I think its important to encourage South Asians to be civically and politically engaged, but I’d rather see someone who is pro-choice, tolerant, open and generous succeed over a desi who actively fights for policies I find repugnant. Ideally, the progressive South Asian community can continue to grow and provide leaders who we can be proud of for both their heritage and their strong stand on the issues we care about.

  • invalid-0

    And if it fails, plan B is abortion. Face facts, we will never go back to it being illegal. You can do what you want in your own life, but you have a lot of nerve trying to tell women how to live THEIR lives. Somebody becomes a somebody through birth. Until then, it is a nobody unless the woman decides otherwise. After all, she would have to take care of it. Adoption, that is the giving away of something that you have to go through the trouble of the painful and life threatening giving of birth, is not an option for most women. We are not breeders to help infertile people either. No, it is STILL not your or everybody’s business. GET a LIFE- your own.

  • invalid-0

    I’m tired of seeing wonderful posts followed up by slut-shaming, pseudoscience, and similar crap by pro-liars, who almost always argue in bad faith. It’d be nice if certain IP addresses could be banned outright. They don’t have any inherent right to spew their drivel on a privately owned website.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you for a very well thought out and informative post that I very much agree with! I think of all women as my sisters, and I really feel for the added layer of problems that many young women who come from other cultures and religions have trying to access reproductive care. Thank you for enlightening me about them. Tonight, I sent President Obama an action to help women in other countries and cultures. It is very important to making the world stronger, so that girls will be educated, not abused or assaulted or made child brides and child mothers etc. etc. Please stay as a voice blogging to us, because we really need more women of all backgrounds to encourage women not to feel that they are invisible or that there is no voice that represents their varied experiences. When I was fortunate to meet and talk to Hillary Clinton, she said to me “we need women like you in politics!” Maybe you would be interested in running for office? We are a community, and like Hillary said to me, (I will pass it on to you ): we need YOU, if not to run, than to speak, like you are doing here. Great job!

  • invalid-0

    Excellent piece. Thank you for writing this. I am sad, also, that we cannot be proud of Bobby Jindal.

    I object as a citizen of Louisiana to his taking the limelight of our state’s misfortune to use as a bully pulpit for his personal political advancement. If I were cynical I would say he is just another unethical politician.

    I object as a New Orleanian to his playing the Republican game with our pain, ignoring the trauma, damage and collapse in this city that desperately needs the cooperation and intelligence he, as governor, could bring to bear on the problem. If I were cynical, I would say Republicans never care about reaching across the aisle.

    I object, as a woman, to his anti-choice position. If I were cynical, I would say he’s just another man who won’t care because he doesn’t have to and because there’s nothing in it for him.

  • invalid-0

    Typical liberal outburst, in favor of banning free people from free expression when it doesn’t agree with their own beliefs. Maybe the folks who run this place will ban IP addresses just like the RCC will change because you want them to.

  • invalid-0

    This is so eloquent and well-stated, Aziza. I appreciate that you begin this piece with your honesty about your inclination to like him, in part b/c of identity politics.

    There are too many South Asians jumping on the Jindal bandwagon b/c it’s vindicating to see ‘one of us’ in his position — especially after years of enduring racism and xenophobia.

    But the fact of the matter — as you so eloquently stated it — is that Jindal is BAD for women, bad for immigrants, bad for people of color.

    We don’t need our own Clarence Thomas!!!

  • invalid-0

    This is so eloquent and well-stated, Aziza. I appreciate that you begin this piece with your honesty about your inclination to like him, in part b/c of identity politics.

    There are too many South Asians jumping on the Jindal bandwagon b/c it’s vindicating to see ‘one of us’ in his position — especially after years of enduring racism and xenophobia.

    But the fact of the matter — as you so eloquently stated it — is that Jindal is BAD for women, bad for immigrants, bad for people of color.

    We don’t need our own Clarence Thomas!!!

  • invalid-0

    As a 6th-generation German-Jewish American, I am well-familiar with American Politics and the party of Bobby Jindal is well-known for its ‘Dirty Tricksters’ and agenda. I would love to see Mr. Jindal work for equality for all, especially women. But the Republican Party is famous for looking backward, not forward; to how things in America were, instead of dreaming of what they may become.
    Still, to defeat an enemy, sometimes one must fight from within, Trojan Horse style. Should we all join the Republican Party to change it? It’s crazy: But it just might work.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks Aziza for your post! I wish I could be as respectful as you were when talking about Bobby Jindal! But at best he is a sexist, misogynist, racist, anti-immigrant (irony of ironies!) hypocrite and one just has to look at his legislative record (as you illustrate) to prove it.