We ain’t got no alibi

I wish John McCain’s Bangladeshi daughter were prettier. It may be an odd thing to lament but I have my reasons. You see, Indian women are renowned for their beauty; Italian, French, Spanish and Mediterranean women are exotic; Scandinavian women are leggy and blonde; East-Asian women are mysterious and alluring; Latin Americans are seductive and sensual… the list goes on. But Bangladeshi women – well, no-one really knows or cares about us. And those who do, more often than not, think we’re all short, fat, ugly and downtrodden.

Take an episode of American sitcom How I Met Your Mother: A New York taxi driver tells Barney (one of the protagonists) ‘I’m from Bangladesh.’ Barney asks, ‘The women hot there?’ The driver takes out a picture of his wife. Barney recoils and whispers, ‘A simple no would’ve sufficed.’ I was amused but couldn’t help but grumble about our reputation for being a bunch of munters.

You see, your mates would never pat you on the back for scoring a Bangladeshi girl, a Google Image search for ‘Bangladeshi woman’ isn’t going to throw up a Miss World any time soon, and Lenny Kravitz would never tell a Bangladeshi woman to stay away from him because he’d never get close to one in the first place.

That’s why we really needed Bridget McCain – perhaps one of the most famous Bangladeshi females at this point in time – to fly the flag for us. Yes, I’m being superficial but heck, we need a boost.

34 thoughts on “We ain’t got no alibi”

  1. People are way to obsessed with appearance in this day and age. I don’t think it’s true that people think Bangladeshis are ‘mingers’ though you are right that most won’t know one if they see one.

    How about rather than Bridget flying the flag for arbitrary race-based beauty, why not use this platform she’s been given to speak her mind on any number of issues facing the current election/America or even to world today?

    Just a thought.

  2. I actually thought something very similar, but articulated in a less organised manner in my mind. Saying that however, it’s worth noting that she wasn’t adopted for her looks, rather because she was disabled and without a family when Mrs.McCain (can’t recall her first name) found her.

  3. There is so much wrong with this post that I’m not sure where to begin. Bipasha Basu? Kajol? Rani Mukerji? All the Sens? And that’s just in Bollywood. In the UK Konnie Huq ain’t exactly ugly either. I’m also omitting my own friends and acquaintances but only by name.

    Sure a lot of them don’t hold BD passports but then beauty in the way you’re describing it is hardly defined by political borders. I’m actually baffed as to how you could even claim such a thing.

  4. > Josh
    Jeez, such a spoilsport. It was only meant to be a fun post. As for "I don't think it's true that people think Bangladeshis are 'mingers'", trust me – it's quite common.

    > Shuhel
    You're right. It is a noble thing that Cindy McCain did. And yes, I'm trvialising it by discussing Bridget's looks but I *did* include the 'superficial'/'vacuous' disclaimer 🙂

    > Shak
    Firstly, I'm pretty sure the actresses you name are from the Indian Bengal but I *could* be wrong… I'm too lazy to google/wiki it.

    Secondly, I'm not saying that Bangladeshi women are not beautiful (Konnie Huq and indeed many of my friends and acquaintances in addition to yours ARE), I'm saying that many people PERCEIVE us to be short, ugly etc. In fact, I'm saying exactly what you are – that many Bangladeshi women ARE beautiful; it'd just be nice to have someone in the international public eye to prove that.

  5. >Shak

    You're kind of doing the usual Bangladeshi thing and pointing to our West Bengali neighbours to show that Bengali girls are beautiful. The stereotype is born out of Bangladeshi's being more conservative, and choosing not to adorn the public limelight as readily.


    Being a conspiracy theorist by nature, I think there's more to the who;e Bridget/Mrs.McCain thing than meets the eye. Hmm…

  6. This post reminds me of when I went out with a gujarati guy when I started uni; he was so ashamed to tell his friends that I was Bengali that he opted to tell them that I was guji instead as he had a "reputation" to think of. They had the perception that Bangladeshi's were short, dark, ugly & smelly(?)! Needless to say, that relationship only lasted a few months.

    I also remember a guy at uni telling me, that I was "too pretty to Bengali"…wtf!! I was not impressed and thought that was a very narrow-minded comment coming from someone supposedly quite intelligent. (I really disliked him from that moment on.)

    Bengali men are also given the same labels: short, ugly etc. It would be quite interesting to know where these stereotypes originated from. It's silly to generalise; there is good and bad in every race and as they say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". People just need to be more open-minded.

  7. >>You see, Indian women are renowned for their beauty; Italian, French, Spanish and Mediterranean women are exotic; Scandinavian women are leggy and blonde; Oriental women are mysterious and alluring; Latin Americans are seductive and sensual… the list goes on.

    and what of Pakistani women?

    >>a Google Image search for ‘Bangladeshi woman’ isn’t going to throw up a Miss World any time soon,

    Sonia Gazi comes close? (and yes she was an unknown until i googled "bangladeshi beauties"). konnie huq is, i suspect, more media friendly due to her muslim-rebel status than her being a bangladeshi beauty (she isnt beautiful, personally!). but hey there is an actress by the name of ayesha who i suspect is bangladeshi. she starred in meera syal's life isnt all ha ha hee hee?

    anyway, a bold and observant entry. i kinda understand where youre coming from and agree too; I believe bangladeshi's social status contributes to this perception – definitely here in the UK anyway. but come on, you cant deny that bangladeshi women are renowned for their big lips ..isnt that something?

  8. Asif Azim – a fine specimen of a man is Bangladeshi as is his beautiful mentor – international fashion model and designer Bibi Russell. She graced the pages of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar etc – albeit in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

  9. >sofi
    "but come on, you cant deny that bangladeshi women are renowned for their big lips ..isnt that something?"

    I'm Bangladeshi and have thin lips 🙁

    Like I say you can't generalise, I'm sure that not all Pakistanis have big noses 😉

  10. Shuhel, Kia, the point is that a lot of people DO find Bengali women attractive (and like I mentioned in my original comment in this context the passport you happen to hold is irrelevant, unless you’re implying Konnie is only hot ‘cos she’s British).

    And I may be just plucking this out of thin air, but most of the Indian women I know who got married out of their sub-continent are Bengali too, so people on the street ARE finding Bengalis attractive too.

    I just think that there’s a bit of a victim mentality thing going on here. A misplaced one at that.

  11. > Shuhel
    I love a good conspiracy theory 🙂

    > anonymous
    Thanks for your comment. That was pretty disgusting behaviour from your ex. I'm glad you got rid of him. While I haven't come across that tupe of extreme behaviour, I have heard the "too pretty too be Bengali" thing directed both at me and my friends on many an occasion.

    And don't get me started on the whole dark vs. fair issue. That's the one I hear the most.

    > sofi
    You make an interesting point about the social status. I agree that it probably has something to do with the misperception that Bangladeshi women are 'lower' than their foreign couunterparts.

  12. > Dina,
    I'll check them out. As a fellow Bangladeshi, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on whether this misperception exists or not.

    > Shak
    I think you missed my point as I'm pretty sure I addressed your first two points in my first comment.

    As for 'victim' mentality, I think Anonymous's comment shows that it's more than a mentality thing. You're Guji (or Pakistani… or both – I'm confused) so it's perfectly understandable why you haven't been on the 'victim' end of this particular misperception. My point is that it certainly does exist, perhaps not as widely as I suspect, but it *does* exist.

  13. >I think you missed my point as I'm pretty sure I addressed your first two points in my first comment.

    Not sure how. You say people perceive Bangladeshi/Bengali women to be short or ugly or whatever and yet they're the most likely (anecdotally) to be found attractive by those of non-Bangladeshi background, either by them actually marrying them or rating them in Bolloywood. Anonymous's story is unfortunate, but if anything it shows that she, as a Bengali was found attractive. It's doubtful the jerk hid her background because he thought she'd suddenly turn into a toad if people found out – it was more likely for other, cultural (and racist) but obviously non-physical, reasons.

    As for disqualifying my opinion due to my non-Bangladeshiness, well at least one commenter called you on your lack of praise for Pakistani women. And English women often get it in the neck from those across the pond (something about the teeth). Even if Bangladeshi women we're being treated unfairly, it's unclear whether it's any more than the rest of them.

    >My point is that it certainly does exist, perhaps not as widely as I suspect, but it *does* exist.

    I'll go with this. Whether it's enough to separate it from the treatment women of other background get I'm not so sure.

    Actually – where are all these people who claim Bangladeshis to be ugly?

    Perhaps this is another case of a Bangladeshi claiming a widespread and general problem to be just their own? It's definitely something that should be addressed of course, but to lay exclusive claim to it? Like I said: victim mentality.

    The only other explanation I can think of is that it's only Bangladeshis who hold these opinions about themselves. That too could explain why it's only Bangladeshis who notice the problem.

  14. > Shak
    Can’t you see that I agree with you? I am not saying that Bangladeshi women are not attractive – I am saying we are often perceived as unattractive. Anonymous said her boyfriend didn't tell his friends because “They had the perception that Bangladeshi's were short, dark, ugly & smelly(?)!” . If that doesn’t prove my point, I’m not quite sure what will.

    I wasn’t trying to disqualify your opinion because you’re not Bangladeshi – I’m sorry it came across that way. As for Sofi’s comment, yes, she pointed that out (I’m pretty sure she was being tongue-in-cheek) but she also said, “i kinda understand where youre coming from and agree too; I believe bangladeshi's social status contributes to this perception”.

    > Whether it's enough to separate it from the treatment women of other background get I'm not so sure.
    Perhaps women of other nationalities do get it in the neck as you say. If they want to write a blog entry complaining about it, it is their right to, no? I’m not quite sure where I’ve laid the ‘exclusive claim’ you mention.

    > It's only Bangladeshis who hold these opinions about themselves.
    I come back to Anonymous’s Guji boyfriend. I have heard Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan AND Bangladeshi people talk about this. Perhaps it’s a sub-continent thing rather than a global thing (even though the soap I mention was American) in which case, I think it might be related to social status like Sofi mentioned.

  15. But it's exactly this alleged "perception" I'm disputing. I don't think it exists, or least not to the extent that you're making out.

    I don't know the specifics of anonymous's situation, but it's quite bizarre if the guy didn't show off his Bangladeshi goif because of how she looked. Either she wasn't that attractive and proved his friends' prejudice, or more likely, she was attractive and disproved it. Either way the attitude of her boyfriend doesn't back up any "perception" since the Bangladeshi in question actually existed. There was nothing left to perceive.

    >I’m not quite sure where I’ve laid the ‘exclusive claim’ you mention.

    Well at the very least you won't get much sympathy if you just mention your afflicted own in isolation without mentioning those suffering from the more widespread problem. Come to think of it, I've probably heard more negative comments about Sri Lankan people than Bangladeshi.

    As for your range of prejudiced acquaintances, well I guess they're just as anecdotal as mine who don't behave in this way towards Bangladeshis.

    Finally it's pretty ironic how the only person who actually wished a Bangladeshi to be "prettier" within this post and its comments was a Bangladeshi lamenting the exact same attitude. Maybe you're just bringing it on yourself.

  16. > Shak
    Regarding Anonymous's comment, the perception existed among her boyfriend's friends. Whether he decided to prove or disprove their perceptions is moot. My point is that the attitude exists.

    I think it's pretty clear that you and I are not going to agree on this subject…

  17. With regards to the ex-Guji boyfriend – it has to be said that it was probably mostly due to cultural/racist reasons (not that I’m saying I’m attractive or anything) that he didn’t want to tell his friends (admittedly most were Indian/Pakistani) about me because for him, dating a Bangladeshi was almost on the same level as dating someone of a low caste or an “untouchable”. To put it bluntly he was ashamed.

    But as Kia mentioned, he and all his friends had that stereotype of Bangladeshis being “short, dark and ugly” anyway. They’re their words not mine. He even told me that in the area of the Midlands where he’s from, Bangladeshis are also seen as smelly and dirty, on top of the above-mentioned stereotypes. They are certainly not my perceptions. I do however agree that those perceptions about Bangladeshis are probably limited to the Indian subcontinent rather than being a worldwide view. (Actually come to think of it, they’re not thought of very highly in the Middle East neither.) But Shak, it’s hard NOT to take notice when people make comments like, “too pretty/fair to be Bengali” etc. Maybe I just went to uni with a bunch of idiots.

    Stereotypes/perceptions will always exist regardless of race/religion/nationality and to change peoples’ perceptions would be to oppose or weaken the stereotypes than to reinforce them. I wouldn’t be so harsh as to say Bridget McCain reinforces the above-mentioned perception about Bangladeshis but then Kia does acknowledge the “shallow/vacuous” nature of this particular blog entry. I always live in hope that people are intelligent and open-minded enough not to generalize, not just about Bangladeshis but other races/nationalities as well.

  18. Anonymous#3 (i.e the anonymous bangladeshi who addressed her comments at me),

    >>Like I say you can't generalise

    oops. apologies. did i hit a nerve? it was just a follow on to:

    "Indian women are renowned for their beauty; Italian, French, Spanish and Mediterranean women are exotic; Scandinavian women are leggy and blonde; Oriental women are mysterious and alluring; Latin Americans are seductive and sensual… the list goes on"..lifted from initial blog entry by Kia.

    >>I'm sure that not all Pakistanis have big noses 😉

    Funny you say that since all my pakistani friends have big noses.. 😉

  19. >Sofi
    Lol, well I suppose in a way you have hit a nerve; I hate my thin, small lips. I would love to have big (luscious, full) lips that you say Bangladeshi women are renowned for and be able to experiment with all different shades of lipstick but alas I have to stick to clear lipgloss and vaseline 🙁

    Let's just say, putting lipstick on me would be like "putting lipstick on a pig." 😉 (OK, bad joke, I know)

  20. lol @ Anonymous.

    But indeed, many of these derogatory conceptions towards Bangladeshis (and even Sri Lankans) come from an embedded racism that exists within south Asian culture. Do to the general darker nature of Bangladeshi’s in comparison to their Indian and Pakistani counterparts, this attitude clearly seems them on the receiving end of the prejudice.

    To further substantiate my claims:

    a) “Fair and Lovely” is the most wide selling “beauty” product in South Asia

    b) The villains in Bollywood films usually have dark complexions whereas the hero has a slighter complexion

    c) The language is such that Gori = Beautiful = White

  21. Personally speaking i dont think i’ve felt that Bangladeshis are percieved as an unattrative cultural group. I’m quite proud to be Bangladeshi and feel increasingly annoyed when someone tells me i don’t look it.

    In some cases i think people are suprised when you tell them you are Bangladeshi as we aren’t as prevalent in the media as our neighboring countries. Often the surprise is more to do with the fact that the person asking the question is oblivious as to where Bangladesh is, or what Bangladeshis are supposed to look like.

    Beauty is subjective and i think it’s extremely sad to let it be the benchmark to success/recognition – which is often what it is.

  22. oh my god i have just looked up bridget mccain on the internet and considering she is an orphan from bangladesh who was born with a cleft lip palate…. it isn’t very nice to comment on her looks! she’s obviously had it tough in life, give the girl a break!

  23. Shuhel’s right. But the funniest thing is when Asian people compliment me with: “You’re very light-skinned, it’s lovely!”

    To which I reply, “Yeah, my Dad’s white.”

    At which point they look shocked and aren’t quite as rapturous…

  24. There is a stigma attached to Bangladeshi’s – short, fat, smelly and ugly all fits the bill of that stigma. A shame really considering they’re one of the brightest- Kia Abdullah being one of the many I know of…..

  25. Bloody barney wouldn’t get away with saying that about my sister-in-law (or even in-laws). It’s because of my sister-in-law that I’ve got a beautiful niece and my youngest nephew who’s at the age of 15 grown up to be 5’10” tall already.

  26. I agree with your post Kia, they like to sterotype Bengalis as short, dark and ugly. I dont know why Indians say we’re all dark, they’re mixed like us. It’s coz compared to Indian/Pstanis there’s not that many bengalis around, hence the ignorance. And part of it’s from social standing. A guji gal once said to me “didn’t know you’re bengali” at uni. “They like to say things liek you’re too good-looking to be Bengali/You don’t loook Bengali” Does that mean that 45-50% of us dont look Bengali? I’ve met Indian/Pakis who were surprised that I’m Bengali, which is weird because Bengalis ask me if I’m Bengali or they just assume, especially the ones down Tower Hamlets and even Camden.

    The ironic thing is a lot of paki boys have been out with bengali girls coz they find them exotic and sexy, yet they still say “bengalis are all ugly”. I used to chat to a paki girl online and she used to contantly ask me “are you sure you’re good looking?” Every time I go down Tower Hamlets I see pretty Bengalis.

    There’s hardly any Bdehis in the media, in Bangladesh beautiful Bdehis gals dont want to enter the showbiz industry.

    Kia you’re an attractive woman but no offence but I’ve seen plenty of Bengali girls that are attractive on your level. But I hope that more Bdeshi women like you make us proud.

  27. As far as the stereotype of bengali people in general being unattractive is something that i come across regulary and to some extent agree.
    Firsty, not all bengalis are ugly but on the whole, i must admit there are loads of short ….dark skinned ugly people about.Its sad but its true….now before you all jump down my throat, Im bengali/bangladeshi and i belive im allowed to say this 🙂
    Me and my family are always misjudged as pakistanis because we do not fit the stereotype…we’re all tall, fair and been told pretty…..now although at times this irritates me, that people presum that we could not possibily be bengali at the same time, i do recongise that very few bengali I have come across look the same.
    neways to finish off…..its sad but its true most bengali’s are short and are dark…ugly???? I belive so….
    kia i agree, i think it would be great to have a pretty role model to highlight that bengali ppl can be pretty too.

  28. There are two reasons why all Bangladeshis are percieved as being ugly:

    1) There's not that many of us compared to other Asians

    2) Social Status

    It's mainly because of social status. If you look down on someone they appear more ugly to you. Bengali girls and other women find me attractive, when I meet Bengalis they usually assume I'm Bengali or they ask and they are not surprised, BUT half of the Indian/Pakistanis I have met have been really surprised that I'm Bengali, which at first I found weird and then irritating.

    "I thought you're Indian"

    "Didn't know you're Bengali"



    And you know what, I'm not that light for a Bengali, not very good looking either if you know what I mean. My sister gets the same reaction from other Asians, much more worse. "You're Bengali OMG", "You dont look Bengali", "Didn't know you're Bengali", "You're too pretty to be Bengali", "are you half Bengali?", "You're the best looking bengali girl I've seen". All of this even though Bengalis think she's Bengali!

    I've also heard very ignorant comments from my Pakistani female friend who said to me "Hindu Bengalis are pretty" (she always dissed Bengalis for being "all ugly"). I asked her to elaborate and she came out with "Sushmita, Bipasha, Riya". Long time ago my sis met a Indian girl who thought she was Indian and the girl kept banging on about how "ugly" Bengalis are. My sister told the girl that she was Bengali, the girl didnt believe her and said "you dont look Bengali". Then my sis said about Sushmita, Sharmila, Mahima (not sure if Mahima is Bengali), the girl said "I'm not talking about Indian Bengalis, I'm talking about Bangladeshi Bengalis!" LOL I swear people are so damn ignorant! I was little at the time and I was like "so dumb".

    There aren't many beautiful Bengali girls out on the media, except for Kia, Konnie & Tasmin. Wish there were more. In Bangladesh pretty girls dont want to enter showbiz.

  29. Yes, I get these annoying comments from Indians/ Pakistanis too, but we need beautiful girls like you Kia, to show everyone how Bangladeshi women are just as sexy and alluring as everyone else!

  30. The racism is definitely there from Nroth Indians and Pakistanis.

    Oh well, we need to work on ourselves as Bengalis to improve our educational and economic status and to tackle the fair thing, then finally our youth will stop being so ashamed to be Bengali, losers.

    I'm proud to be a dark Bengali, woop!


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