Reena Soni aka @Reena.Paints currently studies at Western Connecticut State University pursuing her undergraduate degrees in graphic design and Digital Interactive Media Arts. She uses her paintings as a way of advocating for women’s rights and breaking social/societal norms. Always emphasizing the importance of intersectional feminism, she strongly supports the radical notion that all individuals regardless of identification of any sort should have equal opportunities and human rights.
“I watched my mother sacrifice so much in her life in order to raise my brothers and I. Her career, hobbies, social life, happiness—everything that made up who she is, died as soon as she came to America post marriage. And yet my mother never complained, never said a word about how far she had fallen in life. Once in her life, she had finally stood up for herself, and do you know what happened? Her husband had walked out on her and her three kids without giving it a second thought.
Who was to blame? Of course, my mother pointed fingers at herself for not being a good enough wife. Her own husband had manipulated her identity and she was completely shut down by society. When my mother was asked why she had stayed with such a man for so long in horror of everything she had put up with in life she simply stated, ‘I stayed for my kids.’ I never felt my heart drop so fast.
Here was a woman who had sacrificed everything in her life to raise her children in America to ensure that they would get the life they deserved. Not even giving a second thought about her own well being and health. From her perspective, she had not sacrificed anything in life. Once I asked her, ‘Mama, how do you find the strength and selflessness in you to give up everything in your life and still remain happy?’
She told me, ‘Dicra, when you are a mother this is what you do, your kids are your life, it is not a duty or sacrifice to provide for your kids.’ I remember hearing these words slip from her mouth without a single thought, I was so angry yet proud at the same time. From that day on, I decided to devote all of my work, my entire career to my mother. I changed my middle name to Reena, my mother’s name, and used it as my artist name.
Rani’s ????? I just wanted to talk about the Indian Vogue magazine featuring Kim Kardashian wearing a Lengha. There has been a lot of fixed feelings about whether or not Kim is “allowed” to wear a lengha. I think what bothers people like myself is the fact that women of color are not as equally represented in the modeling industry. The fact that Kim is wearing a lengha is not as big of an issue for me as is the fact that there are so many women of color, especially South Asian women, who could have easily been chosen. I understand that Kim is a huge star and she was probably picked as a target market, but that’s not the point. It’s beautiful to be accepting of different cultures and embracing its beauty, but if it’s constantly being represented by women who are not of the culture, is it really “accepting” the true essence of the culture?
In college, I did many projects and podcasts advocating for women’s rights and intersectional feminist awareness. On social media, people saw my posts and would message me similar stories and experiences. I began to realize how commonly accepted these actions towards women and these stories of women really are.
But tell me, just because something is common does it mean it is okay? For some reason, the South Asian community and culture have deemed women sacrifices and hardships as a way of upholding their family honor.
From the minute she is born, she is considered a burden, unable to carry on the family name, forced to pay a dowry during marriage, slapped with whitening creams, told what she can’t do before what she can, dragged into the kitchen and learn every meal a husband will ever need—from day she is born she is told that her goal in life is to get married.
As is she is not capable of being anything more? And what does she get when she’s married off? Abusive in-laws, an over demanding husband, she is told to forget about who she is and become a full-time housewife that spits out children- and God forbid she gives birth to a girl.
I cannot even express to you how angry this makes me, knowing that women such as my mother are told that this is what their life is supposed to be like.
My paintings represent this anger. They represent the generation of individuals such as myself who are currently and have been going against these social norms, fighting for the life they deserve. Each brushstroke holds the screams of the women before us, the cries of our sisters trying to find their lost voice in history.”
– Bhadrangi Reena Soni