Taman Kaur: Leave Shannon Singh Alone

This past Monday, the popular reality show Love Island announced their new cast list and among them was a young Scottish woman, Shannon Singh

Taman Kaur
June 24, 2021 | 2 min. read | Opinion

This past Monday, the show Love Island announced their new cast list and among them was a young Scottish woman, Shannon Singh. 

Within an hour of the announcement, a petition started circulating to stop her “from entering love island”, and multiple brown men and women took to Twitter to slander her for ‘ruining the Punjabi and/or Sikh community’s pride.’ The argument is that using Singh in her last name brings shame and represents Sikhs poorly in the media. However, it does not appear that she publicly self-identifies as anything other than Indian-Scottish, regardless of the fact that not everyone with the last name Singh is Sikh. 

I, like many other folks, took to Twitter in response to these negative tweets to call out the hypocritical behavior of the online brown morality police. 

Placing the onus of representation of an entire community on one woman participating in a reality show is a fallacy. Punjabis or Sikhs are not a homogenous entity, we actively celebrate the diversity of practice and opinions within our spaces and push back against the mainstream media to not place us under one stereotypical umbrella. 

So why is it that in this particular case the burden of representation rests on a singular person? Has she claimed to be a voice for all Sikhs or Punjabis? Again, she has only truly proclaimed her Indian-Scottish identity to date. 

The topic of Shannon Singh ‘bringing shame’ to the larger community is emblematic of a bigger problem of policing brown women. 

Podcaster Harpo, from BrownGirlGuilt, made a post that contextualizes the issue of body ownership as a Punjabi woman. In it, she writes: “It’s almost like our bodies aren’t even our own. It’s almost like we’re paying rent to occupy our bodies. Just as we would need to seek permission and approval from our tenants before putting pictures on the wall, changing the colour of the paint, or ripping out the floors, we’re required to seek permission and approval when modifying our bodies.” In this instance, it is the sharing of our bodies and the activities we choose to participate in.

There is an extremely specific type of policing that occurs in our online spaces.

From the continued harassing comments that brown women face under our Instagram and Tik Tok posts asking, ‘would your mom/dad/bibi approve?’ (in the case of Shannon Singh, they actually do approve of her appearance on the show and in fact, encouraged her to get into glamour modeling) to doxxing, and threatening us that our content will be sent to our families. 

It does not end there, if we choose to publicly post content we have created, men and women in these spaces think it is automatically okay to question our personal practice of Sikhi, even if the content is not related. 

Women continuously get attacked under the guise of respectability politics; it does not matter if you wear a daastar or not; how you dress, how much makeup you wear or keep facial hair, what you identify as and who you proclaim to represent, it will always be commented on.

With all this being said, how do we as a community move forward? We in the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora talk about breaking generational cycles but we also continuously participate in them. When outrage over none issues like this occurs, we can drown out the negative voices with affirmations and positivity. For those of us who cannot help but write a negative response, it is sometimes best to just mind our own business and move on.

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Taman Kaur is a daughter of the Punjabi-Sikh diaspora settled on stolen indigenous land, Taman Atwal calls multiple places home. She is an activist and creative who is dedicated to working towards change in the community she calls home. You can find her on Twitter at @TamanAtwal.


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