Running around New York. (futurebird) wrote in talk_politics,
Running around New York.

This article is sort of clumsy. It seems like she's about to make the point that far too many of the black women we see in media as examples of beauty are still closer to a Eurocentric beauty model, or they are "anything but African American, slave decent, people like us" (ie. Wek, who is stunning, but looks quite different from most black American woman.)

But, then she stops short of saying that, and gets caught up in her own personal BS. This is easy to do. I do it. I've seen other women do it. In addition the article talks far to much about what black men want-- as if that were the most central issue. She equates the term 'Exotic' with those black women who have a mixture of European and black features-- something that didn't really ring true to me, but maybe we have experienced the word in different ways.

That all said, I think that the still prevalent and powerful Eurocentric/anything but you-people nature of print and popular media can have a damaging impact on the mind of young black girls and boys. It can warp our ideas about beauty no matter what type of sexual or aesthetic preferences we may have. It can influence what black people and people of all races think will be desirable in a partner. We each tell ourselves that our choice of partners is independent social pressures, but looking at population-wide trends suggests otherwise.

The Wrong Kind of Different
As a young girl in a mostly white environment I never thought of myself as exotic or special. There was a girl who moved to our suburb from Iraq and she was very exotic and special in the eyes of my peers. Now in my 8-year-old mind that was very enviable! I wished I could be exotic in that way. I knew nothing of the BS and baggage that my Iraq-born peer must have been facing-- to my mind it was like being a princess come from a far away place... to be different. It never occurred to me that I was pretty different-- that was the wrong kind of different. I thought I was more plain than everyone else since, in the words of one teacher who thought she was helping "brown is the most common skin tone in the world." How do we internalize all of this by such a tender age? I was not the only young person who felt this way-- it was a view I shared with and learned from my mostly white peers.

Yo' Mama.
She's so, dark, fat, nappy and big lipped. And she's on welfare. Why did the boys, both black and white love these jokes so much? They play a big role in spelling out what a woman should NOT be. My parents deftly blocked some of this, my mom went out of her way to impress upon me that dark skin is beautiful. That darker skin could be more beautiful. I knew enough to say "Hey that's not funny!" when the dark skin or nappy hair jokes came out. Sadly, I also learned that being fat and being on welfare are solely matters of Personal Responsibility(TM). And I had a pretty warped idea of what "fat" meant. My grandma has warped ideas about nappy hair. (she thinks it's gross) I know a black woman who loves her body but hides from the sun like getting a few shades darker would kill her. (do you know many of us are vitamin D deficient?) So, some of these jokes stick to us. In what ways were notions of beauty spelled out for you as a young person?

We need to see beautiful woman who are dark, fat, black american and nappy. Well, in fact, I see such woman every day. But, I do not see them in media-- and that may seem minor but I think it can have a huge impact. We need to have this beauty publicly identified an affirmed shout it from the rooftops this is what is beautiful, pretty, lovely, elegant. Use these words. Not some other almost there words, like 'curvy' or 'strong.' To correct this kind of thinking you need to go in the opposite direction with equal and opposite force. It's not enough to have one or two such icons... how many thousands of times have you seen a woman who is thin, white, with european features described as beautiful? We don't even notice it any more. It takes time to unlearn. It's not enough to decide that it is true just for ourselves, we need to make it clear for this next generation of girls-- who are bust internalizing most of the same BS we grew up with. Nor is it enough to have a few women here and there who are black but with very european features, or features not common in American black women-- that too sends a negative message. Like the white guys in college who explained to me that black woman are beautiful if they are the "right kid" of black woman. Which brings me to this last point; cultural change may start from within the black community, but this issue (which is only a small part of a larger issue that involves women of all races) is something that people of all races should think about and take up. Just as fighting homophobia is not just work for gay people-- this doesn't get solved unless we all talk about it openly. Demand better media and discover the greater spectrum of beauty.
Tags: opinion, race, society
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