Race and Gender

Issues facing black men and women

Standards of beauty May 7, 2007


Beauty!! Beauty!! A question I always wondered was what is beauty, how is it measured? When I was younger, I had a very weird and interesting conversation with my father about the difference between someone who is beautiful, cute, pretty or handsome. I wish I had listened to what he said that day. However, I have always wondered, on what conditions and measurement where his definitions on.

Growing up as a young girl in Nigeria, I was darker in complexion compared to my other friends. I always wondered why I was so dark. I knew I was beautiful but secretly wished to be lighter in complexion. I knew a lot of people in Nigeria who bleached their skin so they could be fairer. I wondered what was it about being black that made us question and dislike our skin and want to be something else.

After I moved to America, my awareness of my skin color was heightened. I had discussions with friend about skin tones. Most of my friends said in general most black guys dated white girls, and the guys who dated black girls mostly dated the light skinned girls. Why the preference to white and light skinned?

I believe most of the reason for the preference of lighted skinned or white lies in the colonial oppression and slavery. Black people have been made to believe that aren’t beautiful enough. They have been told they look like apes and are inferior mentally and physically. The message during the colonial period was about spreading light to the Dark Continent. Also the spiritual connotation of white representing holiness and light while black representing darkness and evil was spread during the colonial era and still lingers today in our society. These negative meanings affect the way in which black women see themselves. Even in magazines there are very few black women portrayed as beautiful.

In our society today, the standards of beauty are being thin, skinny and especially being white. A lot of black women try and fit into this standard of beauty. They relax their hair so it isn’t doesn’t appear “nappy” and wear weaves and wigs. What is the problem I often ask myself, is that we are ashamed of who we are that hide under artificial hair and apply chemicals onto our hair just to achieve society’s standard of beauty of appearing white. Recently, I wonder why I am always so eager to relax my hair so it doesn’t become natural. The sad part is I have no answer to this question. I have fallen to this false standard of beauty.

India Arie is an amazing musician who I admire and respect a lot. She is a proud black. Her song I am not my Hair affected me so much. She says” I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not you expectations but I am the soul that lives within. Good hair means curls and waves, Bad hair means you look like a slave”. These words are very powerful. In society the standards of beauty are warped. However, we are more than the world measures us by. Since then I have been inspired to grow my hair naturally. I still have gotten there but I pray one day I will.



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10 Responses to “Standards of beauty”

  1. scratchy888 Says:

    Franz Fanon looks into the psychology of this, but I’m not sure he provides a satisfying explanation of the colonial dynamics — he just explains the consequences of these.

  2. Everstina Says:

    The book is called ‘Black Skins, White masks’ by Frantz Fannon, who also wrote the wretched of the Earth.

    The book is very insightful. But when reading this I ask you to remember that Frantz Fannon himself married a white woman. His reason was that he was a french man that was marrying a french woman even though he was against black women marrying white men…?

    The complications continue….

  3. gia Says:

    Black is beautuful! Enjoy being different….for you have something very great. It dosent matter what shade of black you are, you are still an image of god and he made you in his image…..

  4. Ebere Says:

    Well..
    Try combing long natural hair 5-7 times a week and if your hair is anything like mine(very strong and thick) you will quickly make a choice between a very low cut natural hairstyle or a relaxed longer hairstyle which is easier to style.

  5. The Star Blazer Says:

    Everstina, Frantz was/is a TYPICAL BLACK MALE HYPOCRITE, talking that mess yet marrying some White woman, THAT is why Black females hate their hair/skin /features, because of BLACK MALES and their Black female-hating behavior! “French man” my eye!

  6. Saraswati Says:

    I know this is an old blog, but I just wanted to say that while the preference of Black men for women with straighter hair or narrower noses is culturally constructed, the preference for fairer skin colour is almost universal (if you don’t count the very recent and isolated Western fad of tanning). This is because it’s a factual biological phenomenon that women of any race tend to have slightly lighter skin than the men of their race. Less melanin is a trait indicative of femininity, just like smaller waists, wider hips or buttocks, shorter stature, larger eyes, etc., and men are biologically geared to prefer women who exhibit more feminine traits…

    So the whole thing gets extended in a multi-ethnic globalised community and the men, when choosing between two equally beautiful women, will tend to prefer the fairer one even to the extent of her being a different race than himself… It’s nothing to get worked up about, really, even though it can be frustrating to us darker-skinned women. Here in India it’s the same, and contrary to popular belief we are not this way because of Western influence. Fair skin was the ideal here long before Europeans colonised us. The East Asian countries are the same. It’s all about damned biology…

    Most of my women friends use fairness creams, but I refuse to give in because it would contribute to the continued marginalisation of my Dravidian people and we are finally making progress.

  7. Velma M Green Says:

    I agree with you about not being their yet most of us aren’t, were just to afraid of being who are. Just ask yourself how does the Creator feel about that? Its like an artist that formed a work of art that is so beautiful in his eyes, who am I to deface such a beautiful work of art.

  8. Velma M Green Says:

    Where just afraid of being who we are.

  9. What a beautiful way you have addressed on this issue. I have a campaign called The Fl{awe}d Project which focuses on this issue in the Philippines. We both can definitely relate as being colonies in the past as well as coming from a country with colored people and I applaud you for doing this. More power to you!

  10. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you should publish more
    about this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but
    typically folks don’t speak about these issues. To the next! All the best!!


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