This post is going to be honest, real and possibly a little controversial. My intention is to share my experience from my perspective. I am not arrogant enough to speak on behalf of the whole black, female cohort; this is my story. I imagine that some people will disagree and that’s fine, my aim isn’t to get everyone to agree with me, this is simply me showing up, being vulnerable and being willing to be seen at the risk of people disagreeing and even viewing me differently. However, fear is no longer an emotion that I will choose to entertain; the fear of not been liked, fear of not getting any likes on Facebook *rolling my eyes* or fear of worrying about what people might think. My goal is simply to get us all to think about our own thoughts, ideologies and even prejudices around the topic of beauty.
The sunset, the ocean, flowers and a nice view are all visually beautiful to look at. If you ask people what ‘beauty’ looks like in the context of people you will probably get a standard response based on the external. The same premise we apply to beauty in nature we also apply to people, this premise being if it’s beautiful to look at it must be good. Well, Lucifer was beautiful to look at and most of us know how that story ends. Anyway, in my experience this has not proven to be true; just because something is beautiful to look at does not mean it is necessarily good.
Growing up I struggled with wanting to be what I deemed was ‘beautiful’ whether that be like my friends or the people that I admired on TV. I often felt that I did not fit into the ideal of what beautiful was and I wanted to so badly. I would change everything about myself to be anything but who I was because I didn’t think I was beautiful. As far as I was concerned what everyone else perceived and said was beautiful, was the total opposite of me. Let me explain what this idea of beauty is that I’m referring to: The White European version of beauty. Yes, I said it, don’t shoot me.
This was my norm; this is what I saw on TV the majority of the time. White, size 0 women with long flowing hair (I’m being very extreme here to make my point, Black women with long weave also fit into this category). I do not blame the media entirely; yes, they have a role to play, but until we decide to change we can’t expect anything around us to. As Mahatma Ghandi said; ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. So, because this was all that I saw as being deemed as beautiful, I was devastated because I did not fit into that mould. I was, and still am, a 5’1 (give or take a few inches), dark skinned Black girl with natural 4b/4c hair texture. I didn’t think I was particularly pretty despite getting quite a lot of attention from boys.
As a society we focus so much on the external and very little on the character or heart of people. Beauty is subjective, so for one group of people to determine what beauty is and then force it on the entire female population is quite obnoxious. Who are you or I to say what is beautiful based on something that is as superficial as whether a woman has small nose, or whether a guy has a six pack like David Beckham?
Men, please understand the weight of what you say to your female friends and family. Taking responsibility for yourself is exactly that; YOUR responsibility. Granted you are not responsible for how we as women receive what you say. However, you can help us by being consistent and neutral in your observations and comments about women. You cannot say in one breath that you find all women beautiful when you only publicly acknowledge the beauty of women that are stereo-typically thin, wear make-up and wear the latest designer clothes. I am not talking about personal preferences either, we all have those.
Ladies, we can help each other too. I’m just going to say this; women can sometimes be mean, both to ourselves and to other women. Growing up I was so mean to myself and the expectation I put on myself to fit into the ideal of beauty I would also put on others. Here I was wanting to be beautiful and I was judging other girls using the same measuring stick that I couldn’t live up to myself. Just because we have nice things, the latest designer clothes or we fit into society’s idea of beauty that I described earlier, it doesn’t mean we are any better or any more beautiful than the woman who has scars on her face after being in a fire or the homeless woman on the street, or the woman in Africa who’s hands are calloused because she’s been working in the hot sun. These women are just as beautiful even though they don’t fit into the typical idea of ‘White European’ beauty. The sooner we all understand that beauty comes in different colours, shapes and sizes and is so much more than the external that we place so much value in, the better.
Click here for part 2