I have told this story a million times but it never gets old. At least not to me. It was the story of the day I learned that I was dark skinned. I was in the 8th grade and I heard someone describe me as ‘the dark one.’ In that moment I thought to myself:
“Am I that much darker than everyone that I have to be singled out? I love the color of my skin but am I THAT different?”
I figured out my truth in that moment and I was proud of it. I accepted the fact that I was a dark skin beauty and I loved every minute of it.
I love being able to shock people when I walk in a room. They can’t decide what to look at more. The color of my skin, the shaved head, the loud voice, the big lips. I knew that -and I loved it. I still love it.
But that made me think of a few things that included the dark skin woman and the way beauty is perceived in our culture and in the world. I’ve watched the message change while growing up; as a young impressionable woman to a woman who just decided she was over it and she accepted who she was and how she looked.
We’ve shifted from a culture of telling women ‘solid’ is sexy to ‘skinny with a fat ass’ is better. We’ve moved from a ‘mango skin run things’ to ‘the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice’ and ‘dark skin is regal and kingly.’
What does any of this really mean and why are we marginalising beauty? Why was I made to think that having large lips was unattractive and then Angelina Jolie came on the scene and suddenly, it was exotic and sexy? Who’s coming up with these standards of beauty and why is it only okay when the Caucasian woman does it?
Listen, I’m not the ‘angry black woman’ or ‘fighting against oppression with the fist up, marching ‘sista’ but I can understand why black women are fed up with the perpetrating. Black women always had big, natural hair with big curls. Black women always had fat asses. Black women always shook their asses on beat. Black women always knew the value of education. Black women have been beautiful AND smart at the same damn time so why is television and the internet acting like we didn’t do it first or have been doing it all along? Why is the media showing us the way they praise women that look just like us but … they’re of another color ; so let’s drool while we look at them.
This is disturbing for me. It is disturbing because I think of young black women who are younger than me and they are still being influenced by these ads and messages. It is disturbing because I think of the possibility of being the mother of a young black woman who feels like she has to change the color of her skin or the texture of her hair in order to be considered beautiful by men and the world at large. I don’t want that to happen to those young black women and many others around the world of different backgrounds and heritages.
I want young women to know that it is okay to look the way you look. You don’t need permission from the media and music videos to feel beautiful. You don’t need a man to tell you what beautiful is and you certainly don’t need to change who you are to fit his mold.
Men are using media to define beauty
With more men than women running media houses across the world no wonder most of the messages pushed include some subliminal messaging of what is considered beautiful. You see; television in my opinion is not only a reflection of who we are as a people but it also pushes (oftentimes strongly) the message society at large wants us to believe.
Let me rephrase that. I meant to say: the message the corporate companies want us to believe about our race and our self-esteem. They try to tell you that you need all these expensive beauty products but in truth, your skin is just fine without that ‘super glowing skin refining and rejuvenating cream.’
What does that mean?
That means that if men are directing the course of action in our films and main stream media they are the ones with the power to push any message they please. And there’s no denying that we learn about new trends through film and accepted social behaviour through commercials, sitcoms and much more. If men want to push their definition of beauty through media, they sure can; and they are. Every woman should feel like it is wrong for a man to decide what is defined as beautiful or anyone for that matter; no matter the gender. We should all stand in agreeance that we should be comfortable in our skin, no matter what skin looks like or is shaped as. We are the ones in charge of our bodies and what we are comfortable with.
It is my aim to encourage every woman I come into contact with to be proud of being a woman no matter their color or size. I say – be that brown girl in the ring and show the world what you’ve got. We don’t need other people to validate it for us or take it away from us.
What are your views about being a black woman in the 21st century? What has your experience been? How do you feel about attributes that we were born with suddenly being praised; but only if it’s on a celebrity? Vent below.