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Monday, August 20, 2007

Ugly?

“ No matter what I do it’s never enough for you. No matter what I say…you’ll never feel differently…you don’t like what you see when you look at me.”—Vivian Green

I am ugly. No, please don’t dismiss this as my having low-self esteem, it just rings true when I compare myself to the standards set by society. As in many other cases, Black women are at a severe disadvantage because, as W.E.B Dubios stated many years ago in his book The Souls of Black Folks, we have to grapple with double consciousness. In other words, black women have to try to live up to the standards of mainstream white society and those of black society and sometimes do so simultaneously. This remains true even when we consider the concept of beauty.

I will once more use myself as an example. See I don’t fit the mold of what black or white people consider attractive. I’m too dark, my hair is too nappy, my nose and lips are too big, to fit entirely in the realm of European beauty dictates. I’m too skinny, and probably a little too dark, and un-curvaceous to fit black people’s perception of beauty. For example many white girls have told me that they wanted to be my size. Just imagine, despite my healthy appetite, I look like someone who hasn’t eaten in 10 weeks and white girls are stating that I have “the perfect body type.” My ex-boyfriend, who was white, thought the same thing. Apparently being rail thin, with a big fat behind is “sexy”, whatever that means this week. I suppose that if I had been born with a lil less melanin, long straight hair, and big blue eyes I’d been considered attractive. Hilarious! Cuz this sistah aint going out like that!

When it comes to black people, particularly those pathological black men who only consider mixed women, Latina women, white women, or black women who resemble those women appealing, I don’t really make the cut either. Don’t get it twisted both my parents are nappy-headed black folk so that eliminates me from the list right there! Unfortunately my community still suffers from colorism—the belief that light-skin equals good and dark skin equals bad. It’s also a belief that praises other typical European features and denounces any one who doesn’t fit the mold. I remember growing up making a concerted effort to stay out of the sun because I would be ridiculed by my own family for “getting darker.” I’m very serious yall, even though that’s pretty sad. Growing up, I was very aware that dark was somehow a bad thing. Luckily, I got older and abandoned this type of poisonous thinking. So has my brother who has chosen an absolutely stunning dark skinned woman as his girlfriend! But still this thinking prevails. I remember my mother warning me not to date dark skin men and bring her home “no black babies.” Ouch! Needless to say, I am still admonished by my family and others in the black community for my love of the sun.

But what about African beauty ideas? Do I fit within their beauty standards? Nope my skin is too light, my hair not nappy enough, my body not curvy enough. Alas I’m too much of a stick creature to receive their approval. I suspect that our societies know just how harmful these ready-made standards of beauty are. Just think about the absurdity of it all. First a society decides that all women should be beautiful in order to have worth and then we shun those who don’t meet the inflexible standards we subject them to. This is most tragic! Interestingly enough women don’t make the beauty standards. Who does? MEN! So women are shaving their eyebrows off, putting toxic chemicals in their hair, painting their faces, peeling their skin off, regurgitating their food, and going under the knife all to appease men! Unfortunately, a lot of the power to dispel this kind of thinking is in the hands of the patriarchy and in a world where the vast majority of men have been socialized to be superficial sex addicts, I don’t see many changes being made on their end.

How important is beauty to a man? I remember having a crush on a very attractive guy who was good friends with a close buddy of mine. Now keep in mind that I am a talented, articulated, educated, and sophisticated, fun loving, and down to earth young lady (pop my collar). Yet this young man cited my level of attractiveness as reason to dismiss me as dating material. He liked my other qualities enough to consider me a friend. He clearly enjoyed my company, but when it all hit the fan I just wasn’t his kind of pretty! Many incredible women are passed over and viewed as inferior by men who have these preconceived notions of what a woman should look like. Men gush over the cutes ones while at the same time devaluing many worthy and truly phenomenal women. I’ve seen this play out time and time again.

So if men won’t change, but instead exacerbate the problem, than what can be done? This is where women step up. This is where you, my sister, get a huge trash bag and throw out all of your cosmetics and instant-beauty remedies! Or at least evaluate why you have them. Do you wear your hair the way you do because YOU honestly like it that way or is it an attempt to measure up. Same thing goes for make up, clothes and accessories. Are these things really you? Do you enjoy the plucking, painting, and spraying or are you buying the lie that men have been selling us for centuries? I had to ask myself these same questions (I still do at times). So when I go out I wear what I like and screw the world! I don’t care much for make up so I don’t wear it often! Screw what the world says! I don’t always shave my legs cuz I don’t always feel like it! Screw what the world tells me. In fact all women should make this their mantra: SCREW THE WORLD! Repeat that until you feel empowered. Throw the fashion magazines away, stop funding a business that looks at you as less than. Stop letting outside forces dictate your worth to you!

I’m not implying that there is anything wrong with “pretty”, but I am suggesting that people should try to have their own definitions of what this encompasses—definitions that aren’t totally rooted in rigid societal conventions. There’s nothing wrong with attractiveness, but I believe that when God made human beings he had a very broad definition of beauty. In other words, why can’t Beyonce and India Arie both be beautiful? Why can’t Tyra Banks and Oluchi Onweagba both be beautiful. Why must it be either/or?

The truth of the matter is that no one really measures up. You’re always going to be too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny, too black, too whatever to fit this definition. Even those who we believe have attained this elusive and exclusive thing called beauty, still question whether they really have it or work painstakingly to maintain it.

So I guess I’m going to stay ugly, because this is one sistah who’s not changing her thinking or her appearance! SCREW THE WORLD!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a white male living in Europe, and I think that African-American girls are the most beautiful women on the planet Earth.

Crystal Clear said...

Thanks a lot anonymous! I would agree with you, but many would not. And it's unfortunate!

Anonymous said...

I am 21 years old, and it seems like not a day passes without someone telling me how pretty I am. What does that mean, anyway? Pretty...it feels like i've just passed some sort of test, like because I'm pretty, I am worthy enough for them to talk to me, and everything else about me doesn't matter because, well shoot, i'm pretty, why should i bother with anything else? I hate it. I really hate hearing that word...
Anyway i loved this blog, you really hit the spot!

Crystal Clear said...

Thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate the positive feedback. I agree with you, we live in a world where a women's worth is based on her appearance. That's really superfical, but that's the world we live in.