So, what’s your type?
Everyone has a type or a preference in a mate. Some like tall and athletic, others prefer teddy bears. Some like very pale skin, whereas others are attracted to highly melanated skin. However, one must be mindful that these preferences don’t exist in a vacuum. The influence of parents, the community, as well as the media all contribute to what people perceive as ideal. What is often defined as physically attractive is very subjective, and a culmination of beliefs and external influences.
In light of the newest iteration of the Black Power movement, many facets of Black excellence and beauty are being highlighted. As we explore our identity, this leaves one to query ‘is black beautiful?’ or rather “which black is beautiful?”
1) Being dark skin and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive concepts
Many individuals, men and women alike, grapple with the notion of an individual, being an attractive woman and having dark skin. To others, it is a rarity to see a beautiful dark skinned woman. Kanye West rapped about this phenomenon in 2010: “…with some light skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands…”; which is in essence, the updated reason of, ‘you’re cute for a dark skinned girl.’
Colorism is centered in gender bias, and has a harsher impact on women of color. The same way structures exist to uphold racism by depicting black people as inferior; there are colorist structures that consistently depict dark skinned women as unattractive or intrinsically flawed. Vogue magazine’s recent cover feature of Simone Biles came under scrutiny by critics for its poor lighting and subpar editing. These blatant practices propagate racist and colorist ideas about Black beauty and Black womanhood.
The supermodels Ducky Thot and Anok Yai are gorgeous women, who are subjectively deemed more beautiful than the average woman. Yet, despite the international acclaim, they have both spoken out about their experiences with skin color discrimination and its lasting effects on their psyche. In addressing white privilege in all of its facets, one must be just as dogged in addressing light skin privilege. Just as speaking out against racism does not cause racism, it is also important to remember that speaking out against colorism does not cause colorism.
2) Colorism: a global epidemic
Around the world, dark skinned women, regardless of race or ethnic group, are invisible. From the dark skinned South East Asians to the Afro-Latinas of South America, women of darker hues are subjected to overt and subtle discrimination in these societies. In the seminal article, The Blacker the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy, the authors address the psychological damage of skin tone discrimination on young American women.
There are numerous recorded testimonies from women around the world who have attempted to assert their value and find self-confidence in colorist societies. However, the time for storytelling is past, and now is the time to restructure people’s minds. It is imperative that people understand that skin color discrimination, is the new age racism. As European populations and political hegemony come under threat, people with lighter skin tones will act as proxies for white supremacy around the world.
3) Scholarly research and candid discourse are the paths to healing
A) Individuals of all races, genders, and ethnic groups need to reflect on beliefs that they hold about female standards of beauty. In group settings, whenever there is a need to debate who are the most beautiful women (which is a problematic activity to begin with), ask:
-are they all the same skin color?
-is there variation in the type of women being discussed?
-do they possess the same facial features and hair?
-is the beauty ideal reflective of European standards?
By exposing individual biases, people can start to change their perspective. People must be allowed to view their beauty preferences as mutable and flexible. In exposing oneself to different ways of perceiving beauty, people can come to accept that there are different forms of beauty, regardless of skin color.
B) Dark skinned women in the Western world know where they stand in the beauty hierarchy, regardless of the curl of their hair, the fullness of their lips or the softness of their skin. In the comfort of their own home, they can bask in the dynamism of black beauty and tailor their IG feed, to see only beautiful black women. They can say, “My black is beautiful!” However, at least once a month without failure, a celebrity will say something disparaging about dark skinned Black women, sparking the same hackneyed conversation. So, as a dark skinned woman, how is it possible to maintain a healthy self esteem and a sane mind in a culture that is unequivocally biased?
- Participate in the conversation: In the context of the recent #BLM movement, several conversations about colorism are springing up on social media (see @darkest.hue). Support these platforms, read the stories of others, and provide support when and where possible.
- Face the societal bias: Many dark skinned women are uncomfortable speaking about colorism, often holding it as a secret shame. But by affirming one’s existence in a society that is hell bent on invalidating Black women, and to a greater extent, dark skinned Black women, it is possible to find solace in owning and harnessing one’s formidable power.
- Changing the narrative through research: There’s a need for scholarly research on skin color discrimination focusing on the damage caused by biased perceptions of female beauty. There must also be exploration into the psychiatric and psychological effects of colorism, on post college age dark skinned women. Frameworks must be developed to dismantle colorist policies throughout societies around the world.
If I counted the number of times I was called “Midnight Black” in a pejorative manner, throughout my life; or think about the times in India, when I was chased by shop owners because they mistook me for a Dalit (an Untouchable), I would run out of air. We can all continue to trade stories and worst case experiences, but now is the time to dismantle the structures that oppress many women around the world.
Read more at https://www.amtaarwellness.com/