Archive for the ‘women of color’ Category

I am thinking about beauty, about acceptability, about the notion of real women, acceptable women, the impossibility of the ideal woman and the great distraction that happens when we focus so much on what we look like – and how nearly impossible it is in this culture to just look like what you look like, be happy with that because no one is going to judge you for it (but see, already it’s not just a simple matter of being judged for it and then saying I don’t care what other people think about me because what other people think about me can impact where I can live, the work I do, and that impacts my ability to make a living, etc. etc. etc.)

Remember this?

The distractions – when we are so focused on our own stuff, we can’t pay attention to anyone or anything else. We can’t be involved in the real work of caring for each other and the rest of the created order. There are women and girls whose lives are impacted by the choices I make.

(Greenpeace notes: Thanks to the staggering public support for our international Dove campaign in April 2008, Unilever has now agreed to play their part in saving the Paradise Forests of South East Asia. As the biggest single buyer of palm oil in the world, Unilever has a special responsibility to help clean up the industry that’s behind so much forest destruction.)

So it is good to be on guard regarding messages about female perfection. But I was always a little squicked out by the fact that the first message came from a corporation that sells beauty projects. Shouldn’t a response to such an ad be “Yes! I’m going to say no to the messages about what I should look like/smell like/be like and the products and corporations that make try to sell me this stuff! I’m opting out completely!” My guess is that people who have made that decision aren’t buying this stuff anyway.

I don’t want to be the beauty/femininity/humanity police anymore than I want anyone to police me.

The other morning my 17-year-old daughter asked me to French braid her hair. As we sat on the steps I realized I hadn’t done this for a long time. There was a time when I did it every day. When she was small she had a considerable mass of long, thick hair. We struggled over it regularly because of the mass and thickness and yes, the nappiness of it. I tried to never give the idea that there was something “wrong” with her hair. Eventually she decided she wanted to get her hair chemically relaxed, and she continues to. I’ve been down that road… the hot comb (straightening comb, for you old school folks) and the chemical relaxers.

My preference would be for her to wear it natural… but I don’t want to police what she does with her hair and her body. What is the line between preference and self hatred? Is self-hatred birthed in being told you look like a freak?

From the advice column Annie’s Mailbox, September 18:

During my daughter’s last year of high school, she talked about getting dreadlocks. I didn’t want her to graduate looking like a freak and spoil her chances of finding a decent job, not to mention that getting rid of dreads can be nearly impossible.

(Note – I don’t know what racial category this writer and her daughter fit into. The letter is actually about her mother-in-law undermining her authority, and letting the daughter get dreadlocks. I have worn my hair in locks for over ten years now, and I’m happy to say that I don’t look like a freak.)

Some women prefer straight hair. Some women prefer light skin.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

h/t Siditty

It’s a long video – I’ll note some highlights. There are many heartbreaking things going on here – the damage these women are doing to their bodies, the generational hatred of dark skin. Also heartbreaking, though, is the condemnation of these women by the audience members and the show host herself. They never deal with the reality that our society constantly gives the message “white is right.”

At 21:56 Tyra finally talks briefly about living in a racist society. But only for a couple of minutes – then it is quickly back to trashing the guests – even tricking them by having a “doctor” offer phony medical procedures that promise to lighten the skin, although with terrifying side effects. That is horrid. The fake procedures that they describe to the women include burning off the top layer of skin, undergoing a skin transplant – sending skin to Switzerland?

The focus remains on fixing these women, and not on fixing society. Again at 39:05 Tyra mentions society, but again quickly blames the women for having a sickness, an illness. They are crumbling under pressure that other black women don’t cave in to. I’m not a therapist, she says, but there is something else there. She encourages them to do some “self reflection.” I suppose that makes for better TV, but really, in the end, what does it solve?

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This post has been brewing for some time. Renee posted about black beauty yesterday and it made me wonder if I could finish this. Maybe this will end up being a bunch of loosely connected paragraphs, masquerading as a post. At any rate, I have started and deleted, started and deleted. I’ll commit to not deleting and see what happens.

I have a love/hate relationship with magazines, and right now the hate part is stronger than the love. It works out well, because I spend less money on magazines that way. This love/hate relationship extends even to the magazines that are supposed to be about me and the women who look like me. I still subscribe to Essence magazine mostly because I feel an obligation to support a magazine for black women. But oh how it disappoints. Since this is a post about beauty, and blackness, I will stick to that theme.

It is disappointing every month to flip through the pages and see ad after ad, article illustration after illustration, of more black women who come close to approximating the “ideal” woman – light skinned, straight hair, etc. I wanted to page through the latest issue as I was writing this post, but I have already recycled it. I know on the one hand that the magazine is catering to what the market wants, and that the real money that keeps them in business comes from advertising. And much of what they advertise is hair products – and it takes more product to keep black hair bouncing and behaving than to let it be free. So – more straight hair ads – more advertising revenue.

I am conflicted because I don’t want to argue with black women and the choices we make about our hair. I wear my hair happily nappy… but I didn’t always. And never say never… perhaps one day I will go back to pressing my hair but my guess is that I probably won’t. Once I let my hair do what it wanted to do – to roll up into kinks and crimps when faced with moisture, the strands coiling around and around one another until they turned into locks impenetrable by any comb – until then, I didn’t look like myself.

So choices are good. I like that I can wear my hair the way I do and mostly not be regarded as some sort of freak, even though there are frequent reminders that a lot of people really would prefer it if we black women toed the line and beat our hair into submission in order to be … what? Respectable?

Lots of rumination on this theme:


Why do we have this double standard? Why is it what is pretty on those lighter than me, is considered ugly on my dark skin?

Why is ok to have “black” attributes, but not ok to be black?


Women of color and beauty carnival
This Carnival is intended to focus on beauty and what it means to and about women of color. In particular, I would like to see discussion go beyond a focus on the ways in which women of color can internalize self hatred to the ways in which women and communities of color recognize and celebrate beauty.

for real this

The fact that pretty/not pretty play out so often among women is no accident. This is not about adornment ( what makeup you choose, what clothes you wear etc) and it often bothers teh ever living hell out of me every time that lipstick/ non lipstick discussion comes up. It is assumed so often that participating in adornment which can be cultural, religious, ethnic, and powerful., is about pleasing men and means one thing.

In my life , adornment beauty practices are very much about taking care of myself and asserting my right to exist not as a second class citizen.

and certainly this

The more I think about this black women and beauty thing (and this is probably related to my growing older so also having to think about the white norm of beauty but the culture of worship of youth – worshipping their beauty, mind you and not so much youth as persons to be respected and listened to… but that’s another post for another day) the more I think about it the more I realize it’s not really so much about wanting to be thought of as beautiful, or wanting to be desired. It is not wanting the gaze of men which is another part of the whole love/hate relationship with magazines and other media targeting women – they all want me to attract get and keep a man – as if the whole sum of my womanly existence is about … men.

I was riding the bus home the other day. I usually like to sit toward the front, but those seats were taken so I moved to the rear and sat in a row about 3 up from the very back. Across the aisle and one row up were two young white women, high school age, they looked to be. They were coming home from an afternoon at the mall. About one stop after I got on, a white man who looked to be in his late twenties got on the bus, looked around for a place to land and seated himself across the aisle from the two young women. He immediately began to strike up a conversation with them – where were they coming from, what were there names, what school did they go to – all that. All of that with that look in his eye, you know – that gaze. One the one hand, what seemed to be frank appreciation for these young, beautiful women, and on the other, his absolute confidence that they wanted to engage him in conversation. They talked back and forth for a few minutes, him always asking questions and they always answering (and me thinking – you know you don’t have to talk to them, don’t you?) and I was even beginning to think I should intervene because it was starting to feel creepy when the question I knew he’d get around to came: So do you girls have boyfriends? They laughed and one said we don’t go out with boys. That statement was quickly amended to assert they didn’t go out with girls either, … dating wasn’t worth all the drama. Now they talked more and they revealed that one of the girls had gotten pregnant and recently had the baby; the father had walked away. Instantly the man’s body language changed, he turned away from them, his face lost its animation; he just plain wasn’t interested any longer. (An interesting side note, perhaps another topic for another day – the young women insisted several times that they were not “white trash.”)

I’m glad I’m not expected to play those games any longer. I’m glad to go unnoticed in these kinds of situations.

But what I do want recognized is the equal humanity of my body to that of what is thought to be the “norm” – whatever trope we are using for norm – the blond, blue eyed, perky girl next door, the all American boy … whatever it is that is acknowledged as real, as valuable, as worthy of having life… that’s what I want. I want an end to the hyper criminalization and hypersexualization of black bodies. And I know that female bodies of all colors are sexualized – look at those girls on the bus, look at any magazine, tv show, movie, the daggone Olympics and we know that women’s bodies are marked as sexual objects.

But for women of color there is a difference. While white women are certainly imaged as sexual objects, there are other images – among them images of purity, innocence, goodness, the girl next door, etc. As men of color are frequently imaged as animalistic and criminal, women of color are frequently (primarily?) imaged as animalistic and/or hypersexual. The subtext is – if bad things happen to us, it’s our own fault.

If video doesn’t play, click here.

This 1941 cartoon abounds with stereotypes, but I’m particularly interested in the “sexy” washerwoman as she is depicted over and against the other black residents of Lazytown (!). The sexy woman has less pronounced black features… she is lighter skinned, her lips are thinner, she looks more “human.” She is not heavy, like the washer woman she comes in to show how to do her job, and she doesn’t really live there. She is not quite one of them, but she is still black enough to be “other”. But she does not go outside the boundary of the prescribed roles of black women – asexual caretaker or good time floozy.

When I googled the phrase “beautiful black women,” the 8 google ads along the side were the following:

Free Nasty Black Videos

Beautiful Black Women – Meet your Future Black Wife

Watch Black Porn Movies

Big Juicy Ebony Booties

Black Women Seeking Sex

Women Photo Personals

Find Black Women

Beautiful Black Women – White Men Dating Black Women

By the way, white women fared only a little better under the google ad system – under “beautiful white women” there were 3 sidebar ads:

Dirty Cheating Wives

White Women – Meet White Women now

Mature Women

Under the phrase “beautiful women” there was simply one ad:

Are you a hottie?


When the radio talk show host didn’t like Cynthia McKinney’s hair, his comments were “She looks like a ghetto slut”

The markers here regarding her presumed identity are, well, remarkable.

Ghetto. Poor, black, uneducated.
Shiftless, lazy, undeserving of respect.
One who is best left alone.

Slut. Wantonly sexual.
Without morals.
Desirable for one reason only.

This is not about wanting to be admired or desired by random individuals. This is about wanting to live and to have my humanity acknowledged, and the humanity of all people. We are taught in this culture that if you disdain something, you don’t need to let it live. It frightens me to death that in a small Texas town, teachers are allowed to carry guns to school.

I wanted to know what kind of demographics were in the area … because I am suspicious. (Just because you’re paranoid….and all that.) Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the county:

As of the census of 2000, there were 14,676 people, 5,537 households, and 3,748 families residing in the county. The population density was 15 people per square mile (6/km²). There were 6,371 housing units at an average density of 7 per square mile (3/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 78.17% White, 8.86% Black or African American, 0.66% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 9.73% from other races, and 1.91% from two or more races. 20.54% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 5,537 households out of which 32.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.10% were married couples living together, 10.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.30% were non-families. In 2000, there were 136 unmarried partner households: 129 heterosexual, 3 same-sex male, and 2 same-sex female.

My search also landed me on a white supremaci$t site, which I will not link to. There was a discussion about the school district’s decision… where commenters were saying things like:

….if it’s a mostly black school, I can see why they want to be armed.

…maybe the best idea is to have lots of armed security to protect teachers and students from black and brown thugs.

That’s right. If the children look like mine, arm yourselves.

Or… recognize their beauty… their humanity.

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Via Pam’s House Blend

Focus on the Family asks for rain on Obama’s acceptance speech

I don’t know – could they display their contempt a little more openly?

A bunch of folks blogged about this…. now Isabel Garcia is being seriously targeted:

Garcia is currently under investigation by the AZ state bar for participating in a protest against a book signing for a book that supports active discrimination against immigrants and subversion of their rights. “Justice” and others, have misrepresented the events to say that Garcia’s “toting of a severed piñata head of a police officer” constitutes violation of the bar’s code of conduct. Garcia was actually picking up the head after protesters split the piñata open in traditional form. She and others actively protested the incitement of anti-immigrant sentiment and abuse of immigrants and the Latin@ community in AZ which they felt were being exacerbated by the event and the author. Should the review board decide that Garcia is guilty of violating codes of conduct, she could lose her license to practice law in the state of Arizona and would also lose her job as a public defender.

See profbw for full post and join the call for action:

Contact Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry in support of Isabel Garcia. 520.740.8661 or e-mail: chh@pima.gov

Contact the Journal Broadcast Group, expressing your opinion of Jon Justice and the tactics of 104.1FM.

Contact Julie Brinks: 520.290.7600 or e-mail: jbrinks@journalbroadcastinggroup.com

Contact the Board of Supervisors, voicing your support of Isabel Garcia, who has broken no rule or regulation as a Pima County employee.
Pima County Board of Supervisors
30 West Congress Street, 11th Floor
Tucson, Arizona 85701
Receptionist – (520) 740-8126
Fax – (520) 884-1152

Ann Day, District 1
(520) 740-2738

Ramón Valadez, District 2
(520) 740-8126

Sharon Bronson, District 3
(520) 740-8051

Ray Carroll, District 4
(520) 740-8094

Richard Elías, Chairman, District 5
(520) 740-8126

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From Racialicious:

I continue to hang in feminist spaces for a few different reasons. One, some of the people I consider allies are there and I want to show them some support. Two, because I want to start catching people who are becoming disillusioned. I want them to be able to find me. I want them to find links to me to someone they can relate to. It doesn’t have to be me. It just has to be someone. And three, because it helps me to find like-minded women, also relegated to the margins. I could easily find a womanist space to fall into. I could find a space that is by and for black women (sans the “feminist” or “womanist” label) but I want a bit more than that.

Read it all here.

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