On Life, love and Politics

"Random musings about Life, love and Politics. Just my open diary on the events going on in the world as I see it."

Misconception of Beauty in Western Culture and How it Affects African Women November 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — kikenileda @ 7:30 PM


Beauty is derived from the norm. It is usually a misconception due to
various western standards of beauty. Many celebrities conform to this
misconception. Some conform by getting quite expensive cosmetics
surgery and others who try to be defiant suffer quietly as they
represent the women who watch T.V. each time to discover they are not beautiful at
all or enough are the ones to be pitied the most. It's saddening how
the media affects our lives; most times negatively. Of all groups of
women the least representation of a beauty ideal in the media are those
of African Women. Dark skin is seen in pop culture as quite frankly
unpopular and of these stars whose are dark skinned they are not
necessarily patronized for their beauty.

Never in history
besides in the African culture was looking African a good thing. It's
usually tied to the look of poor children and women with harsh dark
skin and their breast out as predominately shown in the media as
African people. Naturally I originate from the continent of Africa
(from the country Nigeria); my features are testimonies to this.
Despite my somewhat white features like my nose and fair textured skin,
I was ridiculed in high school for looking too African.

As learned in
women's studies class, stereotypes are usually contradictions. These
contradictions helped me to see the struggles attached to them. Boys in
my school liked the big booty, thighs and natural curves and they
pursued me for it. But then I was usually teased for being too dark
especially in summer time and for the gap between my teeth and lastly
for my "bush hair", as they would call it. I was always called bush
which is a degrading term meaning uncivilized. This assumption that I
was beautiful and naturally figured but was "bush" ties back to my
research of the misconception of beauty in the Western Culture and how
it affects African Women, in this essay, me.

"While standards of beauty have been around as long as the human race,
in this era, the beauty world is witnessing profound cultural
changes…"( Regina Jere-Malanda;59) The article in which the above
quote is derived from ask the question of who is an ideal African
beauty? It tries toexplain the issue we all as
African women deal with in the mass media. It shares that the standards
of beauty in the world are not in the direction of minorities
especially African women. I trust that this quote is accurate. It not
only explains the phenomenon of today's beauty shift; it ties the
mental state of the public to their discrimination in beauty. Back
then, during the 90s and the civil war, blackness was promoted thus
publicizing dark skinned women or Afros. Now in the 21century the norm has swiftly changed to the whiter you are as a black woman, the more beautiful you are.
"Beautyis subject to the hegemonic standards of the ruling class. Because of
this, 'beauty is an elusive commodity.'" (Tracey Owens Patton; 25) This
quote serves as evidence that beauty is no longer decided by nature or
what is naturally appealing to the eye; it has been constrained and
geared towards a certain class and race and African women are neither
part of this nor ignored from it; we are just simply the "other". The
"other" serves as a term of any subordinate group in society who is
mostly unheard or underrepresented. When it comes to beauty especially;
we are simply and tragically the "other".

"Women of color
looking for answers through an introspective gaze or through their
communities in order to counter White hegemonic defined standards of
beauty are not a new occurrence." (Tracey Owens Patton; 25) Black women
or African women have always looked for a means to feel beautiful. They
usually look for these through their communities; but even within the
African communities the western idea of beauty dominates terribly. Even
within the African American communities, hair extensions are very
popular and growing. Women of other races on the other hand are almost
never seen wearing plaits or an afro. This is not because they cannot
naturally attain this look, but the Afro centric look is strictly,
point blank, not in. My mother serves as a good example of these facts;
during her teen years in our country, Nigeria, in her social set you
were not up to date unless you bleached your skin to white. A lot of
the women and men in African culture correlate light-skinned-ness to
beauty. Why is this you might ask? Well as explained so far; African
women and their beauty are underrepresented and strictly and simply-put
not regarded as beautiful in society.
There are two particular theories that promise to potentially change
these beauty norms in society. Standpoint theory is one that includes
all perspectives and advocates their right to be heard. . "Standpoint
theory coupled with Afro centric theory.
afro centric theory is another way to;redefine and confront the marginalization and racist beauty standards felt by all women and is an extremely powerful
critical tool in which to examine body image, hair and race." (Tracey
Owens Patton; 32) The standpoint theory doesn't only deal with beauty
racism in general but in my own words, it erases the "other" in society
and causes them especially to have a voice. The afro centric theory on
the other hand, deals specifically with African women and the fact that
they are excluded in the beauty ideals that the society presents to
them. With these two theories put together we have a promising future
in erasing Western beauty norms that already dominates so vividly.

"Whether intended or not, hair makes a political statement. To counter-hegemonic
Eurocentric standards of beauty Black women in the past and present
continue to create resistant strategies as their beauty was not and is
not predominately represented." (Tracey Owens Patton; p. 40) As
explained by the quote, black women or African women all over the world
have silently fought these dominating beauty standards either by
wearing braids or by wearing their hair in dreads etc… The issue with
these deviances is that there are not enough beauty products being
produced for black women, despite the fact that we purchase hair care
products more often than any other race.

An article " Love
your Curls" by Mia Stokes expresses, " When major outlets offer
skin-care brands specifically targeted to African Americans, the
selection is often too small or too hard to find." (pg. 40) As
described above in the article, there are little to no choices for
African women who choose to embrace their natural beauty. I might be
wrong, but I believe this is due to a fact that most other African
American women wear weaves or wigs or some type of unnatural hairstyle;
thus leaving little demand for the natural hair products for African
women who want to wear their hair natural. The stems to support the
thesis again that there is a strong misconception of beauty in Western
Culture and that it impacts African women, negatively.

the tribes of the Kalahari Desert, shiny skin is considered an
attractive feature, so much so that even in times of famine, the tribes
choose to use precious animal fats as skin emollient rather than as
food." (Erica Reischer & Kathryn S. Koo; pg 297)

quote serves a very vital point. Beauty in Africa might not be
recognized as dominate but beauty is very important in the African
culture. African women are so entrenched in looking attractive that
they would rather do without food. This do not mean are common amongst African women. It's very rare.
 subordination and that is of main concern to the African communities and feminist movements in Africa and all over the world.

ideal as far I am concerned does not exist. Every race has those
dominating features that apply to their group. The beauty standards in
the world should not be dominated by one race only because it does not
place all the other races beauty in perspective. Why then do we as a
culture tend to embrace the Western beauty ideal? I believe it's simply
because the Western culture dominates in the world and is thus
overrepresented in most vital areas of life.

How then do we begin to dissolve this beauty norm in the world that leaves some groups with eating disorders
or some with the mentality that only if they were lighter they would be
seen as more beautiful? It's sad and it's unfair. It's unfair because
beauty is in the eye of the beholder and since there are so many
different looks all over the world; we shouldn't be choosing one over
the other because one way or the other they represent a form of beauty.

is a cruel demon that derives from a wicked heart and from lies. It is
not to be embraced or protected. Whether we are women of color or
white, we all need to feel like we are beautiful since beauty is such
an essence of our being. It is needed and it is not a luxury. Maybe
from here henceforth I, an African woman, will not perm my hair or let
my dark radiant skin be ridiculed. Just maybe. But as of now, I
represent a typical African woman who does not want to be the " other"
so in order to be "in" I'll endure the perms and ridicules because I am
only one woman but as I was told " one can chase a flight and two can
change ten thousand." With this in mind I will put in my best efforts
to speak out and to not perpetuate the stereotype regarding beauty as



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