Beauty Standards. . .What’s Ideal?

I believe the answer will depend on whom is being asked. Beauty can be…and is expressed and translated in many forms. One may express beauty through art while another may choose to express beauty through fashion, hair, music or all of the above. In regards to physical beauty, there are usually various opinions and debates on what is and what is not ideal.

When I saw this image, I stared at it for a while. It fiercely resonates with me. 99.9% of what is written has been and at times. . .is still said to me. I went back to my natural kinks almost 20 years ago. The natural products you now see on shelves did not exist back then. At that time, I was attending Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus. I befriended a few Naturalista’s at school and they provided me with information on natural hair products. I started purchasing Carol’s Daughter’s products. This is when her shop was at Spike Lee’s old Joint on Dekalb Ave & South Elliot Pl; literally a few blocks from school. When I found these products for my hair, I was the happiest woman on Earth. Not only did I have natural products for my texture; to see a black woman who owned and operated this business with her family was just PHENOMENAL!

Prior to going back to my natural kinks, I had a perm and wore weaves. I loved it! Society taught me that this was how my hair should look. I felt beautiful. . .but, there came a time where this stopped agreeing with me. Years and years of chemical abuse started to show. My hair was breaking, shredding, falling out…It was very weak and tired! It was then that I made the conscious decision to just cut it all off and start over. This also awakened a new me!

My natural hair downright offended folks. I would hear, “What is that on your head?…It doesn’t hurt when you comb it?…I really think you would look nicer with a weave!…Press that shit!…It’s too kinky!…You look like a coffee shop chick!…You really look African now!…You look like Kizzy from Roots!…Can I touch it?” I even received criticism from my parents. I’ll save my complete story for another day 😉

This image speaks volumes! Whether you are dark-skinned and natural, light-skinned with straight hair or vice versa; you face ridicule, judgement, whisper…all kinds of opinions will be thrown at you. This happens because society spreads it’s own convoluted messages on what beauty should look like.

Why should I wear my hair straight because you don’t know what to do with your natural hair? Why should my friend cut off her relaxer because you went back to your natural kinks?


Body Shaming. . .What’s That? Unfortunately, body shaming is a part of our daily lives. Women are shamed for being too dark, light, fat, skinny, tall, short, petite, busty, flat chested, having a flat ass, having too big of an ass, for being too plain, wearing makeup, having a thin nose, big lips, being too sexy. . .for just being a woman!

Magazines, billboards and social media outlets constantly encourage us to change our appearance. We are continually reminded of this through body slimming tea advertisements, body shapers, liposuction, hair, lightening creams. . .etc. These messages and the messages we may receive from others often imply that we should want to change; that we should care about looking smaller, thicker, darker, brighter.  .  .the list goes on!

Young girls are being corrupted and brainwashed daily. Mass media is one of the most powerful tools for young girls and women to learn and also understand feminine beauty ideals. “Before mass media even existed, our ideas of beauty were limited to our own families and communities.” Because of that, people would stick to seeing each other in person in order to form beauty ideals. But as mass media develops, the way people see feminine beauty ideals changes as does how females view themselves and one another.

Each day, girls are exposed to images of beautiful models and advertisements about beauty and fashion.” says Renee Hobbs, EdD, associate professor of communications at Temple University.

Beauty ideals are exposed to children from an early age through fairy tales and Disney princesses. The feminine beauty ideal has become more ingrained and cohesive in recent decades because of the expansion of technology and the relevance of mass media. Research has shown that the pressure to conform to a certain definition of beautiful has had drastic psychological effects. These ideals have been correlated with depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem starting from an adolescent age and continuing into adulthood – via Wikipedia

Body Positivity

Again, Western Ideals have a profound effect on our perception of Beauty! It is no secret that the fashion industry has been guilty of body shaming and photoshopping for years! In recent years, curvy and voluptuous women have been taking a stand and fighting back on what’s considered “Normal!”  Curvier women are on runways and in print. The various body positivie and love yourself campaigns that I’ve been seeing are capturing many hearts. It has helped change the game. It has aided in redefining what “Beautiful” is. It has also taken “Confidence” and “Self-Esteem” to a totally different level!

It’s an amazing thing to see a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and dares to be “Unaplogetically” Her!


Colorism 

The term “Colorism” was coined by author Alice Walker in 1982. It is not the same as racism. Colorism is dependent upon the social status on skin color alone.

“Colorism is discrimination or bias based on skin color. Colorism has roots in racism and classism and is a well-documented problem in the black, Asian and Hispanic community. People who partake in colorism typically value people with lighter skin more than their darker-skinned counterparts. They’re likely to view lighter-skinned people as more attractive, intelligent and generally more worthy of attention and praise than darker-skinned people. In essence, having lighter skin or being associated with light-skinned people is a status symbol. Members of the same racial group may participate in colorism, giving preferential treatment to the lighter-skinned members of their ethnic group. Outsiders may also participate in colorism, such as a white person who favors lighter-skinned blacks over their darker-skinned peers,” says race relations expert, Nadra Kareem Nittle.

Mass media often bolsters discrimination based on skin color. Scottish artist, Rawdi, depicts the beauty standards of women of color and blackface in the fashion industry. These images are powerful! The black model is condisered too dark and her hair is too kinky. Her hair is being straightened and her skin is being lightened so she can occur to others as more appealing. The white model feels she is too pale and her hair is too straight. She gives herself curls and darkens/tans her skin with makeup so she can occur to others as more appealing (Blackface).

The images below are from an Animated Short Film titled ‘Yellow Fever,’ which explores Colorism & Self-Image among African women and young girls. This mixed-media documentary animation by Kenyan filmmaker Ng’endo Muki was a. thesis project at London’s Royal College of Art. This lovely animation explores the effects of Euorpean beauty standards and highlights the reasons why darker skinned women resort to bleaching creams to lighten their skin. Yellow Fever also addresses how certain beauty standards are passed down through generations.

In these particular images from the short film, Ng’endo Mukii’s niece states that she wishes she were American and white. When asked how she sees herself,  she stated that she is uncomfortable with her dark skin every time she sees her reflection in the mirror.

All of the images I shared is to provide examples of the different beauty standards and ideals that we face today. The question, Beauty Standards. . .What’s Ideal?. . .is not so easy to answer. Depending on who you are, where you are, your confidence and self-esteem level, what you view as beautiful, what you take offense to. . .will shape your view(s) on, “What’s Ideal?” 

How would you answer this question? How did these images make you feel?  Share your thoughts, I would love to hear from you!


* timasamad.com does not own the images or video published in this article *

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