Monday, June 23, 2008

On Beauty

I've written about beauty before, but it’s been a while. Well more importantly I have written about how unrealistic the West's beauty standards are for women and black women in particularly. However the other day when I commented on a blog I realized there is a dichotomy of black women and how they absorb or are affected by beauty. Actually it’s probably more than a dichotomy, like many things black we, with in our black folk soul, internalize what the majority is and isn’t doing differently.

Not every black woman who puts a contact in her eye or a track in her head hates the fact that she is black. You see there are some black women who have an advantage over many women who love beauty and fashion. Because of the Diaspora we are everywhere and because of the miscegenation we are every shade, we have every hair texture and every hair color. There are black women who have blue eyes when they are born and their skin is tawny sometimes even brown and somewhere maybe even black. There are black women who have blonde hair. There are black women who have a head full of natural kinks that are long maybe not flowing and many who have a head of locks down to their butts.

I think in this day of the conscious soul many black women see through the beauty industry and don't let it define them. They make their own choices. Sadly there are still plenty of black girls who think white is better and chose white dolls, but I think more black women have negative thoughts of white women. We have long been ostracized from main stream beauty, but often been who designers look to for fashion trends. When hats were standard fare you would find some of the fliest hats on sisters or the way our grandmothers and great grandmother were able to sew clothes that were well beyond what was available on department store racks, the mixing of the motherland and our new land makes our style and taste often cutting edge, especially when you sprinkle a little “make-do” in there. Maybe it the years of regal-ness before the journey to the Americas, maybe it’s the fact that we didn't want to look to an industry that excluded us, or maybe it’s the fact that we have artisan in our blood. We come from a land rich in natural resources and we often used those natural resources to adorn our bodies. Whatever the reason, it is black women that have defined a beauty standard of their own whether mainstream media recognizes it or not.

Sure there is an archetype for the kinda of black woman that mainstream beauty finds to be beautiful the tan skinned, curly haired, light eyed "kinda" black, but with in the community the brown skinned, relax haired, big hipped, and round bottom sister enjoys just as much adoration. The Angela Bassetts to the Nicole Richies so to speak. The tall strong athletic track stars find their glory too. The zaftig and soft women find the glory. The curvy pixies find their glory. The Angela Davises and the Angie Stones, who presentlyis sporting straightened hair, find their glory. The Glamazons, we too find our glory. I have to say within the black community by our men we all are appreciated, its more so with each other that sometimes we have a problem in seeing the beauty of the women who do not look like us. It's sad when I see natural women dog women who relax or women who relax dog women who dare to add length and thickness. Or women who wear wigs scoff at women who go barely there. The reality is I think it’s all beautiful and it’s all black. Not assimilating or wanting to be something we aren’t, the truth is we are just as much Beyonce as we are Jill Scott. That is what makes black SO BEAUTIFUL to me there are endless possibilities of what it is to be black. And they are all something to be celebrated. I really am hoping that is how the Italian Vogue issue will celebrate it. (Thanks again for this heads up Big Man)

I think many black women like myself, explore beauty. I understand as a black woman I, unlike any other women outside the black culture, have the options to be beautiful in unlimited ways. You don't believe me? Put a white beauty in a Kente cloth robe, head dress, and locks, but how many black women have you seen rocking long blonde hair, and "what's hot" on the most European of runways and thought she looks GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD. Sure there are some hot messes but there are also a lot of fashion trends that start from the juxtaposition of African features slammed into European ones.

I know that I enjoy my versatility this chameleon-like ability to be able to wear many textures of hair and most colors. The ability to wear heavy make-up or none at all, with no questions of sickness* is something not every woman has. Either they look like a trollop or they look like a ghost I understand that to many the attachment to fake things seems like a psychosis of self-hatred the inability to be REAL. But really, one’s REALNESS has to do with authenticity to his/her self which is more than the acceptance of ones outward presentation. I have meet some of the realest women sporting what would seem a vein refection of themselves, doll faced and relaxed tresses, while I have met a few dashiki wearing natural quaffed women who didn’t bit more get it than Paris Hilton, believing the rejection of what they believe to be a white standard to be enough to help the struggle . I won’t even go into the black girls that don’t perm their hair but try to wear it like the white girls because they believe by perming it they would then admit to their BLACKNESS (sometimes it is ignorance like the black girl I knew raised by white folks…AB4AD**)

Actually the ability to change based on how I feel, to me is freedom. You can not define me and my beauty. I can be dirty blonde, a braided queen, a Bantu bandit, a blunt banged geisha, Farah winged angel, and well to be honest depending on my mood I have been all and will continue to be all. I celebrate the many faces and choices that we have as black women, although I wish it was not just in beauty, however that is a woman’s issue. And unlike the Hillaryites I understand it is something all women should fight and a stigma some are fighting.

This beauty thing is not that complicated anymore we have all become wise to the Madison Ave machine pushing images in our faces. The self-hatred thing is not that rampant today. I worry more about our young girls embracing these highly sexualized looks that we see often put into our media by black men and black TV. That more than anything takes us back to what started the myth of a highly sexualized black female slave…the breeder... the baby maker…white man's concubine. There's nothing with being sexy, but there is a time and place. I pray that as the Michelle Obamas, Oprah Winfreys, and Maya Angelous of our world continue to garner respect and girls raised on Shake It Fast will realize that is NOT their only option as a black girl with a big azz. I think we really should be discussing this more than white beauty standard, because I think as a whole, black women, have rejected those standards and what we see are black women doing what they think looks good to them.
It’s no more obvious than when we look at weight, while Hollywood thinks a size less than zero is hot we don’t see black women running in droves to get that thin or be that thin. We mostly see them shaking there heads at these women who are obsessed and ruled by a few extra pounds. There is no culture that is clearer on sexiness and desirableness coming from the inside and not what’s on the out. In Texas there are plenty of BIG girls not threatened by the fact they can’t even buy an ankle bracelet out of Vogue or Cosmo, rocking shyt Lagerfeld would love to put on the runway.

Madame CJ Walker didn't create a relaxer to look white she created it for maintenance and in today’s world I hope it has become more of a tool of variety and not assimilation. Even today a relaxed head of black hair does NOT look like European hair at all and if cared for properly offers lots of options. I am just glad that I have the option not to relax my hair and while some places aren’t ready for me to sport my fro to work I think it is only a matter of time. Sure there are issues in corporate America, but for the most part braids and locks are accepted form of hair for women, hell I’ve even seen a beautifully full fro or two sitting on top of business attire. As long as they follow the basic rules of corporate America and when it’s denied there has been legal precedent set for these women (and men) to wear their hair as they please. And don't start with that’s what I'm talking about argument on the allowed colors, because white folks with pink hair and mohawks are not running corporations any more than blacks with green and magenta hair (even though berry is dangerously close. ONLY we can wear that color and not be considered out of line.)

I think as long as we as black women don't reject our image when we wake up in the morning we are fine. Actually I think as long as women we don’t reject our image, the ability to say I love me like this, it is a struggle ALL WOMEN- NO ALL PEOPLE have. It is almost part of some human psyche to always point out what’s bad as opposed to what’s good, the pessimistic soul who wallows in what they are not and how things must be better on the other side. Let me tell you, for all the fences I have crossed to get to a greener grass most of the time upon close inspection the grass is not only no more greener, its some time a shade of two worse than the grass I left.
However I realize that some of us don't like ourselves, but that hatred, to me, is more insecurity and less hatred, but I can't speak for everyone. I think self-hatred has far more to do with your personality type than it does with your socialization, I think many of those who suffer from this would have hated ourselves just as much, for different reasons of course, had we been born another race, gender or class. I think that Lil’ Kim and whatever is going on with the plastic surgery would exist whether she was black or not, she would just be that cat lady, you know the one who has had 50 thousands operations. Same thing with Michael his hatred of who he was would still exist in some other kind of way, I am almost sure. I think we do more harm judging women that enjoy fashion and beauty than we do trying to enlighten them. We shouldn't assume self-hatred; I mean that just buys in the assumption that we think only one construct of beauty exist. We all know there are several. I think Nicole Kidman is pretty but I also think that Alec Wek has it going on, me thinking they both are beautiful women doesn’t take beauty from either one. I think that skinny boy framed women like Kate Moss are great and have options but there is room for the Serenas of the world and we already KNOW there is room for the Toccaras and Latifahs.

We sometimes have this thing to look down upon someone as if our truth is theirs, and they need to be delivered because they are plugged into the matrix, when in reality us identifying in this hierarchy of enlightenment because of choice of beauty is the biggest design of the system. The divide and conquer mentality that has existed amongst us across so many lines. To me I enjoy all affectation of black beauty weather they be traditional motherland or Eurocentric based (after all ain’t nobody in black America 100% pure Zulu Masi unless they just stepped off he boat). I believe to each his own and you can’t judge a book by its cover and beauty is not only skin deep. Being beautiful has more to do with the inside than out anyway, well real beauty that is. Some of the most beautiful people in my life are not beautiful by many beauty standards black or white. But their souls create a creature so beautiful you could not truly describe their beauty with mere words.

I guess lately I just have read slights and digs some subtle and some not subtle, here and there about women who don’t chose to embrace or exude this new standard of realness. When to me I am proud of it. I am proud that we now have a myriad of options as black women. Instead of celebrating I see a lot of questioning when in reality who you present yourself to be is a personal choice that reflects so many things that it would take days to deconstruct and really understand. Erykah Badu is not Badu because of what’s on the outside. India Arie is not her hair that is true but she could say that even with hair down her back I believe because she is not, not because of the baldy she was sporting. It seems being ok with who you are isn’t enough we must be bald faded, afroed, locked, or twisted to some people to prove we indeed enjoy our blackness. It’s all in the eye of the beholder anyway. And I like to look in the mirror and behold the many types of beauty I can see in me, doesn't mean I hate myself it means I understand my possibilities. Do you understand yours? That’s the real question.

Be EZ,

* I remember the first time I saw my white girlfriend with out make-up. I was sure she only had weeks to live.

** Another Blog 4 Another Day

+ I hyperlinked to images of the black women ( I also hyperlinked to Nicole Kidman- I know she isn't black) I mentioned by name for a reason. I wanted you to see how beautiful and diverse we are as black women (even Lil Kim). If you don’t feel like reading the blog, jus go through and click all the hyperlinks and get the possibilities of black beauty and this ain’t even the half of ‘em.


sdg1844 said...

Great post OG and I feel you on alot. I don't judge Li'l Kim, but there are psychological issues there OG. Serious issues w/her and Michael.

No one does what these 2 have done to themselves w/out having issues with their image and no one will convince me otherwise.

Do I say they aren't Black? Hell no. Of course they are and always will be, but there's a difference btwn some nip tuck and what they've done.

I agree w/you on celebrating our diversity. I think we have the most diverse phenotype in the world from Africa on to America.

I have too many folks in my own family tree that could "pass" for me to start playing Negritude Police. I don't play that game; never have and never will.

Nice work from you! We're on the same page.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Yes I agree about the psychological issues of both, but my point is that I think it is not being black that is causing that so much as who they are and they would be nipping and tucking even if they looked like they wanted. That's why I gave the example of the cat lady, the lady who has had so much surgery she now looks like a cat.

I think there addiction has less to do with being black I don't think they would be any less sicker if they woke up white. I think they would still be displeased with them self. Hope that makes sense.

Thanks for stopping by!

-OG said...

Hey there OG!

Black women really do need to define beauty for themselves! You are so right that we are in so many shades and have so many wonderful dimensions of our beauty! I have tried so hard to capture so many different dimensions of black beauty on my blog because no other group represents the RANGE of beauty like black women!

Thanks for this post!!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

sdg1844 said...

Gotcha. The unhappiness isn't about blackness per se. It's about them as humna beings. Yep. Got it.


adamson said...

This is a WONDERFUL post.

Sister Girl said...

Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder. Where I find beauty, others may not see...and vice versa.

I've seen men that could draw *any* woman he wanted,but had the modest lady on his arm. And I've seen some that would break a mirror with their looks that had the flyest chick.

You will always have men that want the outward beauty as well as inner beauty,& one will outweigh the other depending on the seeker of such. Some men want long hair,some want short,and it don't matter to others. Some want you to wear full makeup,some want just a little,and others want you "natural".

I myself always love the diversity that I can impose. If I wear my hair long, I know how to rock that look. If I wear it in a fade, I know how to accomodate that too. My makeup changes according to what I'm presenting at that moment,but most will tell you that I very seldom ever wear makeup at all. And if you can take me without makeup,then I'll blow your mind when I'm in full costume.