I don’t want to put any of the topics on my mind in a links list, so I’m going to break Body Impolitic tradition and do three or four separate posts in short succession.
Delux Vivens put together a superb Women of Color and Beauty Carnival. The links are excellent, but the intro and her commentary is even better:
I grew up knowing that when I was grown I had to look sharp and step correct, with the word “Style!!!” being uttered like a mantra in my ear by the same hairdresser’s assistant who wanted to know what my grades were.
All of this was of course in sharp contrast to the contempt and hostility for my skin and hair I was being exposed to attending white schools, but that’s another carnival subject entirely.
Things are different now.
Women of color are conspicuously absent from mainstream media, despite the growing diversity of audiences in the US and the globalization of the media content market. When they do appear, it is often in a form which bears little or no resemblance to their appearance in nature. Fairness creams run amok in developing countries, frequently leaving a trail of permanent facial scarring, liver damage, and general trauma in their wake. Model and agent Bethann Hardison has pointed out (repeatedly) that women of color had it better in those halcyon 70s of the fashion industry that I remember so fondly than they do now.
I looked at the conversations I saw other women of color having, about whether or not men of color were supposed to think we were attractive enough to bother with, about whether or not we were considered attractive to anyone at all. About seeing little to no representation of people that look like us having relationships with each other. About how shocking it was for some people to look at us and realize we could be not white *and* pretty at the same time. About how at the same time we manage not to exist in the media, people still know all about sexual stereotypes as Hattie Gossett pointed out in is it true what they say about colored pussy?
Talking about this in public is difficult, and I know there are plenty of people with fierce testimonies who refuse steadfastly to share them in public. Women of color in the blogosphere have learned repeatedly and the hard way that when we share our experiences they will often be the subject of voyeurism, condescension, and further exploitation, sometimes even by people who consider themselves our allies. Responses to Kiri Davis’ film “A Girl Like Me”
so often start and end at ‘Black women have low self esteem, how sad’. Discussions of women of color and body image start and end at ‘In the Black culture it is fine for Black women to be fat’ as if Black culture is a monolith and Black women are some how all women of color, all at the same time.
Read the rest, and read the links. I submitted Mocha Momma’s guest blog for us, and I wish it had made the cut, but that’s just about my only complaint.
(I was sure Laurie and I had posted “A Girl Like Me” before, but apparently we didn’t. Oh, well, better late than never.)