Tag Archives: sexism

Wrong Direction: Shonda Rhimes and Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

Add to RSS feed
Facebook
Twitter
Follow by Email
Google+
https://laurietobyedison.com/body-impolitic-blog/tag/sexism/">
Pinterest

Laurie and Debbie say:

Shonda Rhimes is a powerhouse, and a force for good in the world. Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” is one of the first things we blogged about, more than twelve years ago (yes, really) and we’ve always had mixed feelings about it.

Now, twelve years later, Ashley Nguyen writes at The Lily about how Shonda Rhimes is teaming up with Dove to take the Campaign one step further. Terrific, you say? Well, kind of. They are doing a lot that’s right:

After announcing the project in March, Dove and Rhimes created a call-out for women to submit their stories. They looked at more than 4,500 submissions before deciding on the women featured in their first two films … Real Beauty Productions uses a 100 percent female crew to produce the films because, as Rhimes told The Lily, “If you can, why not?”

On one level, reminding women people that beauty isn’t a narrow box is always useful; in 1994, when we released Women En Large: Images of Fat Women, we certainly put a great deal of time and energy into doing just that.

But …

It’s not 1994, or 2005. It’s 2017. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to activists in all fields–from police terror to mass incarceration to gentrification to body image–that the personal story is simultaneously incredibly important and disastrously insufficient. We need personal stories to humanize people, to interest bystanders, and to galvanize change.

We also need to look at the systemic issues, the things the personal stories don’t address and can’t change. In the case of body image, self-worth, and “real beauty,” here’s a short list:

  • The systemic story that a woman must be beautiful to be important, valuable, interesting, or even to like herself is bullshit.  When Rhimes says:

I think my definition of beauty is me at my most. Feeling my best, as confident as I can be, doing my best work. Being at my happiest. I also think it’s the moments where I’ve decided to just be me, despite what anybody else thinks, despite what anybody else might judge, despite what anyone else has been thinking about. It’s just me being me without even noticing anybody else or their judgment.

Why does that have to have anything to do with beauty? We would never say that a man doing his best work, or at his happiest, is at his most beautiful.

  • By any real definition of beauty, everyone can’t be beautiful. For one thing, beauty is cultural and not all of it travels. For another, some people don’t want to be looked at; others don’t care. Focusing on “real beauty” as something for everyone ignores the option of “I don’t want to be/I don’t care about being” beautiful. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness.
  • If everyone was in fact beautiful, wouldn’t that erase beauty? One thing we use our eyes for is to find things and people that please us: some of them are beautiful, some are attractive, some are interesting, or cleverly decked out, or surprising. And many things and people that we see are not particularly visually memorable. In the case of women, why should that one characteristic define them?
  • We should never forget that when we’re talking about women “beauty” is at least partially code for “sexual availability,” and lots of women, including many who might want to be beautiful in other contexts, have extremely good reasons not to want to be lumped into “sexually available” or even judged on our sexual availability.

Yes, Shonda Rhimes and Dove are doing a kind of good work together. If they make one woman feel better about herself, we can cheer that success. What we’d really like to see, however, is Rhimes (probably without Dove, which would lose its vested interest) take on the bigger question of why being at our most, feeling our best, as confident as we can be, doing our best work, being at our happiest is not enough.

Unsafe Black Girls/Underpaid Black Women

Add to RSS feed
Facebook
Twitter
Follow by Email
Google+
https://laurietobyedison.com/body-impolitic-blog/tag/sexism/">
Pinterest
photo by Anissa Thompson

Debbie says:

Yesterday was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day on which black women have earned as much since January 2016 as white men had earned on December 31, 2016. Yep, that’s seven months to catch up. Serena Williams, writing in Fortune has things to say about that.

In every stage of my life, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out. I have been treated unfairly, I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and—in the most painful times—I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court. Luckily, I am blessed with an inner drive and a support system of family and friends that encourage me to move forward. But these injustices still hurt. …

Data doesn’t lie. It just gives a number to the gap women feel every day. 
It is my hope that I can give a voice to those who aren’t heard in Silicon Valley, and the workforce as a whole.

Let today serve as a reminder that we have a voice. We deserve equal pay for our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our nieces, friends, and colleagues—but mostly, for ourselves.

Consider Williams’ data in the context of Tressie McMillan Cottom’s “How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast,” published as a New York Times opinion piece.

Cottom writes about how black girls and women (even more than their white counterparts) are divided into good girls and whores, and how that division is used to defend the men who assault and rape them. She namechecks Mike Tyson and R. Kelly. She makes clear exactly how this false dichotomy is used against black girls specifically and disproportionately:

Almost ready.

That’s the kind of comment I have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times, from men and women, to excuse violence against black women and girls. If one is “ready” for what a man wants from her, then by merely existing she has consented to his treatment of her. Puberty becomes permission.

All women in our culture are subject to this kind of symbolic violence, when people judge their bodies to decide if they deserve abuse. But for black women and girls that treatment is refracted through history and today’s context.

New research corroborates what black women have long known: People across gender and race see black girls as more adultlike than their white peers. In her book “Pushout,” Monique W. Morris shows that teachers and administrators don’t give black girls the care and protection they need. Left to navigate school by themselves because they are “grown,” these girls are easily manipulated by men.

Cottom pulls no punches, just as no one pulls the punches which attack the girls she cares about:

… for black girls, home is both refuge and where your most intimate betrayals happen. You cannot turn off that setting. It is the dining room at your family’s house, served with a side of your uncle’s famous ribs. Home is where they love you until you’re a ho.

If you’re wondering what the two issues–black women’s salaries and black girls’ safety–have to do with each other, think more carefully. Under white supremacy (and male supremacy), society protects the people it respects as human beings; under capitalism, employers pay the people they respect as valuable. Oddly enough, a culture generally protects the people it pays, and fails to protect the people it fails to pay.

This shit ain’t right. And the same voice Williams recommends to close the pay gap can work to close the safety gap.