To Be or Not to Be (Beautiful) by Fatima Doumbia
In the olden days, during the times of slavery, the darker-skinned slaves were given the most arduous* and back-breaking tasks, while the lighter-skinned slaves were given the “privilege” of working in the house, closest to the master. Throughout history, this has given way to the assumption that light-skinned individuals are in some way, shape, form or fashion, better than their dark-skinned counterparts. And overtime, there were things– “less beautiful”things– also accredited to dark skinned Womyn**; many that were started by white people, but perpetuated by men and Womyn within our own race and communities. Things like, “darker women have courser hair,” “dark women are as stubborn as mules,” “they are only good for making babies by the dozens…,”etc. All in all, dark skin Womyn are just NOT beautiful; inside or out.
I remember being a young child and watching the documentary Dark Girls. In it, the “filmmakers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry explore a deep-seated bias within black culture against women with darker skin.” (IMDb, 2011) While I am well aware that it was not the objective of the film, it was then that I realized that I was supposed to, or expected to feel ugly or less than because my skin possesses a darker hue. I never did! I never had those days where I was so fed up with being dark-skinned that I would just pray night after night to wake up the next morning with brighter skin. I never even asked my mother for a relaxer. The point is, that there is no single account of the experiences of young black girls. But, it would be irresponsible of me or anybody else, to assume that simply because I didn’t have that experience that many other black girls did not as well.
It starts with mass media. Things that young black girls are exposed to everyday like TV, magazines, internet blogs, social media posts, etc. These are all things that are exposed to all, but absorbed by many young children, namely young girls. The problem is that the standard of beauty shown through these mediums are not reflections of young, African-American girls with dark skin. They are not reflections of any normal young female child at that. You often see abnormally skinny, tall and bright skinned supermodels grace the covers and pages of major magazines and star in the commercials of many major brands. And, while it is empowering now to see commercials with plus-sized, dark-skinned Womyn with natural hair, it is sad that it is considered a novel idea; showing everyday women in commercials that young black girls see so that they can identify with them!
No little black girl should be subjected to living in a society where her beauty is not praised. Worse even than the lack of exaltation, and perhaps a result of the lack thereof, is that they question whether they are really beautiful. It is unfortunate, but if you saw that there were no representations of you in mainstream media, would you not feel as if you are simply not worth the time it takes?
It’s sad and unfortunate that not all beauty is celebrated and the standards by which we determine beauty is in desperate need of an evaluation, or rather, eradication. But, until then, a PSA to all, far and wide: Beauty is NOT singular! There is no one definition of beauty; it is as fluid as it is inexplicable. It is a huge error to believe what mass media so frivolously*** promotes, which is that there are no other representations of beauty besides what is plastered on magazine covers and TV screens.
*difficult or tiring
**spelled with a (y) in order to take the man completely out of the equation. Womyn can stand on her own
***carelessly, without purpose