Hello readers, TV1 has decided to put together a list of what it deems to be the sexiest black women alive. Check it out: Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Paula Patton, Lauren London, Angela Bassett, Iman, Vanessa Williams, Janet Jackson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, Beverly Johnson, and Alek Wek.
Why would I find the assemblage of such a list offensive? It is meant to celebrate black women right, nothing but positive to see here...that would be a resounding no. The list suffers from two major faults. It falls prey to hueism, and fatphobia. Take a look through the pictures of these women, and you will see clearly what I mean.
The majority of the women on this list are light skinned women. What this tells those of us that are of a darker hue, is that somehow we do not count as women. We are less than, once again the anti-woman. I am not saying that light skinned sisters are not beautiful, I have a problem with the fact that they are commonly used as a representative of ALL black women. We come in many different shades, and to point to one as particularly more beautiful than another, is to reinforce a hierarchy based in skin tone. This is not a sign of loving ourselves, rather it is the internalization of black hate. The cruelty of slavery has left us with this terrible legacy.
The light skinned woman as prize comes from our desire to achieve the appearance of whiteness. That this skin tone was achieved from a legacy of the rape of black women is over looked, in our desire to achieve whiteness. In our efforts to achieve whiteness, blacks have attempted to bleach our skin, relax our hair, and in some extreme cases submitted to surgery to achieve Caucasian features. It is time to look beyond the whiteness is good metaphor to begin loving ourselves as we are. Whiteness cannot be achieved through artifice, and therefore to continually promote it as a symbol of beauty is a futile struggle.
Beyond the whiteness as good metaphor, our inability to embrace blackness leads to social underachievement. This skin caste system encourages a cultural low self esteem whereby blacks continue to under perform. Yes daily we must confront racism and the limitations that it places upon us, but internalization manifests a sedentary approach that is counter to our success as a people. If we do not believe that we are worthy of more, we will not attempt to be more.
The other model that is clearly representative in the list is, skinny is good. Nowhere on the list will you find a woman that is fat. This is not an accidental omission. Our society daily 'others' people that are considered 'over weight'. To have a list of women that are meant to represent what is sexy, and not include a single woman that is fat tells us that our bodies are unlovable. Omission is meant to erase our existence, to shame us through invisibility. It is also an attempt to discipline the bodies of women. Anytime we set an appearance standard, what we are doing is telling women that to count, to be considered of any value, you must fall within a certain range. A failure to have the body conform, is thus a failure to be feminine. The desire to be considered 'woman' as is socially constructed by the media has harmful effects on women. Is it any wonder that the plague of bulimia, and anorexia continue to daily be an issue, when everyday we reinforce an unrealistic body ideal as desirable?
I am sure that the list maker at TV1 meant this list to be a positive, however due to omission or unbalanced representation, what it has done is act as an agent of discipline. This list is something that we as black women should not celebrate, as it once again tells us who matters in this society. To truly elevate us, and validate our worth, it needs be recognized that black women come in all different sizes, and hues. No one caste is more attractive than another. This kind of hierarchal assignment of value needs to cease, as it is harmful to our self esteem as a people. All black women are beautiful.