Friday, August 8, 2008

Is That Really Beyonce: Black Women and Beauty

image Believe it or not, that is an image of Beyonce that is being used to market L'Oreal Feria haircolor.  Obviously someone discovered photoshop and lost their ever loving mind.  The image is barely even recognizable as the famously beautiful Beyoncee Knowles.  It seems to me that altering her image to this degree actually defeats the purpose of attempting to leverage her celebrity status to market a product.  

Even though Beyonce is  super model beautiful, her image was still not acceptable to portray beauty by L'Oreal standards.  Womens bodies are routinely photoshopped and used in advertising, but this kind of "beautification" has a very specific basis in racism. Notice that along with a change in complexion her nose has been altered to appear more Caucasian.

As a woman and a feminist, I try to remove myself from the beauty as power syndrome, but realistically inhabiting the body that I do, in the society in which I reside, it is an impossibility to completely vanquish.  A male acquaintance of mine once thought to offer me a compliment, "you are beautiful for a black girl," is what he said to me.  Another man told me, "I just don't see you as beautiful but then I was never raised to see black women that way." I believe that these statements are revelatory in that they  highlight which bodies are understood as beautiful and why. Black women are created as unfeminine, dark bodies in the maintenance of white female beauty, it is a binary that privileges one group while relegating another to invisibility.

When I see images like this, I understand how it is that even today black children can still show preference to a white doll over a black doll. The media and most other social institutions hold up models of black inferiority that no one would want to identify with. If a woman as attractive as Beyonce Knowles cannot be accepted as beautiful, what chance do other women who have not achieved super star status have of feeling validated in their femininity?

Throughout the years I have come to understand that my beauty, though different, is not less than. I have learned to love the black features that society has tried to create as savage or decidedly unfeminine. This translate to loving my dreadlocks which reach the middle of back, realizing that my fuller lips are indeed sensual and inviting to kiss.  I am woman and beautiful not because I fit the stereotypes but because I have created an understanding of beauty that allows for a more inclusive ideal.  Whiteness as a beauty standard excludes not only black women but all WOC, and it is lunacy as well as the pinnacle of self hate to worship that which you can never be.  So when you are tempted to scream at the moon and ask Ain't I A Woman....answer with a resounding yes. Everything about you is beautiful and deserves affirmation.

Do not covet whiteness for it is self defeating.  Remember that when you search for an ideal that you cannot achieve, not only are you devaluing yourself, you are enriching someone through your own self depreciation.  How much money do black women spend annually trying to "tame" our hair so that it will appear Eurocentric? How much money is spent yearly on creams to lighten pigment, despite the fact that they lead to permanent damage?  Each dollar you spend in your futile attempt to become white, or emulate whiteness, makes you complicit in your own marginalization. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, and decolonize your mind.  Allow no one to profit by creating an insecurity where no should exist.   


19 comments:

Lisa Harney said...

I've seen a couple different doll test videos. They're hard to watch (but I do watch) because of what the doll test says - not even implies, but says straight out - that these kids are learning that black is bad and white is good. I don't find this hard to accept - that this cultural system of white supremacy colonizes our minds and teaches us this. It just makes me angry.

And that picture of Beyonce - L'oreal may as well have hired a random woman to feature in the pictures. The resulting picture isn't Beyonce anymore. Why even hire a black woman to model for your product if you do not truly want a black woman? It's like they want an artificial approximation that they can claim is a celebrity, but without the burden of actually allowing her to be seen as who she truly is - to be who she truly is.

I hope all that made sense.

Ebony Intuition said...

"Do not covet whiteness for it is self defeating. "

Again like I mentioned before we tell black people to break away from "whiteness" but then we still mix which creates "whiteness" and eliminates our beautiful dark pigmentation.

And then we get mad when a person of a darker skin complexion tries to eliminate their beautiful skin, not just black women but any women of colour. Why are only black women getting the blame for trying to alter themselves when all women of colour try to eliminate their darker pigmentation.(all women period try to alter themselves. And how come no one complains when a white womens skin is darkened in a magazine ad or goes under the knife to get fuller features to mimic a black women, and pumps botex into her face or plasters makeup on to mimic a women of colour.

nia said...
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Renee said...

@Ebony
Again like I mentioned before we tell black people to break away from "whiteness" but then we still mix which creates "whiteness" and eliminates our beautiful dark pigmentation.

Entering into an inter racial relationship is not coveting whiteness..Having biracial children is not coveting whiteness. I have done both of the aforementioned and have no desire to erase my black identity. It does not mean you hate yourself to have a relationship outside of a black one.

Ebony Intuition said...

Then it shouldn't matter if a person chooses to dye their hair a colour that isn't attached to people of european decent, or if they want to have a slimmer nose, or if they want to have lighter skin. Why is that self hatred and not having children who will come out looking less black with all these features that will be altered by changing the genetic makeup of someones offspring not considered the same thing. It is the same thing regardless of why someone got into the relationship in the first place.

Octogalore said...

Great post. This is a really bizarre and stupid fuckup. It's obvious, it sends an awful message, and more frivolously, the hair color would have looked better with her true skin tone.

The doll test is depressing. Having a young child who hasn't been exposed to media messages enough to color her views, so to speak, is amazing -- she relates to people as people, and identifies with Dora the Explorer, Mulan, Lisa (Black girl in Corduroy books), as well as White girl characters. Right now, she thinks her Latina doll is prettiest. Parents can do a certain amount, but it's sad to think the media can warp that to any degree.

Renee said...

@Ebony the very act of reproduction means that some genes get passed on and others don't even when the same "race" of people are having children...My spouse is a separate person from me and I do not draw my identity from him just as he does not draw his identity from me.

Ebony Intuition said...

Nia made a great point, Beyonce is a very powerful person and she obvisouly doesn't care that her image is altered to look less black, Beyonce is not even a true representation of a black female again black people who are mixed(mulatto) or have a lighter skin complexion are always placed over people who have a darker skin complexion. Europeans started this and everyone has continued it. DIVIDE AND CONQUER.

When Europeans brought our ancestors over as slaves what colour were are ancestors ???

They were not light skin, blue eys, hazel eyes, dirty blonde hair etc etc. They were all dark skin, prominent features and tight curly hair.

How come no one cares that Mariah Carey has died her hair blonde isn't she so called black under the stupid one drop rule that only applies to africans in america and the rule is illegal now anyways ( and was created to divide us and make us accept everyone elses face except our own). Isn't she expressing self hatred by not wearing her hair curly and brown like she use to do when she 1st came out back in the early 90's, or is it because she has pale skin which gives her the privilegde to do what she wants ...

lee said...

The only person to blame for the picture is Beyonce; she must have approved the image before it could be published. Not everything is black or white- the image reflects self hate and instead of blaming society one must ask what is Beyonce really selling?

nia said...
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Renee said...

@Lee not necessarily the image of kate Winselt in which she was photoshopped to appear slimmer appeared without her approval even though she had posed for the shot. That is this difference between this and the JoliePitss who purposefully posed for their shot.

Frolicking Fury said...

L'Oreal have always been racist assholes. In Europe last year they were found guilty of discriminating against women of color, and they tried the same in the United States when they fired a sales associate who refused to fire a woman of color and get a "hot" blonde to replace her. Oh, and the Skin Deep Beauty database finds that their extra gentle children's shampoo is one of the four most toxic shampoos they index. Pretty much no excuse for patronizing those assholes as far as I can see...

That aside, I do think Beyonce gets let off way too easily for her constant whitening of herself. I mean, L'Oreal definitely did whiten her, but it's not like she hasn't been bleaching her own skin for years. Just look at any photo of her back in the No, No, No days and compare it to a picture now...And that's not even going into that long, straight, blonde weave she seems to have permanently adopted...

Tammy said...

I heard about that. I think she's a beautiful woman and they never should have done that.

Faith said...

Well Beyonce keeps her blonde wigs on 24/7, is taking pills to lighten her skin and has had a nose job at perhaps other surgery. She also claims Creole heritage. She clearly has issues that may not be addressed. I'm not a big fan so I'm not that surprised or disappointed. It does not send a good message though when a Black woman who has seemingly been made an exception and considered beautiful thinks she needs to change her appearance.

mUdd said...

I did the doll test with my daughter in a toy store. I asked her which baby is the good baby. She looked and thought for a moment and picked the black baby but then she also said this baby is good too, regarding the white baby.

I say she picked the black baby first because that is what she has been exposed to mostly. She's seen a good number of black babies.

Obviously she picked the white baby because she sees them on the baby development and disney channel more than black babies.

I felt good that not only did she pick the black baby first but she also is looking to see some good in the white baby. I wonder how long or if that perception will remain when I start teaching her the history that they hide in school.

suzannah said...

this is shameful and outrageous. thank you for drawing attention.

Carl Estep said...

People must realize that the dominate culture has always pontificated its own standards of life , liberty , and the pursuit of happiness. Through its exclusively control of the media, which acts as its propaganda machine it has managed to set up three major networks , ABC,CBS,NBC, for the primary purpose of controlling information, and thus providing a powerful channel through which they can manipulate the entire nation & those over whom they rule !Consequently they are able to shape & reshape minds, bodies , and even ones religion . And this can ultimately like a marriage be for better or worse.

Anonymous said...

Mudd...I agree with most of what you said.


What bothered me is your final statement. While it is important to teach your daughter about her black history, it sounds like you're almost hoping that she will come to hate white people when she learns about certain historical events. I believe in treating people on an individual basis, not judging them collectively. It can be difficult to do when you've had painful personal experiences repeatedly with members of certain groups (as I have), but I try to remember that a few bad apples don't make the whole bunch.


I'm not accusing you of anything...this is simply what it seems like to me.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the comment on mariah carey self hating on herself by having blonde hair, there are blonde women who prefer dark hair, that's not self hate, it's just they like that hair color. Sometimes people try to find meaning in things that are just as simple as that.