OK, mainstream America has done it again. They have decided something that has been a longstanding aspect of the Black aesthetic is now a “good” thing and I can almost hear them say it in that Martha Stewart voice…”and that’s a good thing!” This time it’s our butts. A few days ago Vogue, the fashion magazine declared this the era of the “big booty!” PLEASE! Centuries of demeaning the Black woman’s physique have now found acceptance in the White body.
In the early 19th century, Sarah Baartman a Black South African woman was sold into slavery (and resold multiple times) and paraded around the world for people to stare at her near naked body and dubbed the “Hottentot Venus” for what the mainstream considered her distorted butt. But today, Kim Kardashian and other White women are now being lauded for their “bootylicious” poses that dominate social media. PLEASE!
This is the same process we experienced when the White actress Bo Derek appeared in the film, “Ten” with her hair braided. Of course when Cicely Tyson showed up on the Academy Awards wearing braids they were thought unattractive. When a young tennis phenomenon named Venus Williams took the court at 14 years old with a head full of swinging braids and beads one commentator described the sound of the braids as “distracting.” But, when Maria Sharapova grunts loudly after EVERY swing of her tennis racket that’s apparently not a distraction. PLEASE!
African American women have lost their jobs for wearing their hair braided. The US Army put forth a dress code that said braids were not permitted. All of this is under the guise of an “unprofessional” appearance. The ultimate insult was when the media began calling the hairstyle the “Bo Derek!” PLEASE!
I must admit that I always get a chuckle when I go to the Caribbean and see White women and girls sitting on the beach, paying a Black woman to put a few braids and beads in their hair. Those same Black women once looked at me with my then teenaged daughter (who was sporting a head full of perfectly aligned braids) with a knowing smile that suggested, “Sister, I know…they are going to pay more for these 3 little braids than you paid to have your daughter’s entire head braided!” PLEASE!
Next I began seeing all of these ads for big luscious lips. The very same lips Black women were made to feel ashamed of. We were told not to wear certain colors of lipstick–no orange, bright red, and certainly no pink! We were coached to draw a lip line INSIDE of our actual lips to make them appear smaller. But now that White women would like those lips we have plastic surgeons injecting collagen into their lips so they can appear fuller. Apparently Angelina Jolie’s beauty is associated with those puffy lips…sorry Jennifer Anniston. PLEASE!
Surveys of teenaged girls indicate that historically Black girls actually have had a healthy self-image. They like their generous figures, versatile hair, and all out swagger that makes them what the late Maya Angelou called, “Phenomenal Women.” So we Black women know that our natural beauty is eye catching and varied (from Halle Berry to Lupita N’yongo). We know that beauty comes in all shades, sizes, and ages. We just wonder why our beauty never seems acceptable or “good” until the dominant, mainstream voices claim it is. PLEASE!
Stay Black & Smart!