Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beauty is the Eye of...? Beauty is Only Skin Deep?

Beyonce's Grammy performance + yoga class + feminism + objectification + beauty= ?

I loved this post over at EBONY on these subjects for many reasons.  So, let's talk about beauty.

My oldest daughter was thick baby.  Born just under six pounds, she quickly filled out to meet the 90th (+) % for weight for her age.

She was stunning.  Large brown eyes with eye lashes like a mascara model.  A perfect, silky, curly afro.

When I'd venture out with her, we got plenty of attention.  But the type of attention we got was often dependent on the race of the attention-giver.

White women would often approach us and say things like:  "What a chubby baby!"  Or, "She's well-fed!"  Or, "Now that's a fat baby!"  These were often NOT compliments.  I would be met with frowns, up-and-down glances, tisk-tisk sounds.

Black women would approach us with exclamations of how "juicy" my daughter was.  They would smile and nod in approval and GUSH over my little girl.    

My darling little girl, just a few months old, was already being taught what beauty is and isn't in the eyes of whomever was looking at her.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? 


My daughter, at around age two, lost all of her "baby fat," though she's certainly still a curvy girl.

And shopping for a girl with, as my daughter like to say, "junk in the trunk," is not easy.  Everything in the little girl section of the store is tight, low-cut and essentially created with teenagers who are stick-thin in mind.  (Don't get me started on glitter, "I hate school" and "I love boys" themed slogans, and everything spoiled-little-princess.)   The clothes are

Toys, greeting cards, books, movies, t.v. shows, advertisements---they are 99% all the same:  Euro-centric and the White standard of beauty.  And when the one "ethnic" doll appears on the shelves alongside the blond-haired, blue-eyed dolls, the "ethnic" doll is supposed represent all other races besides White.  The doll has green eyes, flowing and silky and straight and long dark-ish brown or black hair, and if the skin is tinted brown, it's always light brown.

The parent who wants to find things for their children that look like their children, accurately, has a job ahead of him or her.    (I've blogged about some of my favorite toys, toy companies, etc. many times.)

Our children are being taught, every day, through the media, through the items on shelves and on racks, and through the commentary of others, what beauty is and isn't.

Parents:  it's our job to diligently combat the White beauty standard that dominates our world and permeates into places we wouldn't normally suspect. 


I think, one, we have to surround our children with the standard of beauty we want them to be familiar with and appreciate.  There are many ways to do this, but within your own home:

  • buy dolls, action figures, and other toys that accurately look like your children
  • buy books and DVDs and art that feature kids who look like your children
  • obviously, have a diverse group of friends:  "Your child should not be your first black friend."
  • personally subscribe to magazines that keep you abreast the latest issues that pertain to your child's race:  not only to educate yourself, but to have those magazines in your home so your children can see magazines that have advertisements and models who look like them (and advertise products that are specifically made for people of a certain race)
  • buy clothing for your kids that they are confident in and that fit their body type.  And please, make them age-appropriate! 
  • support businesses, clothing lines, publishers, production companies, etc. that create products that accurately depict children who look like yours
  • be cautious of how you speak of your own beauty, and always, always cheer on your children for not only how beautiful they are, but how talented they are, how smart they are. 
  • stand up for your kids in all areas of life, not just when their looks are critiqued---because by doing so, you teach your children to stand up for themselves (and how to do so effectively)
  • monitor what your child is reading, watching, and hearing.  What are they learning through books, songs, shows, movies, online interactions?  Is it appropriate for their age and maturity level?  Is it helpful or detrimental?  What messages are being conveyed? 
  • have honest, open conversations with your children about everything, including things they see, hear, and read.  Teach them to be critical thinkers, consumers, and world-changers.
Read much more on this subject in my book Come Rain or Come Shine:  A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children

I'll be spotlighting some products and companies I love this February as we celebrate Black History Month.   I'll be giving away hair products, books, and apparel which all uplift kids of color.     

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