“Black vs. White New Age Standards of Beauty”
With all of the strides that we’ve made in our society regarding women’s empowerment, one would think that we’d be involved in deeper discussions about the level of educational, economic, political, and global power that women have acquired. Not overlooking the fact that there are still innumerable issues of gender-based oppressions upon women, we instead find ourselves affixed to the exploitive “hot topic” of the day concerning “who’s butt is real or fake?”
A few days ago, entertainment and other media sites began to explode over the comments made from rising “Reality TV Star” Nicole “Coco” Austin, about Rapper Nicki Minaj’s backside being “fake.” She even stated that Nicki Minaj made a confession to her personally that her butt was not real, which intensified the now controversy. Her remarks about her own “voluptuous,” [I use that term very sarcastically,] body as “real” has sparked a “Battle of the Butts,” as one online urban magazine labeled, which I find UTTERLY ridiculous. While other people, [consumers and celebrities alike], are waiting with baited breath to hear how this new “war” plays out, I can’t help but be incredibly disturbed by the multi-layered offensive, racially-sexist, and culturally hypocritical nature of this entire ordeal.
To begin with the historical aspect of this highly disturbing matter, the thing that I find the most disturbing is the manner in which women of direct European descent are now co-opting figures and body-types that, while natural to women of African descent, were once declared as repulsive, unfeminine, and an aberration of nature. Women of African descent, whether on the continent or a part of the Diaspora, have been deemed as universally unattractive and phenotypically inferior when compared to that of women of European and/or Nordic descent. There have been entire books and schools of academia specifically created to “support” the Eurocentric ethos that people of African descent and other groups of color are genetically substandard and disadvantaged; Darwinism, Eugenics, and biological determinism are all philosophies spawned from the Western minds of those seeking to biologically subjugate others. So egregiously fascinated, yet simultaneously disgusted by the bodies of African/Black women, this desire to govern science through “research” to prove this racist belief became a widespread phenomenon during the early-to-mid 1800s. From 1816-1870, several African women’s deceased bodies were actually dissected and studied by “scientists” who felt compelled to examine the “oddities” and aberrant nature of African women. Among these women, Sarah Bartmann or the “Hottentot Venus,” is the most well-known individual whose body [while she was alive] was forced on display at circus-like exhibitions in Paris and London. Spectators, viewing her naturally large buttocks, would actually physically debase her, by poking and prodding her body to determine if her backside was real. It’s unfortunate, but worthy to note that, although these beliefs were held by Whites/Europeans [meaning African women’s bodies were revoltingly, animalistic, and unattractive,] African/Black women were constantly raped and sexually brutalized at the hands of those that considered them sexually unappealing; that level of [oppressive] cognitive dissonance speaks directly to a form of inhumane psychosis that is unimaginable!
Over time, this movement in scientific racism grew into contemporary culture, where European and European-American features of “beauty” became the universal standard, as evidence of the images within the modeling industry, fashion magazines and catalogs, product advertisements, and films. This global Eurocentric ideology is still present today, given last month’s article from Psychology Today, which claims that through “grounded research,” it was determined that due to “genetic” components, Black women simply are biologically less attractive than White women and those from other races!
So what we have here, is a [short] historical analysis illustrating the way in which natural/authentic physical traits among women (i.e. full lips, thighs, buttocks, etc.) of African descent were institutionally created to be hideous and unattractive. But the obvious question then is “how have these once ‘unattractive’ features become highly loved and co-opted by White women?” Well, from what I’ve observed is that within the last 8-10 years, there has been a major shift in the way the world sees and “accepts” the typical body types of African/Black women, so much so that other racial/ethnic groups [predominantly White women,] spend thousands of dollars and endure immense physical pain to acquire these once abhorred features. “How has this happened?” one might ask. If we examine the intricate relationship and intersection between media, celebrity, misogyny, and capitalism, one would clearly understand how this racially-sexist double standard has come to pass.
Now, we are all painfully aware that women have been depicted as mere disposable sexual objects in Rock, Metal, Country, Rap and Hip-Hop videos since the 80s. Well this misogyny grew into the high-level commodification and industrialization of women [and even more so Black women] and “sexuality” with the escalation of the Hip-Hop culture into mainstream society; as the popularity of this cultural-music genre increased bringing in billions of dollars, the demand [notice the capitalist context] for more naked women with those “distinct” body types grew. When you add celebrities, like Beyonce’ and J-Lo, who have popularized “curvy” figures, even though revealing their curves in overly-sexual/barely-there clothing in the process, the growth in the desire to “look like these celebrities to be more ‘beautiful’ and ‘desirable’” has caused an exponential surge in butt implant cosmetic surgery among European-American/White women across the country. [It should be noted that recently, women of color have been going under the knife to receive larger butts as well and even suffering unimaginable disfigurement to acquire bigger butts to be featured in music videos, as in the Black woman from England who met her unfortunate death because of it. Nevertheless, much of the data from Plastic Surgeons indicates that the largest consumers of this surgery are White women.]
This confiscation of Africanist traits and characteristics is not a unique phenomenon, nor is it a first time offense among the European/European-American culture. From the depiction of Egyptians as White, to the stealing of Black inventions, “urban” styles of dress, to stable cuisines (i.e. Paula Dean and Southern cooking,) and the co-optation of Black music, this desire to conquer another’s inherent cultural fabric with the objective of substantially capitalizing from it is nothing new! So it is truly no surprise at all that White women, such as Coco, would state that an African-American woman’s behind is unnatural, but her’s is 100% authentic.
Even with all of the historically racist and contemporary capitalist nature of this entire charade, there is still the element of sexism that affects both women of African and European descent, as well as women of the other groups of color. No matter the level of education a women receives, her economic wealth, political power and influence in her community, nor the fact that more women have become CEOs and founders of companies, at the end of the day, women are constantly portrayed as sexual objects that are readily disposable for a man’s pleasure! BOTTOM LINE!!!! Isn’t it interesting how we continue to trap women into superficial categories and corporeal rating systems, but rarely do that to men? Sure, there is the proclivity for women and others to look at men and compare how their body looks to that of another man, but it is a far cry from the extreme and sexually tyrannical manner in which women are portrayed and discussed across the world in a public and institutional venue. Are we as a society not evolved enough to cease and obliterate the dissecting and reducing down of women to mere body parts and oversexed life-size blow-up dolls? Because it surely doesn’t seem that we are to me…
My name is Lady J and I work in education reform and community development in the nation’s capitol. My lifelong passions include deconstructing the numerous “isms” (i.e. sexism, racism, classism, etc.) that plague our society and challenging people to think critically about how they are both affected by and affect others with these “isms.” My mission to ignite the global mobilization of people of African descent through mental emancipatory “re-education” models reflecting core/authentic Pan-Africanist elements will be my legacy….I Am We! Visit My Blog at http://imtyedsooverit.blogspot.com/.