Tag Archives: beauty standards

Suit Or Sari? On Professionalism And ‘Ethnic’ Dressing

By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta, cross-posted from Stories Are Good Medicine

I had the pleasure to attend a women’s leadership conference this past weekend. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet innovative and dynamic women from seven different decades, and I was so inspired by much that I saw and heard.

But it was a lecture by a popular professor–an expert in public speaking and issues of gender and communication–that left me unexpectedly troubled. And it’s taken me a couple days to figure out why.

I last saw this professor lecture more than 20 years ago–and she’s still the same funny, sharp-witted, and insightful speaker I remember from back in my college days. She urged us conference participants to be assertive, not aggressive, in our speech, to think about standing and sitting with confidence, to avoid lilting upward at the end of our sentences, to resist being cut off by others while we’re speaking.

All of this made a lot of sense to me. I know that women are often taught to defer to others in conversation (“no, no, you go ahead”), that we may unconsciously adopt physical postures of passivity or childishness (the cocked head, the crossed leg stance while standing), that we may sound as if we’re apologizing, for even our names (“my name is Sayantani??”).

And yet, when the lecture got to the issue of dressing for presentation success, I began to feel distinctly uncomfortable.
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Remembering My Brown-Skinned Dolls

by Guest Contributor Daily Chicana, originally published at The Daily Chicana

Last night, I finished reading Junot Diaz’s The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. The title character is an obese Dominican “ghetto nerd” obsessed with the “more speculative genres,” such as sci-fi, fantasy, and apocalyptic narratives. One element of the novel that I find I’m reflecting most on is Diaz’s suggestion that the history of rape, genocide, dictatorships and abuse of power that make up the central historical narrative of the Americas–with the island of Hispaniola, today’s Haiti and Dominican Republic, as ground zero of the creation of the New World–are just as fantastical as any speculative novel. In other words, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and the like have nothing on the true, gut-wrenching tales that emerge from Caribbean history and its resulting diaspora.

One quote in particular stood out to me: Oscar wonders aloud,

If we were orcs, wouldn’t we, at a racial level, imagine ourselves to look like elves? (178)

I love the moments like this where Oscar connects his beloved fantastical creatures to his everyday experience of race. I’m not actually into Lord of the Rings, btw; I never read Tolkien and only understand what Oscar’s talking about because my ex-husband forced me to see all three LOTR movies with him. So in case you don’t know an orc from an elf, Oscar is comparing the orcs, despised and hovering at the lower end of the hierarchy:

to the elite, golden elves, so genteel and immortal:

The question he poses is a sci-fi version of Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye. It’s about the extreme impact, over time, that racial self-hatred has on one’s self-esteem and psyche. What happens to us when we never see positive representations of ourselves? Continue reading

Barbie Girls: Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, and Mattel

by Guest Contributor Sarah Todd, originally published at Girls Like Giants

Since Azealia Banks’ 2011 breakout hit “212″ captured my heart, mind, soul, and dancing feet, I’ve been reading up on the 20-year-old rapper and soon-to-be superstar. Almost every interviewer asks Banks about Nicki Minaj, which gets old fast for her, you, me, and the bourgeoisie. (With the possible addition of our lady Rye-Rye, they are the only two black female rappers currently generating major mainstream buzz. They also went to the same “Fame” high school in NYC. Ergo, endless comparisons.)

But one comment Banks made about Minaj in an interview with GQ UK stuck out to me:

It could just be that we were both inspired by Lil’ Kim. She did her thing with it, but I was kind of going to do a little bit of that same thing, with the characters, the pink and the Barbies. I wrote a song called “Barbie S***”. I was thinking “I’m going be black Barbie, that’s going to be my thing.” Then all of a sudden she [released it]! I was like, “F***! Did she have someone on my MySpace page? Is someone watching my Twitter? This is way too coincidental!”

The characters, the pink, the Barbie: was it really such a coincidence? I’m not so sure. As Banks notes, Lil’ Kim rapped about being “Black Barbie dressed in Bulgari” back in the early double-0s. There’s a French rapper who goes by the name Black Barbie. Atlanta rapper Diamond calls herself “black Barbie,” too. All signs point to the fact that Barbie’s big in the hip-hop world.

This common denominator set my mind whirring. What is it about Barbie–as a name, image, and persona–that appeals to these rappers? And what, exactly, does claiming a black Barbie identity mean in the context of hip-hop culture? For the purposes of this post, I’ll limit myself to talking about how Minaj and Lil’ Kim–who also happen to be two of my favorite rappers–use Barbie to represent and challenge mainstream standards of beauty and femininity. Continue reading

Allure Marks Shifting Beauty Standards; Declares The “All-American Beauty” Ideal Dead

by Latoya Peterson

In the March 2011 issue of Allure, the beauty bible chose to celebrate their 20th anniversary by looking at the changing ways in which we define beauty.

Two decades ago, Allure conducted a study with 1,000 men and women called “What Beauty Means to You.”  A clear picture of what was considered beautiful emerged – and her name is Christie Brinkley:

But the last 20 years have brought major changes to our nation – and no where is this more evident than our ideas of who is considered most beautiful.  The new celebrity “ideal” according to Allure is now Angelina Jolie:

But here’s what’s really interesting.  Allure also showed photos of non-celebrity models and asked respondents to rank the person who was most attractive.  The top winners? A Latina female and a South Asian male (identified as a person of Indian descent).

 

 

Major takeaways from the study:

  • 69 percent of all respondents believe there is no longer any such thing as the “all-American” look
  • 85 percent believe that increased diversity in this country has changed what people consider beautiful.
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Dispatches from Nappyville: What is “good hair,” anyway?

By Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

With the premiere of Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair” everyone is talking about black women’s tresses–about our quest for “good hair.” What exactly is “good hair,” anyway? I suspect that, until now, many white Americans have not heard hair described in quite these terms. But blacks folks know all too well.

We live in a society where beauty is governed by Eurocentric standards that say the most attractive tresses for women are straight, long, shiny, fine and preferably light in color. To be sure, many, many women of all races fall short of this standard, but none so much as women of African descent, whose crowning glory tends to be, in many ways, the opposite of what is considered beautiful. It would be easier if, despite living in a majority culture different form our own, the black community as a whole was able to embrace the qualities most often associated with our hair, which tends to be highly-textured. But let’s face it: We do not, thanks in part to the legacy of slavery and continued racism. Continue reading