Tag Archives: body image

Internalizing Stereotypes, Part 1 – From the Outside In

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Dear average-sized penis,

Ugh. I don’t really know how to say this. We’ve been in and around so much together. And I really do appreciate the effort you’ve put in thus far. But I’m sure you have sensed my growing disappointment over the years. I guess the bottom line is I expected you to be a lot more at this point. I keep waiting for you to grow up, but you never do [...]

What’s that? Look, I don’t want to hear it. Yeah, maybe if you were on a white guy, or an Asian guy, or a girl, your reputation would be a lot better at this point. You might be a little more “remarkable.” But the fact of the matter is you’re on a black guy, and you are underachieving.

— “An Open Letter from a Black Guy to His Average Sized Penis,” The Assimilated Negro

In an earlier Racialicious post, I wrote about Details magazine and their coverage of the Mandingos – a subset of swingers who play to interracial humiliation and domination fantasies.

Several posters noted that members of certain minority groups seem to internalize positive stereotypes. While I did not quite agree, I couldn’t exactly disagree either. So, ever since the post was published in February, I’ve been taking careful notes of what happens when you – as a minority – do not fulfill your stereotypical role.

Stereotype: All Asians are smart/intelligent/diligent/ mathematically inclined.

One day, not too long ago, I was relaxing back at my apartment, watching AZN network. Hae was with me, flipping through some of my manga collection. She harbors a healthy distain for AZN network, feeling like it does not represent anything close to what she wants to watch. I, on the other hand, adore AZN network (or at least, pre-staff cut AZN network) because it allows me to get access to music videos, movies, and dramas I would not otherwise see.

And Hapa (host of the Bridge) was pretty hot.

Anyway.

The Bridge goes to break, and AZN starts promoting their show line up. One show had two perky co-hosts who were supposed to be the new voices of generation 1.5. During the quick promo, the male host flippantly commented, “Well, we can’t all be doctors and lawyers.”

Hae snorted. “For real,” she affirmed, not looking up from her book.

Uh, rewind that back?

Hae shared with me some of her reality, growing up Asian-American and wanting to be an artist. While she never felt family pressure to be a doctor or lawyer, her family insists on higher and higher levels of education. After almost a year of fighting, Hae finally convinced her mother to pass on graduate school and to allow her to get a teaching certificate instead. Hae hasn’t been interested in school since completing high school. This pressure is compounded by her other friend’s career choices. In Hae’s circle, many of her friends are high achieving doctors, lawyers, optometrists, architects, and tech gurus. Her career choice is glaringly different, especially considering we live outside of the nation’s capital, home of the highly driven.

I was also privy to the issues that pop up with positive stereotyping at my last job. My boss, as cool as she was, made a comment to me on a day Hae was off. I told her that Hae was a bit confused about her timesheets and wanted to make sure the changes were correct. I also wanted to get a quick check on how she was doing in her first couple weeks, as Hae was concerned. My former boss waved away the concerns saying, “Well, I tend to find that Asian employees are more diligent and hardworking. I knew there wasn’t going to be any trouble.” Continue reading

Are eyelids the no. 1 beauty concern in the Asian community?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Did any of you catch Friday’s episode of the Oprah show? It was titled “Children Ashamed of the Way They Look” and included interviews with:

  • Kiri Davis, the young filmmaker who created the phenomenal short film A Girl Like Me
  • Grey’s Anatomy star Chandra Wilson about her own views on beauty growing up and how she’s raising her daughters
  • A black woman who prayed that her son wouldn’t come out as dark-skinned as her. The son, not surprisingly, has developed quite a complex about colorism.
  • Korean-American MTV host SuChin Pak, about beauty ideals in the Asian and Asian-American communities.

I’m not going to summarize the whole episode in this post, but you can watch clips of it on the Oprah web site.

As usual, I was a bit annoyed by the treatment of the eyelid issue. Anytime the mainstream media covers this story, it always makes the same few assumptions.

First, it never mentions the fact that there are many, many Asians who do have eyelid folds. I’ve never seen any statistics, but it seems to me that there are at least as many eyelid-having Asians as non-eyelid-having Asians. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if the eyelid-having Asians are in the majority. (Excuse my crude terminology here – just trying to keep the language simple.)

Second, it equates getting eyelid surgery with wanting to look white. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. As I wrote in this comment on Reappropriate awhile back, there are many Asians with eyelids. Often they are considered to be more attractive, and yes, that is because of the omnipresent Western beauty ideal. But people who want to get eyelid surgery are doing it so they look more like those Asians with the big eyelids. Not so they look like Caucasians. White supremacist ideals may be informing the desire indirectly, but it’s not such a direct link of wanting to be white.

And finally, I was a little taken aback by Pak’s assertion that eyelids are the no. 1 beauty issue in the Asian and Asian-American community.

In my experience, the no. 1 beauty/looks-ism issue by far among Asians and Asian-Americans is weight. The standards of thinness among Asian women are far more punishing than those among white women. Growing up in Hong Kong, it seemed as if pretty much anyone over 105 lbs was considered a fat-ass.

And then in my opinion, the no. 2 issue would be skintone. No surprises here: fair is good, tanned and darker skintones are undesirable.

Eyelids do come up, but in my experience it trails far behind weight and skintone. But of course, that’s just my experience.

What do you all think?

Tyra Show explores kids and race

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

This Wednesday’s episode of the Tyra Banks Show is going to explore children’s concepts of race. I hope they’ll include Kiri Davis’s film “A Girl Like Me,” since it would tie in beautifully to this topic. Here’s the description:

Does skin color make a difference to a child? Tyra continues her series on race with a powerful and eye-opening look at how innocent children start forming stereotypical opinions of different races at a young age. A group of children were invited to participate in a social experiment where they were asked to look at pictures of people of all races and say what they thought about them. Their honest results will shock you! Body image expert Jessica Weiner, along with the kids and their parents, join Tyra in her studio to discuss how they believe children are exposed to stereotypes and what can be done about it. Then, Tyra speaks with white supremacist parents and their young children who are being trained to follow in their footsteps. Plus, an African American woman who hates Caucasians finds that her young daughter is determined to break her mother’s racist views.

Is there a CosmoGirl conspiracy against Kiri Davis?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

No, there isn’t. At least not in my opinion.

As you know, Racialicious has been among the many blogs encouraging people to vote for Kiri Davis’s short film “A Girl Like Me,” a finalist for CosmoGirl.com’s film contest. The winner would have received a $10,000 scholarship and would have been featured in the August 2007 issue.

CosmoGirl suddenly canceled the online film competition on Thursday evening, just hours before the competition would have ended and posted this rather vague message:

We have determined that the online voting has been corrupted as a result of one or more instances of tampering with the voting process by users. As a result, none of the online votes will be counted, and we will submit all three of the semi-finalists to our panel of experts for final judging and selection of a winner.

Because the competition was canceled just as Kiri was soaring into the lead for the first time since the competition started, may are wondering if canceling the competition was some sort of conspiracy to prevent her from winning. Even Radar caught wind of conspiracy theory fears (thanks Patrice!).

But spokespeople from CosmoGirl have responded to confirm that the vote tampering did indeed happen. See CosmoGirl Editor-in-Chief Susan Schulz’s comment on Afrobella, and another spokesperson’s response to Radar (see update at the bottom of the post). And ExpatJane posted screenshots on Afrobella that do seem to show some serious irregularities.

Given the fervor with which people have been supporting Kiri’s film and the deep emotional connection we felt to the subject matter, CosmoGirl could probably have handled this better. Posting a long message detailing exactly what kind of tampering they uncovered, for example, would have been a good move to dispel the skepticism that was bound to exist.

But I think it’s safe to say that no, there is no conspiracy. If CosmoGirl had really be so threatened by the content of Kiri’s film (its themes of Eurocentric ideals of beauty and white supremacy) I doubt the film would have made it as far as it did.

Making the fashion industry think beyond a size 6

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

This is an interesting campaign started by two plus-size models. They are calling for the fashion industry to take concrete steps to rethink dress sizes. (Thanks to Kimberly for the tip!) From the Walk the Catwalk web site:

Diane Pellini and Liis Windischmann have a combined 20 years experience modeling in the plus-size fashion world…Immense change cannot happen overnight and Diane and Liis know this. “Walk the Catwalk” is a simple solution to start reducing the gap between the “straight” size fashion world and the “curvy” fashion world, to start counting all sizes in. They believe that implementing rules and regulations is not the solution to this problem. Solutions are currently being offered to change fashion at the end of its process – this pair aims to prove that change needs to come from fashion’s foundation by changing the very philosophies that have helped create it.

Here’s the video they’ve made in support of the campaign:

 

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