Tag Archives: standards-of-beauty

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?

Lit Love: Anthologies and Short Essays

by Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I love to take a peek inside the mind of someone else.

I have always been interested in the reality and perspectives of others, especially when it is one that is so different from my own. My love of reading is rooted in this desire to know.

With that in mind, I am recommending a quick list of books guaranteed to shake a few mental paradigms.

Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism
(Seal Press, 2002)

This was one of the first books I picked up about women of color and feminism that was not from the African-American perspective. The narratives in this collection illuminate struggles that are not always heard, even within the feminist community – Native American women, Desi girls, Islamic girls. Tackling topics from sexuality to sex work to abortion to gentrification, Colonize This! succeeds in humanizing issues that are often discussed only in the abstract.

[Side note: One of the Amazon commentators for this book left the following gem: "To think about racism is to be racist. People should think about other things." Wow.]

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down
(Simon & Schuster, 2000)

After scooping this up at a bookstore sale, I promptly devoured it in one sitting, and have spent the last four years loaning it out to any of my friends who happened to glance in the direction of my bookcase. Morgan’s work is refreshing, groundbreaking, and real. Her essays pop with ideas, including my two favorites, “StrongBlackWoman and the EndangeredBlack Man” and “Chickenhead Envy.”

In “StrongBlackWoman -n-EndangeredBlackMen…This is Not a Love Story” Morgan directly confronts a myth that many black women hold on to like a life raft in a churning sea: the StrongBlackWoman. Mythical and powerful, the stereotype empowers women but also hinders them – underneath the SBW banner, it is difficult to have your fears, pains, and vulnerabilities taken seriously. Other people, who willingly buy into this stereotype, see the SBW and just assume she can do all things, for all people, all the time – and then lash out if she dares to show a weakness.

“Chickenhead Envy” deals with the irrational but real pain women feel when confronted with the gold-digging stereotype that seems to have no problems with money, men, or status based ambition. Morgan cuts right to the heart of the matter, admitting that while it feels great to do for one’s self, that feeling of accomplishment fades when you see chickenheads reaping the immediate rewards of their craft.

Engaging, thought-provoking, and challenging, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost is a long time favorite of mine.

Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting
(Rayo, 2004)

I saw this book on the shelves at my local library, and was attracted by the hot pink cover, displaying a photo of a skirt worn with some killer boots. Over the course of two days, I dipped into contemporary Latina reality. Divided into three sections, Border-line personalities confronts love, family, and reality through the eyes of Latinas in the know.

I’ll have to admit, a lot of things in this book went over my head. A large portion of the first section features writers who switch between Spanish and English, using colloquial phrases that the Altavista BabelFish couldn’t handle. But fair enough – I don’t speak Spanish, and I’m sneaking glimpses into someone else’s reality. This book was not written for me.

However, I still managed to pull a lot of enjoyment from this one. Carmen Wong’s story is difficult and touching, and Jackie Guerra provides a fresh perspective on being Latina in Hollywood. There were also some interesting stories about relationships, including the testimony of a Lesbian Latina, a stranded New Yorker’s quest for her lover during the 2003 blackout, and a girl learning her way around an adult relationship with her alcoholic father.

Highly enjoyable, highly recommended. (Unfortunately, the comments on Amazon are split 50-50. )

Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts
(Perigee Trade, 2005)

I adore this collection for not turning away from the rougher aspects of the African-American female experience. While the celebrity pages were a bit lacking (Melyssa Ford has rehashed her views on being a video model in the same way in three different publications), the narratives from real women were poignant and touching. There was a narrative from a generation 1.5 African-American teen who receives complements on her deep smooth skin and regal stature, but receives absolutely no play from African-American boys; a few narratives of the fear felt dealing with the street sex market; narratives about loving yourself in a larger size, including a fabulous reference to Miss Piggy as a role model for body confidence; the issues involved with being black and living abroad; and the rant from a light skinned woman with a yard-long weave on the hypocrisy that categorizes black hair politics. Sexual abuse and gender politics are also featured prominently in this collection. I plan on gifting this book to a few young girls I know. Continue reading

Snarky Stock Photo Analysis…or Recycling Racism for Cool Points?

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

In browsing the Adrants blog, I came across a mini-rant on why stock photography blows.

As a person who uses/dabbles in stock photography, I was intrigued. I follow the original adrants link, and end up at this page.

The first thing that pops up is a random stock image from a random telecom company. The blog owner comments:

Finally,” I thought to myself, “a site that sells chubby black women.”

Hmm…

I browse around the site a bit. This guy appears to bill himself as a snarky asshole with snarky commentary, so his writing is in keeping with the tone of the blog. Reasonably assured that this was meant to be satrical, I continued to read.

2. Hot curly haired black women go moist for wireless broadband routers and mainframes.

Possibly the first and only cliche in history I’ve wanted to bang, curly-haired black women are the preferred marketing tool to sell obscure telecom products and telephone services so long as their skin tone isn’t too dark. She should be dark enough to score that hip diversity dollar, but not so dark as to scare away that heartland racist dollar.

Now I’m mildly disturbed by the crude sex references and apparent race (and hair type) fetish, but he is making a valid point about racial preferences in advertising. I snicker at the fairly inspired Microsoft comparison below it, and keep skimming.

Then I get to:

4.

At least 1 in 3 people chosen at random will necessarily be “African American,” even though only 13% of the US population is black.

When a corporation claims to be diverse, what they really mean is that they hire black people, asians, and a latino every now and then. There is no image more meticulously engineered in this world than that of a corporation’s statement on “diversity.”

For example, the energy company Entergy states on its website that the cornerstone of their corporate culture is:

“respect … for every individual regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or any other cultural factor. “Tolerance” is insufficient in this organization that values differences… ”

Entergy should be commended for having the courage to go beyond simply “tolerating” different races by treating them with respect, because it is assumed that other races are not treated with respect unless a corporation explicitly states that they do on their website. The world needs more companies willing to follow Entergy’s bold leadership by doing more than just tolerating other races.

Again, good points are made here. The random forced diversity is pretty telling (though I must admit, a bit easy for me to forget living in Chocolate City.)
Same thing with the whole “tolerence” bit.

Still, finishing the piece, I was vaguely unsettled. I don’t know what is rubbing me wrong about the piece (mouth-raping comments aside) and its treatment/discussion of race, but something about it disturbs me. I can’t quite put my finger on it…

What also disturbs me is that this piece is intended to be satirical, and it plays up to this by using multiple references to sex (and lube), a bit of fetish, and a bit of stereotype…and yet AdRants is acting like this is the gospel?

From the mouths of AdRants:

Now we have “9 things I learned about the world according to anonymous stock photo models.” From creepy parents to “curly haired black women ‘going moist’ for wireless broadband routers” to “People who sit in cramped cubicles answering customer service calls in drab corporate call centers are overjoyed to help fix your DSL modem” to the over representation of African Americans to stupid laptop poses to “Random-ass white dudes should be placed all over your corporate website for no fucking reason,” this site cuts through all the crap and tells it like it is. Check it our [sic] before you choose your next stock photo.

Reminder: Please vote for Kiri Davis!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Last week I urged all of you to vote for Kiri Davis’s short film “A Girl Like Me,” a finalist for CosmoGirl.com’s film contest. The winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship!

Voting ends tomorrow at noon! So please head on over and vote right now! And vote again tomorrow morning!

Last time I checked, Kiri was in second place with 9550 votes, which is about 400 votes less than the number one spot. I know we can band together and show her some support!

“A Girl Like Me” does an incredible job of showing just how deeply we are affected by European beauty ideals. Even young children aren’t immune, as she demonstrates in her black/white doll test. You might have seen me blog about it at Anti-Racist Parent a couple months back.

Thank you to Tayari for reminding me to post again about this. And thank you to all the other bloggers who have urged their readers to vote. So far that list includes:

Birthmother; Reprise
The Chronicles of Munchkin Land
Family Living; Hatfield Style
this woman’s work
uplifting the cinematically tragic
a wrung sponge
No Snow Here

The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum
Tayari Jones
F-Words
Writing is Fighting
13.69
Third Mom
The Life of a Ladybug
Afrobella
Our Kind of Parenting
CarlaGirl

If I’ve left you out, feel free to email me and I’ll add your blog to the list. And please post a reminder today, if you can!

Go vote for Kiri Davis’s “A Girl Like Me”!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

CosmoGirl.com is currently hosting a film contest. The winner will receive a $10,000 scholarship!

One of the finalists is the amazing Kiri Davis, whose short film “A Girl Like Me” does an incredible job of showing just how deeply we are affected by European beauty ideals. Even young children aren’t immune, as she demonstrates in her black/white doll test. You might have seen me blog about it at Anti-Racist Parent a couple months back.

So head on over, watch her film and vote! :) How awesome would it be if she got the scholarship?

And fellow POC/race bloggers, maybe you could put a call out on your own blogs to encourage your readers to vote for her too!

TV commercial about racism as a face cream

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Remember that racism as a face cream print ad we discussed a few weeks back? Well, it turns out there’s a TV campaign to go along with it.

According to gay persons of color, the spot was “directed by Tim Gibbs and produced by 8 Commercials, Sydney, for Saatchi & Saatchi, Sydney, the commercial won the Silver Plaque at the United Nations Department of Public Information Awards in September.”

So we’ve already discussed the print ad. But what do you think of the spot?

If you’re reading this in an RSS reader and can’t see the video, please click on the post title.

Whiteness in a bottle: Alabaster perfume from Banana Republic

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

There are certain fashion brands that I associate with whiteness. Some, like Abercrombie & Fitch, have aggressively aligned themselves with whiteness. (Their catalogs are basically white supremacist porn.) Others not so much, but because preppy=white in most people’s minds, the association is there. I’m talking about brands like L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and J. Crew.

After seeing the ad below, I think I’m gonna have to add Banana Republic to that list. Alabaster is just one of three new fragrances they’re offering this season, but is it a coincidence that it’s the only one that gets the full-page treatment? Hmmm…

I looked up “alabaster” on dictionary.com and here are the definitions:

1. a finely granular variety of gypsum, often white and translucent, used for ornamental objects or work, such as lamp bases, figurines, etc.
2. Also called Oriental alabaster. a variety of calcite, often banded, used or sold as alabaster.
3. made of alabaster: an alabaster column.
4. resembling alabaster; smooth and white: her alabaster throat.

I think the message is clear: This fragrance would be HUGE in Asia. ;)

alabaster fragrance banana republic perfume