So I just watched that documentary on shadeism that I reblogged from espirit-follet, and my head hurts and my heart aches.
Watching that little girl look at her own beautiful skin and hearing her talk about how ugly it was… pointing at the white models and not the black ones, talking about her aunt’s lighter skin and how different it is to her own…
You know, I never once thought of myself as a pretty child. Pretty was my white friends, my black friends and me, we were just there. Not very feminine, not like the white girls. Not desirable, not particularly popular with the boys the way the white girls were. I remember the time my friend Julia told me that she thought I was the prettiest girl she knew, and it floored me. First time anyone had ever told me I was pretty. I was eleven.
I look back on pictures, and I think to myself, why? I was a gorgeous kid. I had these big lovely brown eyes, black hair, golden skin, I was smart as a button, and very, very funny. And I look at the pictures of my white friends, and I don’t see much of a difference, other than our races. So why did they receive praise, and why didn’t I? I vivdly remember one incident at a slumber party: my best friend, a blonde white girl, told me that she was naturally beautiful, that she knew this, and that some people weren’t as lucky as her. And I remember thinking, how does she know that? Where does someone obtain that kind of knowledge? How is she so confident and secure in that knowledge? Someone must have told her. And she believed it? Because by the time I was eleven, I was so used to thinking of myself as the dirty, runty little brown kid, I refused to believe someone when they did praise me.
The other black and brown girls I knew as a child — many of them learned to think of themselves as beautiful later on in life. And yes, I know that this is a universal experience, every girl goes through some kind of ugly duckling stage or another, hopefully emerging in late adolescence with a sudden reserve self-confidence — but no white girl goes through that journey the way we went through it. Because we have to come to terms with our race, not just our awkward bodies. We have to combat what other people can and will say about what certain features of our bodies. Our hair texture, the shape of our eyes, our dark or light skin, the multitude of shades that are painted on our bodies, our hairiness or lack of hair, our size, our breasts, our hips, our lips, our butts.
Its a battle white girls don’t have to go through. There are all sorts of pressures on every woman in our society, but we have many, many more. Childhood and adolescence and womanhood are battlefields for us, and it can be a struggle to continue to think of ourselves as desirable, as female, as pretty.
No wonder so many of us don’t make it.
I wrote a post a while about becoming pretty (and man some of the comments it got were real damned doozies) & I find myself wondering now how much of that backlash was about me as a WOC describing myself as attractive & not being apologetic about it. I still get all weird when other people compliment me (I’m working on being able to respond without getting all twitchy), but I refuse to let people tell me that my skin or hair = ugly because it’s not part of a white beauty aesthetic. I also keep thinking about how often our mental health isn’t considered in these discussions because really how many young girls of color are growing up with body dysmorphia disorders that are race specific & yet never discussed or treated?
I’ve written several posts on this regarding a journey of dark skin being considered beautiful.
I didn’t get any backlash, but then again…
Well I also talked about street harassment & that always sets people into some kind of tizzy since women saying they have a right to bodily autonomy is like a Bat Signal for fuckery.