Sunday, October 21, 2012

Who Gets To Choose Who's Beautiful, Who's Not?

When I was 6 or 7 years old I had hair that hung in ponytails past my shoulders. As I grew up, my hair grew longer. So did my sister's. So did a lot of women in my family. When I entered middle school most of the minority girls didn't look like me nor I, them, but we were all beautiful, in different ways, in various shades of brown.

When we grew up and started having feelings for the opposite sex, we knew there would be competition among us girls for the boys' attention but what we didn't expect was the harder lesson learned, which was that the boys desired the girls who looked more like me, with lighter skin and longer hair than the girls with darker skin or shorter hair. Trust me, this was not a lesson I wanted to learn any more than the girls who were rejected for learning it the same way I did.

I grew up in a suburb where most people of color were successful, held down a household, and sent their kids, if they could, to private school for a structured education and disciplined religious and cultural life. Though many of the kids were brown-skinned kids like me, there were a number of kids who were nothing at all like us; some were white, some with parents who taught them how to use words like "whigger" and ask why little brown girls like me "looked different" than the other black kids in our class (#smh).

It's no secret among any person of color that even black and brown people discriminate against our own selves when it comes to looks; that's been one of the longest standing effects of slavery. But who gets to choose who's beautiful and who's not, especially as we view hair as a significant element of feminine beauty?

Do I lose an attractive edge because I used to look like this
and now I look like the picture above? Does having hair and looking more Latina or biracial with dark hair that blows in the wind make me prettier than having a shaved head and pronounced features, who gets to decide?

So, because I don't get to decide for anyone, male or female, that my cropped hair, by choice, makes me as desirable as the next woman who can flip her head upside down and throw her hair into a chignon, who does decide? To a lot of people, including my male counterparts, I have to work a little harder to disprove I'm not a lesbian, sometimes, (LOL) or that I'm just as feminine as the next girl by strategically cultivating a more feminine or at my will, an androgynous wardrobe. I, sometimes feel like I need to be certain I have my red lipstick in my purse when I step out because the men will wonder who I came in the lounge with, Steve or Jazmin? (LOL). Again, who gets to choose? And who suffers at the cost of the decision makers? At the end of the day, I think we all have a say. But if I have the final say, I simply say, get over it or get lost!


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At October 21, 2012 at 9:31 PM , Blogger Rosechell Spencer III said...

Is this a question of colorism? Maybe, I can see some religious views also dictating beauty. All are constructs of society, but at the end of it all; I like your answer. #Get over it because you're already lost! (LOL)

At October 24, 2012 at 11:01 PM , Blogger asha.tarry said...

That's one p.o.v. of this story, yes.
There's a book called Color Complex that talks about colorism that's an interesting read.
There's much more here in this story as well. I'd love to hear more feedback. It's a very common story of many others too.
It's good to see you are up on the colorism issue as well, Rosechell.
People of color--Latinos, African Americans, biracial Americans all experience that aspect of racial self hatred and we need to continue this type of discussion. Our people can't heal or progress until we talk about it, all it what it is, and find new ways to cope.


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