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'Flexin my complexion' - Black and ethnic minority women celebrating their skin tones

(22 Posts)
InTheBox Thu 20-Aug-15 20:10:42

I've been following the afore mentioned hashtag on twitter and it has raised a lot of debate in my household. The hashtag came about when someone searched 'beautiful skin' online and they were presented with highly polished images of mostly white women. So this hashtag is to celebrate darker skin tones. www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33994268

I can't say if this is a feminist issue or not because in my experience (my family is mixed race) the argument has always been that darker skinned women are made to feel inferior obviously to their white counterparts but especially to their lighter skinned black counterparts. This is in the main because of the way the media portrays them - think music videos of clandestine light skinned black women usually dancing around with a male rapper or singer of sorts and the celebration black artists such as Rihanna and Beyonce who, in the main, actually fit into the ideal European standards of beauty.

Equally, the pervasiveness of weaves - I accept that many white women wear them but there was a very poignant documentary by comedian Chris Rock about black women relaxing their hair and wearing weaves in order to fit in with the ideal of having 'good hair' - good hair is essentially seen as hair that is not kinky in other words not afro hair. To add to this the very large market in skin lightening products.

It even boils down to body shape and features. I read an article which celebrated a Caucasian model's larger lips and curves but the same publication later slated a black woman with those same features for being too 'ghetto' - (I'll try to find the link in the meantime)

There was a thread a while back about black women and feminism which is why I thought I'd post this here but I suppose I'm saying whilst equality between men and women is yet to be achieved, do you agree that equality between white and ethnic women is similarly yet to be achieved too?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

YonicScrewdriver Thu 20-Aug-15 20:37:57

I agree also.

iAmNicolaMurray Thu 20-Aug-15 20:41:36

Yep I agree.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Thu 20-Aug-15 21:00:39

Me too agreeing smile

InTheBox Thu 20-Aug-15 21:29:57

Having said all I did in my essay (I didn't mean to write a post of such length), it has often been discussed in my family that 'well it's Europe' so obviously things will be the way they are because the majority are European. I can accept this. But I have questioned why then therefore in Asia and Africa the European models or ideologies seem to prevail more so than homegrown talent.

I can't see this changing in my lifetime but I can at least raise some sort of awareness about it.

PlaysWellWithOthers Thu 20-Aug-15 21:46:35

I also agree. It's struck me in Asian and African countries that, even when 'home grown' models are used in advertising, the models are often very pale skinned/Western looking compared to their countrywomen.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Thu 20-Aug-15 21:55:30

The "well it's europe" thing doesn't explain the narrowness of what is deemed attractive even amongst western european types.

Of course the beauty standard set while difficult for many white people is at least thereabouts, I have seen complaints "well it's just as bad for white people who aren't blonde / size 6 / etc" but it's really just simply not of the same order and I think this is distracting and minimising and all the rest of it and just reminds me of people who say "but what about the men" when people talk about sexism. The beauty standard in many areas is generally massively racist and the time and energy and money required to even attempt to conform is outrageous. Whole thing awful.

Don't know if things are different in other parts of the world eg China, Japan? I mean unattainable beauty standard is a given but do they use models more that are actually the same body type / skin / hair etc of most of the people they're advertising at. ?

Is this sort of thing more of a problem in europe / scandinavia / US? I see PlaysWell mentions Africa and Asia - I know that skin lightening has been a thing in India for decades.

There must be somewhere this isn't the case? Maybe? Iceland???

Vanimal Thu 20-Aug-15 21:57:26

I don't think the argument that this is Europe is particularly valid.

I am Indian but with very light skin, and have lived with lots of comments about my skin colour from other Indian people, telling me I must be stuck up and think myself so pretty, it saying that they are shocked I speak my parents language/participate in cultural activities, because they equate being paler as being a much-desired Caucasian trait.

I think people like Beyoncé/Rihanna are missing out on a valuable opportunity to show off their roots, it's a shame they lighten up and/or emphasise their European looks more.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Thu 20-Aug-15 22:01:44

Thing is, if they didn't, would they have the same level of fame? Is that a risk they're willing to make?

It's the media that are at fault here. Starting with Disney and that ilk, with identikit females, all of that.

For eg my DDs are both of the view that it is extremely desirable to have long, wavy, blonde hair. Where does this come from? All these cultural cues about what is appealing and what is not, I blame Elsa from Frozen for this one I think.... Anyway. It's depressing.

Vanimal Thu 20-Aug-15 22:15:58

I agree, the identikit Disney princesses are so offensive and Elsa with her thigh cut dress is depressing!

SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Thu 20-Aug-15 23:23:39

I agree with Whirlpool!

iAmNicolaMurray Thu 20-Aug-15 23:27:30

For eg my DDs are both of the view that it is extremely desirable to have long, wavy, blonde hair.

There was a (fairly disturbing imo) thread in chat or somewhere recently about whether you find your own dd's to be beautiful, and blonde hair was mentioned a lot. I don't think you can just blame Frozen for that one.

JeffhasAMicroPenis Thu 20-Aug-15 23:39:06

There was a thread a while back about black women and feminism which is why I thought I'd post this here but I suppose I'm saying whilst equality between men and women is yet to be achieved, do you agree that equality between white and ethnic women is similarly yet to be achieved too?

I agree it hasn't been achieved. I find the beauty thing a bit odd too. White beauty standards for women are upheld and aspired to in the UK. BME girls will obviously feel 'less than' because this is being held up as some sort of unachievable ideal. White women who fit in to the boxes can do OK if they 'play the game' but at the end of the day the game is for men and no women are really winning. And it's a very very small minority of women who fit the ideals.

I like #FlexinMyComplexion it seems positive in its own right and not about the male gaze. I've seen articles that "celebrate" black women by actually talking them like they are bits of meat and I feel sick reading them. Just more objectification. Or discussing songs by men that are just about black women's butts. Because that's empowering somehow. It's similar (but I know not the same) in the way they will get a plus sized or disabled girl to pose naked and say she's empowered now. Because she can be hot too!

On the 'Europe' thing- Something like 8% of the population in the UK are POC, and I don't see anything like that represented on TV or by models. As a white woman it's not really for me to say how I think things can be made better but interested i how you think young bme girls can feel better in themselves and happy in their skin?

HapShawl Fri 21-Aug-15 07:31:07

I agree with the OP too

The "it's Europe" excuse doesn't stand up as you say. In addition to the other accounts here, the white European beauty standard was pervasive when I was in South America too

shovetheholly Fri 21-Aug-15 11:58:40

If it's just Europe, then why are so many models in places like China and Japan so light-skinned? The wide range of skin tones you see amongst the general population in those countries is much greater than the range you seen on women in their media.

Totally agree, OP!

iAmNicolaMurray Fri 21-Aug-15 12:35:25

In China in the recent past (like Britain in the more distant past), light skin was viewed as preferable as it indicated a higher socio-economic status. The poor people out working on the fields are the ones who get dark.

I'm sure the internet and western culture probably has much more of an influence nowadays so the reasons for wanting lighter skin may have changed.

JeffhasAMicroPenis Fri 21-Aug-15 12:46:26

A lot of companies we know in the UK (including the 'right on' ones like Bodyshop) sell skin lightening creams. It's pretty gross.

JeffhasAMicroPenis Fri 21-Aug-15 12:47:10

(sell them to other countries outside of the UK I mean, where it would be frowned upon)

InTheBox Fri 21-Aug-15 12:48:30

As Whirpool pointed out wrt Disney, Elsa and the like it is incredibly insidious. I watched a documentary, admittedly based in an America pre-school, with young children from various backgrounds given dolls to play with. The dolls represented different ethnicities and the majority of children said they preferred the blonde blue-eyed doll for no apparent reason other than it was prettier.

I recall in primary school my black best friends wanting to be lighter, not necessarily white but just lighter skinned. And I wanted straight hair, not curly as it naturally was.

It is no longer socially acceptable to say that any race or appearance is the most desired but it still prevails in the media. And it demeans women to basically trading on their looks irrespective of race. I often think despite how far we might have come as a society and we pat ourselves on the back for being forward thinking etc, we haven't come very far at all.

iAmNicolaMurray Fri 21-Aug-15 12:50:09

I didn't realise the Body shop did! shock

DragonsToSlayAndWineToDrink Fri 21-Aug-15 12:58:48

There is a project about what appears on Google- eg if you search "hands" images I think you mainly get white hands- I think it's called the world white web.

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