I was walking into a local pharmacy to buy some dietary aids in my personal quest to lose weight. And, I could help but find myself wandering through the cream care section. While doing so, I noticed shelfs upon shelfs of produces for age spots, wrinkle reduction anythng you can think of it was there. In the corner, I noticed a small allocated black section, stocked with creams, but not like the other section. The black section had creams solely to fix black spots and skin whitening creams.
I was appalled. The general section clearly geared towards white, middle class women (per se) had creams to enhance their look to make them younger whereas the black section or as they call it ‘ethnic section’ solely had creams of lightening purposes which made me feel as though that was the only issue with our skin. We aren’t white. And, that lead to this entry about the privilege of beauty.
The idea of beauty privilege stems for the notion of what is deem as conventional and unconventional beauty. These ideology are instilled into our minds from a young age – for instance: Barbies are the first indicators to young minds of what is defined as beautiful. From the various google searches, I have determined that there is a unanimous understanding that conventional beauty is as eloquently put by a user named ‘curlygreek’ on a beauty forum she states that, ‘conventionally pretty is kind of a reference to the “all american girl next door”. Unconventionally pretty means there is something different, something not average. Whether it be your skin tone, eyes, hair – or a mix of all of them. When I think unconventionally pretty, the work slightly awkward comes to mind – or even slightly ‘off”. The perception what is deemed beauty and what is not had me wondering about the privileges surrounding the notion. There is a clear class privilege as well as race privilege that leads to the determinant of beauty.
This analysis lead me to understand that we, as humans, all seem to long for this mutual desire of acceptability, and while doing so we simultaneously always seem to ‘other’ another group of people whether it be subconsciously or consciously. The thought that such power to enable an individual or group to feel superior over another is one poses grave concern to me, as it seems as though the cycle never ends – once you get out of one label, you always seem to fall into another.
I looked back to when I was younger and remembered all the ways the word beautiful has been used to hurt me. I spend a bulk of my life living in Whitby, Ontario where I belonged to the only black family in the whole subdivision. The beauty I had encountered was mainly constructed against blackness. I didn’t have long flowy hair like my classmates nor was I blessed with pretty light eyes. I was just a kinky haired, awkwardly tall and skinny black girl who found acceptance in being book smart. It seemed like no matter how I looked, I was always deemed as “less beautiful” compared to classmates, and friends. I found salvation in my books and that seemed to make me into more of a freak. I just could not belong.
The idea that beauty and intelligence actually represents binary labelling of a patriarchal society—labeling meant to facilitate the ideals that women who represent either one are enemies, and the notion that women can only have one or the other. In my case, I fell for those binary labelling and strived for intelligence because I was constantly conditioned that beauty was something unattainable. And what I realized was that much like white-privilege, male-privilege, hetero-privilege, and cis-privilege, there is an absolute amount of privilege that goes along with being conventionally attractive.
This subject matters simply because of the undertone of elements that stem from the colonialist’s ideals of dividing and conquering. The power dynamic between myself and this issue has a lot to do with the fact I am forcefully entangled in it. How so? Well for instance: Race is socially constructed, yet white privilege exists. Gender is socially constructed, yet male privilege exists. Social Class is socially constructed, yet class privilege exists. I think these same rules apply to beauty privilege. For something to be socially constructed it would not have a meaning (i.e a biological meaning) without a social representation that is constructed specifically to give it value. Beauty, for example, would just be a state of appearance, no negative or positive connotation to it, except for there is a socially constructed meaning for beauty that creates bias and privilege.
It’s time that women of the marginalized grouping affirm their our own beauty because it is evident that the media isn’t going to do that. Sadly, because of the creation of Eurocentric beauty standards and how those standards were forced upon Black people, many Black people aren’t going to affirm Black women’s beauty either. The darker the skin, the shorter the hair, the coarser the hair, the larger the body, the less likely that woman will be seen as beautiful AND will be more open to assaults. It’s not just the absence of affirming beauty but the presence of misogynist attacks that Black women have to deal with.