Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Of #prisonbae and Beauty Ideals

June 23, 2014

tumblr_n7frsgCVcb1qz6gbno1_500
So, #prisonbae is now a certifiable meme and while I am not too surprised, I was annoyed that so much of the rhetoric around this unfolding meme and Jeremy Meeks’ perceived attractiveness got leveled onto the shoulders of superficial women of the interwebz everywhere. Of course. Because we love driving the machine that upholds unrealistic and problematic beauty ideals and we do this by imagining giving cute guys with arrest records a shot at getting with us. It was all: look at these women! Look how thirsty they are! Most of the commentary on my social media feeds looked like this with few people actually taking to task the constructs of beauty that we get inundated with or anyone really grappling with the ways in which these ideas particularly impact, specifically here, hetero women. No, women are just beyond thirsty, when the reality is no one — and I mean no one — adversely suffers from the effects of beauty culture and its endless demands like women. If there’s someone who understands the lookism of society and the leverage it pays out: a woman does. Fat women and black women (of all sizes) know it even more.

Likewise, female-of-center, cisgender women and trans*women — whose “woman-ness” often gets mitigated against how well they can adhere to “traditional” (and often Eurocentric) notions of feminine beauty know this. It’s insidious and difficult to just be able to live fully, as you are. People can make it shitty for you and we can make it shitty for ourselves based on beliefs about looks and being attractive, or not. The extent to which most of the hetero women who “liked” Meeks’ pic understand that an attractive man — recently arrested or not, represents a standard of beauty that affords him privileges, is probably a given. To live in the world, wherever we are, inhabiting a female body, means that we also grow to know this well. Women are held to unrealistic standards of beauty on a societal level and personal level that most hetero men will never have  to deal with, quite in the same ways.

So I couldn’t give a judgmental damn about women thinking that Meeks is attractive. What would you do, if you worked at the front desk somewhere and he walked it near late to drop off/send in something? Would you give him a bligh? I probably would, especially if he asked nicely with some charm. Lots of people would too. The same people who are out on social media calling people misguided etc. and preaching respectability standards to women. Have some standards; he’s a felon. And what? Perceived attractiveness is one of the attributes in this world that keeps on paying out for some people, in small ways and big ways. And we all know this. Why else are so many of us bleaching ourselves into walking jumbies? Why are celebs product pitching?

(more…)

Trinidad James and Cultural Respectability Politics

February 27, 2014

Untitled

Full disclosure: this post was started a long-ass time ago and has been languishing on my WordPress dash since forever. I just never bothered to finish it earlier for no particular reason; I also got sidetracked by other projects along the way. The last draft was dated quite April 2013. I figured I might as well go ahead and post it anyway — finally.

If a beauty queen from a small Caribbean island appears in a rap video, does she cause a ruckus at the behest of respectability politics? Apparently, yes. And if said video includes shots in a low income community on the island, are some folks crowing in unparalleled indignation? Also, yes. On Facebook, folks lamented among other things, that “she’s in Trinidad James’ music video about being a hoe. So not becoming of her” and Metro Magazine (among others) had long running threads on Facebook dedicated to whether it was “beneath her and unbecoming for her to be in a video for a song that calls women hoes.” All this after Trinidad James visited the land of his birth before Carnival and shot this video for “Females Welcomed.” Look, what Athaliah decides to do with her own self is her own decision and how we can make the leap from appearance in a rap video to “hoe” is beyond me. Just stereotyping on top of stereotyping.

I disagree with the notion that by wearing the Miss World Trinidad and Tobago crown, this means that her autonomy becomes null and void. She also doesn’t become a slave to national respectability politics either. Especially not after a slew of us were disparaging her looks and her background. Oh, no, you don’t. (Google search Athaliah Samuels — go ahead do it. See what Google asks you.) A beauty queen is not an emblem of a living, throbbing West Indian culture and its diaspora and she doesn’t have to lug around the weight of your expectations and unending demands of respectability on her back. She’s just a beautiful young lady, probably doing the best she can, that is all. To quote Trudy from Gradient Lair, “I am NEVER gonna be here for respectability politics meant to intraracially police BW who are already intraracially policed.” Furthermore,

Now some will argue that if someone is beautiful (or “ugly”), famous and/or in a field where their sexuality is a part of their image, they no longer deserve respect from Whites or anyone else. They lose their right to discern who may touch them. I’m fully aware of how the politics of respectability and Eurocentric beauty myths manifest for Black people, especially Black women. However, I don’t agree with this. I will NEVER accept the faulty logic that if anyone perceives someone as “not respecting themselves,” everyone else has the “right” to disrespect them as well.”

I eh here for that either. Athaliah herself, would eventually have to take to Facebook in the form of an open letter to nicely read the widespread hypocrisy of Trinidadians for utter filth and claim her space to negotiate her own future and decision making. Enter Trini Trent‘s rant about respectability, Trinidad James, and most of all, the representation of the country, which of course, is rooted deep inside cultural respectability politics.

About that, first off, a Trini living in Trinidad vexedly lamenting all the national symbol waving by folks no longer living in Trinidad is really a pointless harangue. Yes, we all love the country, but of course, people who migrate go a bit extra with that. Understandably so, they left or their parents left with them. Some of it is all psychological really: I will rep this place so damn hard because I don’t want to ever lose sight of the fact that this culture is a part of who I am; even though, I am not physically living there anymore and may never be. How and why is Trent’s use of the “Trini” moniker more legitimate than James’ usage and claim of “Trinidad?”

(more…)

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

March 21, 2012

“You are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you . . .

you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.”

This feels like I’ve been looking for these words & knowing them almost all my life! Such beauty. Such achingly astute truth-telling.

Images that don’t let you go

May 27, 2011

I don’t  know who she is or what she’s about but needless to say: it’s all mesmerizing. First of all, I   t-shirt dresses and peep toes, ergo, her whole look. Also, she’s absolutely stunning and the image & all the unknowing-ness around it is captivating on so many levels. Lenny should have written that song about her. Of course, there are some people somewhere, who won’t think she’s at all gorgeous—on principle, because she’s so dark. 

I didn’t plan to write about this but I felt the need to since I had planned to post this pic up today anyway, then I saw the link for the preview of the documentary: “Dark Girls”, pop up into my facebook stream multiple times today. It’s not at all something I presently have the psychological strength or interest to go into detail explicating on right now, but suffice it to say, I’ve touched on colourism before here and there and it’s a painful, difficult, unending unraveling, with almost no end in sight (for someone inhabiting my skin tone anyway, that’s what it oftentimes feel like on a regular basis).  Intraracism + racism make for formidable bedfellows, let me tell you. Which brings me right back around to local language and the power of language for transformative imaginings like that of: dark-skinned, black beauty.

While the Caribbean is no less a space for some of the exact same hierarchies of beauty & desire & Eurocentric ideals, the presence of “darkie” constantly reminds me of what is possible and why I am excited that it exists as a site for considering dark skin tones attractive and lauding dark skin, specifically. Unambiguously. And why I’ve written about it more than once. How often is that kind of reaffirmation happening? Why not? Language is not all there is to it but it helps. If you hear you are pretty enough all throughout your life; you just might believe it, because it hasn’t been my experience that we draw these constructs of beauty without input from others, devoid of context and not as a result of no-end of weighing in by the media or other people, whether we want their opinions or not, unfortunately. If I can celebrate and complicate these tenuous notions of beauty, all colour-struck and problematic and difficult and gnarled as they might be in some ways, I might as well do so, on, being a darkie—because I am one. And evidently, I can’t be sitting here, scratching & waiting around for anyone to do it for me.

Beautiful image originally espied on the awesome fuckyeahblackbeauty tumblr.