I’m going to go out of a limb and say that you might have experienced the same kind of racism I’ve dealt with either directly or indirectly.
Today I’d like to write to you about something I call “Beauty Racism”.
When people think ‘racism’ I imagine most people immediately think of skin color or ethnic origin in terms of job roles, socio-political roles, etc. But today, I want to write about a different kind of racism that has spilled from history, social-politic roles and stereotypes to the perception of beauty.
During my undergraduate years, I noticed the guys often went after young ladies with fairer skin. I also heard about several women complaining to dermatologists about wanting to “be white”. This was because being ‘fair’ or ‘white’ was equated with success and, more importantly, in certain collective societies: beauty.
Growing up, I’ve learnt through the subtle and not so subtle messages that people valued women with fairer skin. And it wasn’t just me who picked up on that. One of my childhood friends told me about a nine year old girl who used 4 or 8 bottles of a product called “Fair & Lovely” a month.
What is “Fair & Lovely”? The commercials speak for themselves:
Other commercials, especially the Arabic ones I’ve come across, show pretty much the same scenario about a woman not getting the glamorous job or the handsome man until she uses the product and becomes…’fairer’. I haven’t come across the men’s version of these commercials until I searched youtube.
From my experience, beauty racism mainly deals with skin color but also ethnic origin which affects other physical features such as hair type, nose, you get the idea. I’m sure there’s another side to the proverbial coin (being bronze, etc). So, I’d like to open a social dialogue on this topic to incorporate other people’s experiences’ including men’s perspectives.
Everyone has heard of the famous quote “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Just as individuals have different tastes in food, music, clothing, books etc so do their perceptions of what is considered ‘beautiful’ or handsome. As these tastes evolve over time, so do someone’s perception of ‘beauty’. Remember when you were a teenager? Did you look for the same features in potential partners as you do now? Do you or any of your friends find the same men and women attractive? (If you do, good luck with the competition!)
This can become a sensitive topic as I’ve read in forums some people are not attracted to certain features and asked does that make them racist?
So what is “Beauty Racism”?
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” or “racial prejudice or discrimination”.
If you reject someone on the basis of your classification of them into a specific ‘race’ because they possess certain physical traits (skin color, hell even eye color) which makes you superior or the person inferior in some way (beyond physical appearance)…
Then yes, you are racist.
If you reject someone because you don’t find that particular person physically attractive to you and not categorize them to a particular ‘race’ then that’s based on what you find beautiful. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But also keep in mind inner beauty.
I’ve seen some beautiful and handsome people, regardless of skin, ethnic origins just the person’s individual physical beauty, but their personalities made them ugly.
I’ve also seen the opposite, at first glance not particularly attractive but their inner beauty made them more than beautiful in the physical sense.
Sadly, this topic can become messy.
Easily. I lost count how many drafts I wrote for this post.
So, how do we appreciate a person’s natural beauty without the perfect abs, cultural blabs, or photoshop ads?
Specifically, human anatomy. Study the human body as a whole of an individual to see a different beauty the media has failed to capture. Go to photostock websites or Deviantart to try and see a variety of models.
For the writers out there, I believe studying art can help with writing. It can help ‘teach’ someone how to describe a character’s figure more than “She was lean,” or “He was robust,” and so on.
Read the Gormenghast novels or the short story “Boy in Darkness” by Mervyn Peake. He used his art skills in his writing to provide more vivid descriptions.
So, have you experienced anything similar with beauty racism? To any gentlemen readers out there, what issues have you dealt with?