Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What if…we knew that we are created beautiful

As a little girl with color I grew up in a world where my beauty was disallowed. My dark skin, my hips, my lips, my hair – were not seen as signs of beauty.

I remember that as a child my father would set apart a monthly sum from his scanty minister’s salary to purchase Ebony magazine. As the father of two black girls he understood the importance of developing a healthy self-concept, particularly in the times we lived in. Thus, he made sure that we were exposed to identifiable and positive images of beauty.

My sister and I would spend hours captivated by the beautiful pictures of those brown-skinned beauties. These women were really not new to our reality, they looked like our Mommy, our aunties, the ladies at church. Nevertheless, they were Women whose beauty we very rarely saw “positively” displayed on TV and in other magazines.

Twenty-something years later, when images of beauty are supposedly global, I find it disturbing that little girls of color are still experiencing the same type of beauty disallowance. While they might have more exposure to their types of beauty than I ever had, there is some unsettling distortion to the exposure.

While their “brownness” to a certain extent is “acceptable”, there is still the societal perception that to be considered beautiful, their type of beauty must somehow be re-arranged fit into an already pre-defined beauty box.

I think that something is wrong with a world where people find the need to constantly re-create themselves to fit certain man-made and partial beauty standards. I think that something is wrong with a world where uniqueness is not celebrated, and instead beauty is fixed to fit certain arranged standards. Perhaps its time that we each take a hard look at our personal definitions of beauty.

There is nothing wrong in admiring and celebrating outward appearance, it is part of the unique package our creator gave to us as humans. There is a problem, however, when we use our own sinful definitions of what beauty is to tell God, ”You made a mistake with me, or with certain people.” And then, we find it necessary to change and re-create God’s creative palette of beauty. This notion that God made a mistake with our beauty has lead women to become vain, capricious, catty and prejudiced.

What if we were to believe His word? What if we were to believe that He made us “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psalms139:14)? If we were to believe, then we would understand that we are already beautiful.

Note: To see the effect that societal definitions of beauty have on children of color click on this link 4realwomen.com - Film: A Girl Like Me

11 comments:

Randee said...

Norka:

What an awesome post. I'm so glad that you included the link for A Girl Like Me. Yesterday, I happened to catch Oprah where the young lady who produced the film was featured.

I was saddened with what I saw. Norka, you are a beautiful woman...both inside and out!

Anne said...

Norka, what a powerful film, and an important one for everyone to see. Thanks so much. It is disturbing to see that nothing much has changed image-wise for young African-American women in 20 years. Actually it surprised me to see that the majority of children chose the white doll as preferable and designated it as the "nice" one. Where do they get that idea, do you think? However, it was so touching to read that your father set aside money to buy you Ebony magazine each month and help you see other beautiful black women portrayed in a publication.

And yes, what indeed would this world look like if we all believed that we were "fearfully and wonderfully made". What if we saw no outward appearance but only the heart within? Meanwhile, I wish there were more beautiful black dolls out there for all children of color.

Shalene said...

Norka,
A similar situation (at least in the past- I'm not sure about now) has happened to Cherokee and other Native American tribes. My great grandmother was full Cherokee, however, she was adopted by "white" parents and was made to assume the role of a "white" person. I'm not sure how this was done, since she was fairly dark skinned, but she was successful enough that her death certificate lists her as white. (She died in 1969.) Also, the adoption was not completely legal, just as most of them were at the turn of the century. Native American children have also been made to feel like their heritage is shameful in some way, or not quite good enough. My mother looked very much like my great grandmother, and she was always upset by that knowledge, because she thought her to be ugly. My mother was beautiful, and not just in my opinion. Thank you for the thought provoking post. The video actually made me tear up when the little girl did not want to acknowledge that the dark skinned doll was the one like herself.
In Him,
Shalene

Norka said...

Ladies - thanks for your comments

Randee, thanks - I firmly believe that we are all so beautiful.

Anne, you ask a very good question "where did these pre-school kids get this idea from?" - I believe it's a combination of things: our own communities/families have internalized the hate and we've transmitted to our children the message that they are not beautiful enough, the media continues to screen unique images and sell the message that to be on screen or in print you need to fit a certain pre-scribed type of beauty, then society at large has not dealt with our own racist/prejudiced notions - we claim to be accepting and open-minded, but are we really?

Children are transparent they pick up things quickly. They are very real and those kids by their choice were simply relfecting the messages we've all sold to them.

Shalene, yes in total agreement - this is not only a black vs. white issue. It's an issue that affects everyone who does not fit the set beauty norm - so definitely my Native sisters and my Asian sisters and my Middle Eastern sisters do suffer from this pain of disallowance and exclusion.

I was so excited when I saw the finals on the Miss Universe pageant this week - I usually watch because I am into women's issues, I see the event as a thermometer of how the world sees beauty. This year, all five finalists were not the typical beauty mold - 2 Asians and 3 Latin Americans.

And while I am a Latina, in culture, I was rooting for Miss Japan - my reason being that nowadays while there is a little more of an appreciation for certain Latina types but Asian beauties are rarely represented so I was elated that Miss Japan won.

If we as women can step out of the world's beauty box and see ourselves in the eyes of our creator - OH SO BEAUTIFUL! Can you imagine how fearless and brave we would become.

I find that we don't like to adress this issue, we prefer to ignore it, particularly Christians, but for the spiritual sanity and the emotional health of the next generation we must.

Lori Arriaga said...

Norka, thank you for sharing such a thought provoking post and video. I love all people of color and it saddens me to think it is such as issue still. Actually I've always liked darker skin color and think it is so beautiful. I've always wished I could have darker skin as I am compared to being a ghost and glowing with my white skin. But then that is my issue of needing to really see myself as fearfully and wonderfully made. What if ...we all truly believed we were created beautiful?

lifecoachlynn said...

Isn't it interesting, especially here in the U.S. that we speak of 'tolerance' yet really don't embrace diversity and uniqueness. Beauty has been defined in human terms rather than what God says WHO we are, not WHAT we are.
Thank you for sharing Norka.

Randee said...

I love you ladies. Do you know that? When I read these posts, I'm honored to be among you.

Here's a thought...we are a nation who talks about tolerance but perhaps we should speak intolerance. Intolerance for discrimination, intolerance for immorality, intolerance for abuse.

In this respect, intolerance is not such a bad word, is it?

Randee said...

What does the Bible say?

How right they are to adore you! Dark am I, yet lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon.

Do not stare at me because I am dark; because I am darkened by the sun. My mother's sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyards I have neglected.

Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday.

Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?

Song of Songs 1:5-7

Kimberly said...

This post really touched me. I may not be ebony in color, in fact, I'm quite pasty white.

However, as I grew up I was made fun of by everyone, even my family. It took me ages to finally realize that, yes, I'm fearfully and wonderfully made by God and very beautiful.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no beauty queen by today's standards of the beauty industry.

I'm a beauty queen, Child of the King. I'm beautiful in the eyes of God.

Thank you Norka!

Kimberly

Randee said...

Kimberly,

It's funny how this topic touches us all, isn't it? It seems that "beauty discrimination" crosses all cultures, races, countries...I remember one time I was watching a news show on how beauty is defined. It was quite revealing for no matter what the country the standard was the same.

The one factor that was focused on was "symmetry". They would take a face and digitally divide it. The more perfect the symmetry of both sides of the face, the more "beautiful" the face was. It gets me thinking...

Perhaps, the same holds true to our "insides". Maybe when are insides are beautiful, the outside becomes beautiful. Perhaps, when the inside and outside are symmetrical, beauty is defined publically.

Isn't is something, though, that regardless of how we view ourselves or how others view us...to God, we are indeed His beautiful creation.

Randee said...

One more thing, Ladies...

Isn't it ironic that those with white skin deem beauty in being darker and those with black skin deem beauty in being lighter?

What a paradox!