Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Baring All About Body Issues

When my coworker lent me By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, she also lent me a book she contributed an essay to a while ago: Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts. Co-edited by Ayana Byrd and Akiba Solomon (both of whom I've had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with in the past), Naked provides different views into the societal pressures black women have grown up with. Women from all walks of life - young, old, straight, gay, thick and thin - with a slew of compelling experiences talk about their body issues and the road they walked to finally come to terms with what they were given.

I might not be African-American, but as a woman of color I saw myself in many of these women. I understand what it's like to want to emulate what everyone else thought was beautiful and then turn on my body when it didn't look like that. Those negative ideas seem to seep in quietly, gradually building strength over time. This happens when certain body types are praised as others get ignored; when certain shapes are given connotations and stereotypes are formed.

I remember being really young and already realizing the preferences between light skin and dark.

"Why was I born with dark skin like you instead of light skin like dad?" I'd ask my mom. I think I just wanted to see myself in at least one of the Disney princesses of the time - all of whom had perfectly straight locks instead of the poofy mess I was blessed with. The same hair that had to be straightened every two weeks once I was older so it could better resemble "good hair."

Naked is honest and thought-provoking. I think no matter what your race is, it can still make you take a closer look at your own body, confront your feelings towards it and realize what your own prejudices are.

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6 comments :

  1. Not sure who's harsher critics... others who see us, or how we see ourselves.

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  2. This sounds like an interesting read. It was like walking into a maze when I met my husband and the things he talked about regarding race, perceptions, women, etc. As a person who never really connected with what beauty "was" in the eyes of society, I didn't have a deterrent to dark beauty versus light beauty. I understand it better now that I'm older and have witnessed or really listened to thoughtful conversation on this topic. I might have to make a trip to the book store this weekend. :) (what's really amusing to me is that the so-called light beauties are always trying to darken their skin. LOL)

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  3. ...and the sad fact is... the trite saying "its the beauty within that's important" is the Truth (with the capital "T").

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  4. ladystyx, hmmm good question. I think when we criticize ourselves it's even worse than what others say because you're the one attacking yourself, you're telling yourself these negative things every waking moment of your day. At the end of the day, you're the one who needs to look after your mind, body and soul and attacking yourself from within is one of the worst crimes you could commit against yourself. There will always be someone with something mean to say. When you start believing it, then that's when the problems start.

    tooj, I really wish more people were as open as you. Not afraid to learn more about the other person instead of quickly judging that which you do not know. I guess a lot of the hate stems from ignorance. And not just ignorance, but also this refusal to learn more about those things.

    And yes, thanks for pointing that out! Or how about people who want butt implants?? Geez...

    intense guy, Amen. (Though it's hard to truly believe no matter how often the outside world tries to convince you otherwise.)

    ab home interiors, thanks for the visit!

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  5. I am going to check out this book. Love your blog. Thanks for stopping by mine :)

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