Rihanna’s weight comment to The Cut changed how I think about myself and the black community at large.
So many thoughts. Where do I start?
“Jean Twenge, Ph.D, who studies the intersection of race and self-esteem, has an idea as to why: ‘Growing up, black women are taught you’re strong, you’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re enough — and that mindset is passed down from generation to generation as a defense mechanism against discrimination,’ she told Glamour. ‘The more confident you are, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with racism.'”
Umm. No. Not all Black women.
My first thought was, “I wonder if Dr. Twenge is a Black woman, because that conclusion sounds a little off base.” I Googled her. She’s a White woman. Some may say it doesn’t matter, but I kinda feel it does.
No, not all Black women are taught that they are beautiful as a defence mechanism against discrimination. I would say that insofar as Black women have been taught that they are beautiful (*too* — as in they too can be included in society’s concept of beauty), I believe that teaching Black women that they are beautiful is a recent phenomenon.
We must also remember that there is no universal lived experience of the Black woman. For example, while curvier figures are typically accepted in African-American circles, Black Caribbean women are not typically raised to accept their skin colour (if darker) or size (if heavier). West Indians are vicious when it comes to weight. Colourism and sizeism are rampant in West Indian societies. Weight-gain is not praised. Dark skin is not lauded.
I speak from experience.
I don’t think we should take the “59% of Black women think they are beautiful” comment and think that we as Black women are doing well in the confidence arena. I think that statistic is spurious, or at the very least belies our unique challenges against the backdrop of a society where, basically, “white is right” and where we are very rarely upheld as “beautiful” (“sexy” yes, but not necessarily “beautiful”). There are so many, many ways in which society beats down the confidence and esteem of the Black woman. Don’t let that 59% fool you.
I like the following comments though:
“There’s a difference between believing that you’re beautiful because people tell you that you are and knowing you’re beautiful no matter what people say. There’s a difference between accepting a body that gains weight every summer and taking pleasure in the versatility of such a body.”
“To some, it may seem counterintuitive that black women, who have been historically insulted, excluded and diminished, could be the most confident. But to me, it’s not at all. When you know you don’t fit into narrow “mainstream” beauty standards, when you know that the clothes on shelves won’t fit your figure, when you know that you’re not “the girl next door” and you never will be, you are tasked with developing your sense of confidence and establishing your own style, regardless of the mainstream public opinion.”
“I need to know I am beautiful, in every way, because I can’t wait for America to stop being racist to start feeling good about myself.”