Not All Beauty Is Natural

'Sleeping Beauty' photo (c) 2009, vikk007 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/


Another insightful guest post from Renee of Womanist Musings

Womanist Musings has been up and running since April 2008, and that
means that there are a lot of archives.  There are some posts that
continue to bring in hits and comments, but because they are buried in
the archives, most miss what’s happening on them.  One of the most
popular posts, is a piece I wrote abouta poll which sought to question which race has the most beautiful women.

Since the original onslaught of comments, most people that arrive on
this post stop by to tell me that it is only natural that White women be
understood to be the most beautiful women on the planet.  For the most
part, I tuck these comments into the delete folder and move on, but I
would be lying if I said that it does not bother me.

I know that despite the post racial nonsense, and the yaya sisterhood in
the feminist movement, that women are not perceived of as equal.  When I
look in the mirror I see a beautiful woman, and this is largely because
I have let go of Eurocentric beauty ideals.  The standard of beauty in
the western world has always been White, and the closer someone is able
to conform to this, the greater the chance that they will be perceived
of as attractive. This is why colorism continues to be such an issue
within communities of colour. This is why surgeries exist for Asian
women to make their eyes rounder.  This is why skin bleaching companies
are making a substantial profit across the globe, despite the fact that
their products are far from healthy and in fact are downright dangerous.

I don’t think that what we find sexually attractive in terms of race is
naturally occurring.  One may be born straight, gay, asexual or poly,
but one is certainly not born appreciating Whiteness over bodies of
colour, when we teach children from birth which race to value.  No
matter what network you tune into, the one thing that is guaranteed, is
that those largely who are featured will be White.  They will fulfill a
variety of roles, and be held up as people we should aspire to be.  Even
children’s books are not benign.  Quite often the majority of the
protagonists will be White, because the gatekeepers are largely White. 

We don’t just happen to have a type, we are conditioned to find specific
bodies attractive.  Certainly there is a biological imperative at play
to find healthy mates however, there no race that exists without markers
of health.  The other side of this coin are those that date
inter-racially, but claim that they just are naturally more attracted to
people of colour.  Quite often, this comes down to a simple fetish and
this is far from complementary.  People don’t fetishize Whiteness,
because it has been so normalized and those who fetishize people of
colour, won’t admit that this is what their suppose attraction is about;
it’s a kink like any other and it is reductive. Whether you think you
are going to get a submissive lotus flower if you date Asian women, a
hot tamale if you date Latina women, or a sqaw who is going to live to work when you date an Indigenous woman, it all comes down to racism. 

What bothers me the most is that cultural differences are used as a
justification for these beliefs.  Far too many believe that Asian women
are just raised to be naturally submissive, or that Indigenous women are
raised to believe that their role is to work for the benefit of men,
that they will be more than happy to dedicate themselves to the double
day and family. It’s just culture and has absolutely nothing to do with
racist constructions that Whiteness has created for people of colour. 
Of course, the moment these women defy these stereotypes, there is a
penalty to pay.  Have you ever wondered how the Asian woman moves from
the submissive lotus flower to the dragon lady? What about the fact that
Black men can quickly move from ovary bumping passionate lovers, to
rapists when daddy finds out?

The individual sexuality is something that one is born with, but the
sexuality and the gender identity/ performance in which the body is
coded to belong is completely a construct of society based in race.  We
are hyper masculinized and hyper feminized depending on whatever fetish
is at play.  Some of us even appear on bucket lists, as something to
fuck before death, because we are understood to be exotic experiences
rather than people.

Whiteness is not neutral when it comes to determining whether or not a
person of colour is beautiful. Built into these determinations, are
centuries of exploitation and out right colonialism.  To claim that
anything involving race is naturally occurring, ignores the fashion in
which our bodies have been plundered, just as surely as our lands for
the pleasure of Whiteness. Individual White women may be beautiful, but
they can only be thought of to be collectively more attractive than
women of colour, if one has internalized the idea that anything White is
good and that inversely, anything Black or of colour is negative.

White supremacy  has managed a maintain stranglehold on many and though
after years of living as a woman of colour I know this to be true, it
does not hurt any less.  It hurts to know that we are not thought of as
beautiful but exotic caricatures ready to serve.  It hurts to know that
the world is divided into people and then others, because as long as
white supremacy rules the land, people of colour will eternally be
thought of as other.  You don’t need to have a White pride movement and
all of the whining about being oppressed by people of colour, really
comes down to an attempt to flout our efforts to dismantle an
institutionalized condition which harms us.  Sojourner Truth once
famously said ain’t I a woman, but I think the more accurate phrase is
ain’t I human. 

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