City Paper is not for tourists
It’s weird that the Post’s latest entry to its Black Women Are Like This series, based on polling it did last year, quotes two old songs about how sexy larger, curvier bodies are, as evidence that black women don’t have the body issues white women have.
Sure, Sir Mix-A-Lot likes big butts. The Commodores appreciate women built like brick houses. But let’s take a look at some more recent music. In 2003, Jay-Z crowed that “all the wavy light-skinned girls” love him now. Last year, Lil Wayne noted, “beautiful black women, I bet that bitch look better red” (as in “redbone,” another word for “light-skinned”). And there are plenty of entries in the lexicon of songs that prize light-skinned black women with long, straight hair. A standard of beauty, it’s worth noting, that few black women can meet without the help of a hair stylist or a boxed relaxer.
Still, setting aside the problems with measuring one’s self-esteem by the male gaze, it’s misleading and strange to frame a story about black women’s feelings only as a counterpoint to white women. Maybe it’s the editing, but there’s a strange air of wonder throughout the story over the fact that black women don’t hew to white womanhood as the default standard of beauty. On top of that, there’s no mention of the myriad issues black women do have when it comes to their appearance. No discussion of skin lightening creams, no mention of weaves and relaxers, nothing about the anxiety of thin black women who want to “thicken up” thanks to Sir Mix-A-Lot, nothing about the women who were told they were “pretty for a dark-skinned girl.”
We’ll just say this: It’s not like being “thick” like Beyoncé or having long tresses like Megan Good is any more natural for black women than being as thin as Gwyneth Paltrow is for white women. It’s just a different, equally ridiculous, standard of beauty that can’t be glossed over with the chorus of “I’m Every Woman.”
Photo by Matt Dunn