Updated: Dec 19, 2019
This topic may seem trivial or superficial to some, but as a black womxn living in a white supremacist system, and seeing our youth be so consumed with outer beauty and aesthetics, I feel this conversation needs to be had. I am not here to promote unhealthy and damaging societal "norms" and specifically beauty standards, nor do I want my art to portray that. What I am here for is breaking down the harmful conditioning, by the dominant society, that we as humans have gone through that has led us to believe what is and isn't considered beautiful or attractive in the westernized world.
I have only recently become aware of the monolith that is "pretty privilege". Like a true millennial, I found this out from an instagram post. It's never been something I was actively aware of, but the more I read about it, the more I realised how blatant it is in the media. We all know that there is an over-saturation of impossible beauty standards but there are so many privileges that individuals possess and pretty privilege is completely relevant to how we move in the world. We interact with folks differently based on their gender, class etc. and of course how attractive we think they are.
Attractiveness is completely subjective and not everyone finds the same things attractive but in westernized societies attractiveness is mostly associated with how white/light, symmetrical, abled-bodied and cisgender you appear.
The more "attractive" someone finds you, the better they will treat you, the more they will trust you and accomodate you.
Too many times I've had people come to me saying that I should model, as if I'd want to contribute to these beauty standards. As if my so-called attractiveness is all I have to offer the world. No.
People who know me, know that I am very awkward when I am complimented on my so-called beauty. There are a lot of reasons why that is.
One of those reasons is, I grew up ugly. I was a weirdo all throughout school (I also still am a weirdo), I was quiet, I had frizzy hair, dark skin and I wasn't considered beautiful. Unlike my peers and my friends, I was only ever complimented for my artistic or athletic abilities. Not what I looked like. So now when people compliment my looks, I have no idea what to say. "Thank you for finding me attractive?" Mmmyeahno thanks...because that's just. their. opinion.
Another reason is because, on my journey of self-love, I have unconditioned and reconditioned myself in my own standards of beauty. I know I am beautiful because I said I am. I know it in myself and not because of outside opinions. I could care less what people think of me, whether they compliment me or not and that is the ideology I project onto others.
I was raised by a single mother dealing with her own intergenerational trauma and conditioning of westernized beauty standards. I was raised by a religious family that confused egotism for self-love. If that isn't enough for young black girl, we are also surrounded by colourism and an inequality of representation of dark-skinned black girls and womxn seen as beautiful in our community. All 4 of my other sisters are light-skinned and as a child I never realised how much more they were validated and accepted by society than I was. I never saw the difference between us. I never saw the correlation between me being dark-skinned, like my two brothers, and the masculation of dark-skinned womxn and girls. This is a sickness in the black community that needs to be remedied. I see too many of my First Nation sisters being praised for having children with yt men so that their child will have light eyes and light skin. If I ever have children, they're going to be black black and blackety black yo.
It would've been only 6 years ago that I truly began to see myself as beautiful. I am now 27. Living most of my life feeling ugly and unloveable, I pushed through a lot of purging and learning self-love. I finally just stopped caring. I stopped caring about what other people thought of me. I stopped seeing my frizzy hair as ugly and started to become proud of it. I loved how dark my skin got in the summer. I stopped removing the body hair that I was conditioned to remove. I cut off all toxic religious belief systems that were projected onto me by my family and started believing in myself and in turn I stopped judging other peoples appearance.
Any time I was in public, I was being as loudly and proudly black as I could possibly be. I was speaking my truth and empowering those around me.
If I could, I'd go back and tell my younger self that attractiveness is all a lie. It's about human connection. It's about self-love! The rest is all just social constructs that the dominant society conditions us with to make us spend our money and emotional labour on and oppress us, especially black folks.
I want to help change the way we see beauty, in ourselves and others. Our youth need to know that they don't need to conform to be beautiful. I want to see young black children with confidence, love and knowledge of self, so that they don't have to unlearn unhealthy conditioning when they become adults. I want to see black folks with knowledge of self, unlearning and relearning, working on self-love, and living carefree. BLACK AND POWERFUL.
Like other forms of privilege, we can use 'pretty privilege' against the system. Those in places of privilege need to use it to bring about change. We need to collectively stop contributing to bullshit western beauty standards and start empowering ourselves and those around us.
Own your own beauty!