Beauty Whitewashed: How White Ideals Exclude Women of Color Watch

JACKIEKENNEDY
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http://www.beautyredefined.net/beaut...omen-of-color/

At Beauty Redefined, we talk a lot about harmful media beauty ideals that become unquestioned norms in our minds. Things like extreme thinness, appearance-focused “fitness,” sex appeal, and photoshopping phoniness are rampant in media and normalized as our cultural ideals. But one of the most oppressive ideals excludes anyone who isn’t … white. We call it the whitewashing of beauty. And it happens more often than you can imagine.
Vanity Fair’s 2012 “Fresh Faces of Young Hollywood” features only white women on the cover … again. But they were nice enough to include two women of color (Paula Patton and Adepero Oduye) on the inside flap.

In a country where a full one-third of the population is black, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latina, the serious underrepresentation of women of color in media is really disturbing. Further, when you only account for the women of color shown in positive roles or depictions – especially those depicted as beautiful or desirable – the number is almost negligible. Since Beauty Redefined is focused on recognizing and rejecting harmful messages about bodies and beauty in media, we can’t pretend that race isn’t a major factor in the most harmful of beauty ideals. Images of white women dominate all media – especially roles or depictions featuring “beautiful” or desirable women, not funny sidekicks, the chunky best friend, the hired help or other stereotypes. To think this doesn’t have a negative effect on females who rarely see images of their own races depicted in a positive manner is insane. To think it doesn’t have an effect on the way white people (and all people) view women of color is equally insane.
Since researchers have assumed that black girls were immune to the effects of thin-ideal media(1), communication scholar Kristen Harrison (2006) conducted a study aimed at testing this idea. Using survey data from 61 African American teen girls, she studied how TV exposure influenced the girls’ beliefs about others thought of the girls’ own bodies. She discovered that for larger girls, TV exposure significantly influenced their belief that their peers thought they should be smaller. For the smaller girls, TV exposure significantly influenced the belief that their classmates expected them to be larger. In other words, the larger girls in the group assumed their classmates thought they were too fat, while the smaller girls assumed their classmates thought they were too skinny. Interestingly, Harrison found the same result three years earlier when she found white women’s exposure to TV beauty ideals predicted the large-busted women wanted smaller chests and small-busted women wanted larger chests.
Beyonce before and after Loreal’s digital manipulation.

Basically, that means for-profit beauty ideals in media are WORKING. Too many industries thrive off women feeling bad about themselves and seeking ways to fix their “flaws,” which women naturally perceive as a result of not measuring up to media standards for beautiful or even “average.” These studies (along with plenty of others) show us that pretty much everyone feels bad. Too fat, too thin, too busty, not busty enough, too tall, too white, too dark …
Queen Latifah Over the Years

The mainstream beauty ideal is almost exclusively white, making it all the more unattainable for women of color. Though beautiful women of color like Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson, Halle Berry and others have achieved renown in U.S. culture, media representations of these women have become increasingly “anglicized” or “whitewashed” over time, with lighter-colored, straighter hair, lighter makeup, colored contacts and often shrinking figures (5). Though many of these transformations are likely decided by the celebrities themselves or their styling teams, some of the transformations are much more sinister … and more digital. Companies like Loreal and Clairol have come under fire for digitally lightening both the skin color and hair color of black women featured in their advertising, including Beyonce and Queen Latifah, as shown above.
Gabourey Sidibe Elle Magazine, Sept. 2010

Even when the women are being recognized for something other than their beauty, like, say, an Oscar nomination for incredibly talented actress Gabourey Sidibe of “Precious,” magazines like Elle still feel the need to whitewash her in order to feature her image on the cover. While representation of women of color in media has increased slightly over the past decade, finding positive depictions of women with dark skin tones or natural hair is still nearly impossible in mainstream media. Further, when we do see women of color respresented as beauty icons in media, they almost always already fit white ideals –meaning they already have light skin tones, light-colored, straight hair, ideally “white” facial features, thin figures, etc. The most famous examples of black or multiracial women celebrated for their beauty or desirability consistently fit those standards, and coming up with examples who don’t is really tough. Tyra Banks, Halle Berry, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union, Ciara, Zoe Saldana, Brandy, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys … the list goes on.
Halle Berry

Tyra Banks

For both Latina and black women, research shows beauty ideals include more “feminine curves” than the dominant white ideal (6). Instead of always subscribing to the thin ideal, girls and women of color, in some cases, value a “thick” ideal, comprising a slender but curvy body, with a thin waist, big breasts and hips and a round behind. Essentially, “the feminine ideal is tanned, healthy slenderness, with no unsightly bumps, bulges, or cellulite, and bodily and facial perfection that results from hours of labor: exercise, makeup, and hair care” (Coward, 1985; Kuhn, 1985) ‑ and 25 years later, plastic surgery and digital manipulation.
One recent example of this digital distortion to create (or make women fit) ideals is the notriously curvaceous actress Sofia Vergara (of the TV show “Modern Family”), whose arm was slimmed to the extreme for Pepsi’s “Skinny Can” campaign (barf). Despite a controlling ideal that values “feminine curves” along with the thin ideal, this is still an objectified and unrealistic standard that is a nearly impossible combination for most women, unless extreme photoshopping or expensive and life-threatening cosmetic surgery is performed. Latina and Hispanic girls are still suffering under these controlling standards of beauty.
Jennifer Lopez 2011

Jennifer Lopez (bottom middle) in the mid-’90s as a “Fly Girl” on “In Living Color”

In studies where Latina teenage girls report greater body satisfaction compared to white girls, they still report comparable or higher rates of disordered eating (2). Scary facts: Greater acculturation into mainstream U.S. culture has been associated with preference for much thinner body types among Mexican American women. Studies have found second-generation Mexican Americans had the highest levels of disordered eating among first- through fifth-generation Mexican Americans. In other words, Latinas who are daughters of first-generation Americans were most likely to have an eating disorder, potentially as a result of trying to fit in with U.S. ideals, which may differ starkly from ideas about bodies found in their parents’ native cultures (4). Further, Latina adolescents describe an ideal body type that looks extremely similar to the white norm AND they report the desire to lose weight at similar rates to their white peers (7).
Jennifer Hudson, cover of In Style, Aug. 2010

Jennifer Hudson on American Idol, 2004

Though many studies assume black females are more capable of resisting dangerous thin ideals than white females, plenty of evidence suggests that’s simply not true for too many. Botta (2000) found that for both black and white girls, exposure to TV beauty ideals was associated with a stronger drive for thinness and greater body dissatisfaction. Roberts et al. (2004) echoed these findings, declaring that black girls may be particularly vulnerable to internalizing media messages that emphasize beauty and appearance. Others (8) have found that the number of hours watching music videos increased the appearance and weight concerns of teen girls, with those findings being strongest among the black girls tested. Generally, television watching is related to lower self esteem and higher levels of disordered eating for girls and young women of all races and ethnicities (Harrison & Hefner, 2006; Tiggemann, 2006).
Rhianna on the December 2011 cover of Vogue compared to her as a child

We know different cultures may have different perceptions and definitions of beauty or even thinness, since Asian women considered to be of normal weight and figure in an Asian culture may be considered underweight or anorexic by Westerner ideas of body size. But the central issue here is not so much cultural definitions of beauty or body size – it is the dangerous lengths some people will go in order to achieve those ideals. Essentially, women are viewing a distorted reality and holding themselves to the unattainable standard set by the non-reality of popular media – and most often, those standards are based on oppressive, power-laden ideals of whiteness.
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zedeneye1
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what's your point?

the media is for profit....according to studies, people of all races prefer mate with a fairer (whiter) skin tone....to make more profit, they need more people following celebrities, so they edit photos, put makeup etc....

also, the media is not there to tell you what every other woman should look exactly like...not everyone is born the same....people look at these people cuz they are rare or they are fooled into believing they are....

I will never be like leonardo di caprio or brad pitt, but I don't complain that they've set an unrealistic, unattainable standard....
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JACKIEKENNEDY
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I never understood why people say that beyonce bleached her skin. she tans a lot. she very light skin in her childhood
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Rakas21
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Why is it bad that they aspire to look like a perceived vision of the perfect white woman? It's desirable to most males. Why is it oppressive?
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username521617
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The 'beauty standard' right now just happens to be lighter, bronzed or mocha skin and flowing hair. It's not some oppressive war against black women. In fact, fairer skin has existed as a beauty standard across a number of cultures for many centuries. In ancient Egypt, Greece, China, India and Mesoamerica, for example, fairer skin was generally viewed as being more beautiful and was also seen as a sign of wealth and prosperity.
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nhtw
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(Original post by zedeneye1)
what's your point?

the media is for profit....according to studies, people of all races prefer mate with a fairer (whiter) skin tone....to make more profit, they need more people following celebrities, so they edit photos, put makeup etc....

also, the media is not there to tell you what every other woman should look exactly like...not everyone is born the same....people look at these people cuz they are rare or they are fooled into believing they are....

I will never be like leonardo di caprio or brad pitt, but I don't complain that they've set an unrealistic, unattainable standard....
OP is looking at it from a different perspective to you. You are arguing that the media is trying to satisfy consumer demands of 'whiteness,' whereas OP is saying that people are demanding whiteness because of the images fed to us by the media. It's kinda like the chicken and the egg. I don't think anyone knows which way round it is. Either way it is harmful.
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zedeneye1
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(Original post by nhtw)
OP is looking at it from a different perspective to you. You are arguing that the media is trying to satisfy consumer demands of 'whiteness,' whereas OP is saying that people are demanding whiteness because of the images fed to us by the media. It's kinda like the chicken and the egg. I don't think anyone knows which way round it is. Either way it is harmful.
even before mass media was there, thousands of years ago, whiteness was still preferred....I'm sorry, but that's just how it is....

that is where the consumer demand for whiteness comes from...the media really gets nothing extra by promoting a certain colour, they make money on every colour......
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frizzydinks
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It's oppressive because it's racist to always portray the image that one natural, unchangeable skin tone is more beautiful than another. If someone told you that you should change your natural skin tone to be 'more desirable to males', as if that's the only way a woman can be beautiful, by being as desirable to a man as possible (sexist much?) would you think that was OK? The actress Lupita Nyong'o (who is was amazing in twelve years a slave) talked about this a few months ago at the Essence Magazine awards.
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frizzydinks
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(Original post by Dandaman1)
The 'beauty standard' right now just happens to be lighter, bronzed or mocha skin and flowing hair. It's not some oppressive war against black women. In fact, fairer skin has existed as a beauty standard across a number of cultures for many centuries. In ancient Egypt, Greece, China, India and Mesoamerica, for example, fairer skin was generally viewed as being more beautiful and was also seen as a sign of wealth and prosperity.
It might not be an 'oppressive war' (what does that even mean?) but it certainly is racist. Beauty standards are set by the dominant social groups throughout history, for example in some parts of India it was fashionable to darken one's skin because a darker-skinned ethnic group was in power. Obviously the skin colour ideal doesn't always correlate with the most dominant group in society, but looking at our increasingly globalised modern society, where (even though people hate to say it) the richest, most powerful people who dictate law, finance and the media are nearly always white straight men- you can hardly argue that our culture's female beauty ideal of young, thin and white is simply 'the way it is' with no reason behind it because that's the way it's been for centuries across the world? You gotta read between the lines, rather than just accepting the dominant status quo!
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nhtw
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(Original post by frizzydinks)
It's oppressive because it's racist to always portray the image that one natural, unchangeable skin tone is more beautiful than another. If someone told you that you should change your natural skin tone to be 'more desirable to males', as if that's the only way a woman can be beautiful, by being as desirable to a man as possible (sexist much?) would you think that was OK? The actress Lupita Nyong'o (who is was amazing in twelve years a slave) talked about this a few months ago at the Essence Magazine awards.
Your point about beauty and sexism is arguable. Who was saying the only way for women to be beautiful is to be desirable to males? You seem to have come to that conclusion by yourself? And besides it is not desirability to men that makes women beautiful but because they are beautiful that they are desirable to men. Also the same could be said about men. Is it not true that the only way men can be handsome is if they are desirable by women? (sexist much?) Is it possible to have a handsome unattractive man?
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