By Hauwa Saleh
“In a society that profits from your self doubt , liking yourself is a rebellious act .”
There is an image that has been put in our heads about the perfect woman and how she should look like . We may disagree at the body type but she should either be as slim as a model or thick in all ‘the right places ‘ . Whether thick or slender , her stomach should be as flat as a well leveled ground . Her skin should be flawless , no spot or pimple or freckles should be in place . Her eyelashes should be long , her lips full , her eyes large and bright . She should walk with shoulders upright and her legs should be adorned with high heeled shoes . Her hair should be silky , long and soft .
Everything about this woman should be perfect . All natural things such as pimples , belly flesh , freckles , scars , and nappy hair should be hidden away from sight . For us to be seen as ‘good enough’ or woman enough we need to tick most or all of these boxes .
As women , we grow up hating our bodies for not being the right shape ; our skin for not being the right shade ; our face for not being smooth and flawless enough ; our hair for not being silky , soft or long enough . There is always something missing and we are taught that this missing piece should be something to be ashamed of .
People develop mental health issues such as Bulimia and anorexia (eating disorders ) , depression and anxiety because the media tells them that their god given body is the wrong type .
Women who don’t fit into the box are forced into trying their best to get into it and we can say that this might be worse for black women . Black women get told everyday that their hair is not enough which leads to many of them relaxing it to make it ‘better’ and this usually damages the hair in the long run . Women with nappy 4a to 4cv hair have it worst . In fact , the natural hair movement that started as a movement to help black women with natural nappy hair feel good about their hair became hijacked by other hair textures and instead on focusing on keeping hair healthy and clean , it became an obsession about hair length. People tell them to relax their hair to make it look better .
Another thing the media tells black women about their body is that their skin has to be the right color in order to be accepted and by the right color it should be ‘light skinned’ . Darker skinned women are denied opportunities in the media , roles meant for darker skinned actresses are handed to lighter skinned actresses and worst of all they are bullied into bleaching their skins in order to be accepted and when they do that eventually , they are shamed for it .
It’s easy to tell people to accept themselves for who they are but it is a very difficult thing to do especially when society tells you otherwise . You can’t just wake up and embrace your body when you get denied jobs or get turned out of school for keeping your natural hair . You don’t embrace yourself if you go to the saloon and hear unsolicited comments on why you should relax your hair so it can ‘look better ‘ . You can’t embrace your skin if your culture values light skin . Colorism is an issue we are dealing with in colored communities and this colorism affects women more than men .
I know sometimes we see representations of people like us and it makes us feel as if the problem is not as bad as we think it is and yes representation matters but we also need to imbibe this love for our bodies in our everyday life and just not when we see it on TV. We need to unlearn everything we are taught about our bodies and that will take time , for many of us it will take a lifetime .
But we can help the next generation , we can start teaching little black girls to love their hair instead of being ashamed of it . We should start teaching little black girls that pimples are as natural as anything else , and yes it’s nice to have good skin but you don’t need to kill yourself over it . We can start by not choosing who is beautiful and who is not by our skin colors , we should stop teaching little black girls that light skin is more beautiful and we should stop bleaching their skins because we believe they are too dark . We need to stop making fun of their bodies right from childhood and most of all we need to fight for more representation in movies , in music , and basically everything else .
Imagine if this present generation of women were given a chance to love their bodies without societal pressures , we would have been able to save ourselves from obsessing over things that shouldn’t matter in the first place . And maybe it’s not too late , maybe we can teach ourselves to unlearn these things one step at a time even if it takes a lifetime . And we can start that by learning to stop shaming each other even when they don’t fit into the box .
The media will always be there to teach us about what our body should look like. But we can either listen or try our best to change our perspective considering it is almost impossible to drown out these voices , since they are everywhere . It will be hard and we will keep slipping back into the same box but it is not impossible, it just takes a little self awareness and a little courage .
BE A REBEL!