Beautiful - Christina Aguilera

American Beauty


"All the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. 'Here,' they said, 'this is beautiful, and if you are on this day "worthy" you may have it.'" ( The Bluest Eye, p. 20-21)


Barbie Doll

This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
excersise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.

In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with he undertaker's cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

~Marge Piercy


Toni Morrison took on society’s perception of beauty, showing the wickedness of beauty which destroyed a girl’s belief in herself. Toni Morrison states that she wanted to show how the idea of beauty could cause the self-loathing of an entire race. She wanted the reader to be involved in the story, understand the humanity in characters who possessed qualities so immoral.The self-loathing that black children in the novel feel shows the negative effect society has had on an entire race, which results in self-hatred and worthlessness. Within the United States race is a muted topic. We know racial stereotypes exist but do not speak of them. Within many cultures it seems that beauty is revolved around skin tone, the lighter the skin means the more beautiful. It is withing each person that we must come to understand and love ourselves, no matter the color of our skin, hair, or eyes. A quote which I believe provides hope to those who have been critiqued based on uncontrollable features and shows the damages that such taunts cause is:

“The assertion of racial beauty was not a reaction of self-mocking, humorous critique of cultural/racial foibles common in all groups, but against the damaging internalization of assumptions of immutable inferiority originating in an outside gaze.” ~Toni Morrison

Long hours she sat looking in the mirror, trying to discover the secret of the ugliness, the ugliness that made her ignored or despised at school, by teachers and classmates alike." (The Bluest Eye, p. 45)

US_pic.png'Blonde is beautiful' mystique
By Sheryl McCarthy "Is it politically correct for us to see King Kong?" a friend joked when the latest version of the movie classic opened. A movie clip that shows Kong staring mesmerized at the fair Ann Darrow, played by Naomi Watts, caused me some uneasiness because it's hard not to see the subliminal racism in a story about a big black beast falling tragically in love with a pale blonde beauty.
But lured by reviews touting the special effects and the dramatic story, I went to see the movie anyway. While it certainly has racial overtones, I was more disturbed by its gender message: that fair-skinned blondeness is the essence of female beauty, so powerful an aphrodisiac that it can tame a savage beast.
King Kong is just the latest ripple in a cultural tidal wave of celebrations of a certain kind of Caucasian beauty. Pick up a newspaper or magazine, or watch the entertainment shows on television, and you're bombarded with a profusion of blondes: Paris, the Nicoles (Ritchie and Kidman), Scarlett, Charlize, Ashlee, Gwyneth, Mary-Kate and Ashley, to name a few. Even the African-American hottie of the moment, Beyonce, has golden skin and flowing blonde hair, while Halle Berry, the African-American actress most celebrated for her beauty, is fair with white features. Even in movies with predominantly black casts, the female objects of desire are consistently fairer than their male counterparts.
A step backward
"We move forward on things, and there are ways we keep stepping back," says Kathe Sandler, an African-American filmmaker whose 1992 documentary, A Question of Color, explored African-Americans' hang-ups about skin color, hair texture and facial features. Lately, she has noticed the extreme sexual objectification of women in popular music videos and the "European premium" placed on the women of color in them. "They've got to have really long hair, and I've never seen so much wig-wearing going on," Sandler says.
Jean Kilbourne, who has studied female images in advertising for 30 years in her film series Killing Us Softly and her book Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel, says the emphasis on being pretty and sexy, even for young girls, is worse now, the result of companies' desire to sell products and the media working in the service of the advertisers.
The images are impossible for most females to achieve, but they sell products and make girls feel negatively about their own looks. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that the more adolescent and pre-adolescent girls read fashion magazines, the more likely they were to diet and to feel unhappy about their bodies. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Boston College found that while African-American girls ignored images of skinny white female bodies on television and elsewhere, they were concerned about their inability to match white standards of hair and skin color.
Decades after the women's rights movement expanded the view of a woman's worth beyond her physical appearance, and long after the "black is beautiful" movement asserted that African features were also attractive, we seem to be regressing.
It's politically incorrect to admit it, but to some extent we're still color struck. I think of my former colleague, a white blonde, who talked about feeling "rewarded" for her looks every time she walked into a room. I also think of Indian families who tout their daughters' fair complexions in marriage ads, of southern African women who are ruining their skin with bleaching creams, and of the little white, African-American and Asian girls, who despite their parents' assurances that they are beautiful as they are, long for long blonde tresses.
Values unchanged
"Just because you have this movement that expands the image of beauty in women and a 'black is beautiful' movement, doesn't mean people have necessarily changed their minds," says Beverly Greene, a New York psychologist who has plenty of African-American clients. She hears them talk about good hair and bad hair and express concern about their babies' hair texture and color. Nor do these messages all come from the media. They also come from family members, loved ones, trusted figures, who tell females about the extremes they need to go through to make themselves beautiful, and the consequences if they don't.
Beauty standards are driven by racial and gender politics, by Caucasian image-makers who promote their own physical attributes as symbols of their superiority to other groups, and by male fantasies of what makes women desirable. When women are being highly sexualized in the popular culture, it's not surprising that the old standards of beauty hold sway.
I'm glad Kong found true love with Ann Darrow, even though it ended badly. But I'd love to see media outlets promoting more varied images of female beauty, to see black actors and directors who have clout push for the casting of female love interests who aren't just brown-skinned versions of white women.
Parents certainly need to try to mitigate the messages their children get from the media, although they're hard to overcome. And while most of us probably can't do much to change Hollywood's beauty standards, we can talk about them, about how damaging they are, and how important it is not to buy into them.

Hope & Revolution