Charles “Teenie” Harris rarely took more than one shot of his subjects. Somehow he had the magic eye of capturing beauty, depth, emotion, and familiarity in a single shot. His images of daily life in Pittsburgh documents an era that is worth remembering.
Fashion company Miu Miu collaborated with female filmmakers to create different narratives about feminine bonds and of course, fashion, in the Women’s Tale. I am drawn to Ava DuVernay’s short film, The Door, because of the symbolic meaning of transformation. The protagonist in the film, played by the beautiful Gabrielle Union, is in the need for renewal after an emotional heartbreak. Ava frames Gabrielle’s transformation through the use of her front door and the help of her friend. “In the film, characters arrive at the door of a friend in need, bringing something of themselves,” explains director DuVernay. “Eventually, we witness our heroine ready to walk through the door on her own. The door in the film represents a pathway to who we are.”
Today in class we had a discussion about women and beauty. More specifically, we discussed black and Latino women and their notions of beauty. We discussed the cultural assumptions about beauty and skin color as well as the politics and privileges of certain skin complexions and hair types. One may say that discussing beauty is a trivial, superficial topic. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Everyone is beautiful in someone’s eyes. But it is deeper than that. As classmates share their personal experiences with beauty and self image, it becomes apparent that notions of beauty are far more political than it appears.
Beauty is something that should come from within. True beauty exudes from the spirit rather than physical appearance. What is beauty? That is the million dollar question. Is it a cultural thing? Is there a true beauty? Does the idea of beauty really even exist? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet society is constantly pressuring women into meeting the standards of beauty.
Open a magazine, turn on the television, or look at the idolized celebrities. Take note on how women are presented through the media and the clear pattern of the ideal beauty standard is evident.
Universally, girls and women experience pressure to fit into the social ideals of beauty. Despite the diverse standards of beauty that represents women of all colors and sizes in today’s world, the media promotes the Eurocentric standard of beauty—thin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Or if not blonde and blue, the media will promote the lightly tanned “exotic ethnically ambiguous” woman. As a result, young women of color do not have many choices of positive images of beauty that looks like them. There is a relation between media comparisons of beauty ideals and a girl’s satisfaction of herself. Women and girls who internalize the European beauty standards and conform to these perceptions of beauty can lead to lower self-esteem.
Last week, Jezebel posted this article about a 16 year old model who posed as an “African Queen” in an editorial for Numero Magazine. This doesn’t look bad right?
Well this is what Ondria really looks like:
Yea…we are still doing blackface in 2013. “Why hire a black model when you can just paint a white one?!” The magazine couldn’t find a black model anywhere? Not even a model, a black woman of any descent anywhere at all? This is hard to believe.
There is power within us to redefine our own images and to be a part of how to be viewed in the world. Let’s take ownership of that power.
More specifically, take a look at how women of color are represented and defined when it comes to the idea of beauty.
There should not be one universal standard of beauty. Beauty comes in many colors, shapes, and sizes. It is time to redefine beauty.
“Style has a profound meaning to Black Americans. If we can’t drive, we will invent walks and the world will envy the dexterity of our feet. If we can’t have ham, we will boil chitterlings; if we are given rotten peaches, we will make cobblers; if given scraps, we will make quilts; take away our drums, and we will clap our hands. We prove the human spirit will prevail. We will take what we have to make what we need. We need confidence in our knowledge of who we are.” ~Nikki Giovanni