Today’s discussion of “Who’s the fairest of them all?”
February 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
The only way I know to further explain this is to share what I was thinking about when I read the essay and in class today. While this is not about Black women in the United States, I think it still fits into the way that whiteness is seen as beautiful.
This past summer I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit India for a month. As a white woman, this experience brought at lot of things about my whiteness to my attention and changed the way I think about my interactions with the world. I couldn’t go anywhere without being noticed. When I went outside people stared at me. People who were driving, people on buses, every time I looked up there was a crowd of faces looking at me. At first it made me feel uncomfortable. It was the first time in my life that I stood out in a crowd of people. But, then I realized something. Brave strangers would approach me, introduce themselves, ask me my name, and shake my hand. Children would ask to touch my hair. If I was in a tourist area, Indian families would ask if they could take a picture with me. People were starting at me, because I was something special. I was whiter than the light-skinned woman on the billboards for skin whiting cream. I imagined the people I met going home at night and saying “I saw a white woman today.” I am like the images of white women or light-skinned Indian women in the media, TV, and advertisements, which are just as present in Indian as they are in the U.S.
Having had this experience, I now realize that because beauty is a social construct, it is a privilege as well. Although, it’s difficult to realize that you’re privileged, I think the grass is greener on the white side, when it comes to fitting into beauty ideals.