Compliment Confusion

By Claire Tinubu-Karch


There is, what seems to be an ancient saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. More of an optimistic, “everyone is created beautiful”, as opposed to an American societal reality. You may call me pessimistic but as a woman who feels subject to these societal beauty standards on a daily basis I consider myself to be realistic.  From my point of view, our nations beauty standards as displayed in mainstream advertising are Eurocentric, and as displayed in mainstream social media it is Eurocentric with one or two more curves. The majority of women you see as lead roles in movies, models on billboards and in commercials are white, with fine and easily styled hair, which also have a slim waist and often blue eyes. This is not the case for every media center, but as I perceive, for many. Underneath it all there is a poisonous twist for black women. Our beholden beauty comes with an asterisk.

Black women are fetishized, and almost exclusively by white men. Often we are seen as trophies to be placed high atop a bedroom shelf, a badge to be placed on a sexual sash, an addition to an in-between the sheets resume. Overheard conversations from white, heterosexual, males throughout my life: “I got with a black girl”, “I wonder what being with a black girl is like”, “I hear once you go black you never go back”. This is not a new phenomenon in America, but communication has been modernized giving people more opportunities to interact. The Internet’s history can be traced back to roughly 1958 when the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was created to research new technologies for the United States (Mallia). Now in 2015 we have evolved incredibly, from the laptop, to the tablet, to the smartphone and everything in between. Not only to mention the millions of apps that these devices are capable of running. This, my friends, is where fetishizing has reinvented itself. Sherry Turkle a psychologist and professor at MIT found that “we allow ourselves behaviors online we never would in person” (Rope). Social media megastar Twitter partnered with cosmetics company Dove, known for campaigning to uplift women, to conduct a study that found last year over 5 million negative tweets were sent about women’s beauty and body image (Wakefield). And an infant social media prodigy has created a romantic game changer. We meet Tinder, suitable for both Android and iPhone.
Tinder is like, instead targeted at sexually charged 18-30 year olds. Tinder combines multiple technological medias with up to 6 pictures per profile, a short little blurb about him or herself called a “bio”, and even shows if you have common friends on Facebook.  No more “what’s up chocolate mama?” from Todd as you are trying to buy groceries, now bios to the likes of “I only f**k with black girls only they can handle the BWC.” I’ll leave you to ponder the meaning of this hip new acronym. It has revolutionized the way romantic pairs are made and the frequency of vulgarities black women who choose to use the app receive.

But how can you really blame these men when the American male history has grown up on the exoticism of black women. Beginning in slavery, we see relationships of slave owners and their favorite slave women.  The film 12 Years a Slave does a very good job at illustrating these relationships through Patsy and her master. Patsy becomes the symbol of both lust and rage for him. She is at his beck and call at all hours of the day and night, and on a Sunday when she is excused from the plantation her master goes into an utterly violent fit of rage at her absence. Almost like an addict who cannot get his fix.

These are only roots of the contemporary fetish. From slavery it grew into pride over dominating a black woman into, and blossomed into today’s misguided love of dark skin.


















Malllia, Daniel. “When Was the Internet Invented?” History News Network. George Mason University, 6 Nov. 2011. Web. 22 Nov 2015.

Rope, Kate. “Why Is There So Much Negativity On The Internet?” Real Simple. Time Inc., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015

Wakefield, Jane. “Why Are People So Mean To Each Other Online?” BBC News. BBC, 26 Mar. 2015 Web. 22 Nov. 2015


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11 thoughts on “Compliment Confusion

  1. I really enjoyed your blog because standards of beauty are everywhere in this country and most men think it is fine to talk to Black women like this or even women in general. This country is so patriarchal that men feel entitled to women especially to women they find exotic. The difference between White women and Women of Color is that we are more likely to be targeted for rape or sexual harassment on the media. The media plays so much into the oppression of Women of Color because like you said, most channels and movies women with European features are seen as beautiful, but Women of Color are only displayed in rap music videos. This makes Black Women more susceptible to sexual harassment because men feel that they have entitlement to Black women due to the “slut shaming” of Women of Color in music videos.


  2. Your blog is something that really hit home for me. This particular post really resonated with me because I’ve experienced this in past relationships, where the male fetishize over me being Asian, and it’s extremely disgusting and traumatizing. It’s just like when someone objectifies POC by describing us as “exotic”. I remember dating someone who happen to be African-American, and people would always refer to him as my “Black boyfriend” and I would always call them out on it, asking why does he have to be my “Black boyfriend”? It’s dehumanizing and implies that Black people are/can be anything but normal. So why couldn’t he just be my boyfriend? I just remember whenever I asked the question, it would make them feel extremely uncomfortable, and that’s great. I am doing my job by making people conscious of their ignorance. Fetishizing is really important to talk about because it’s extremely prevalent in so many relationships these days, and some don’t even realize the damage it’s doing. Anyway, this topic is really personal for any person of color and I appreciate you for posting it! Great read.


  3. 1. The title reflects the project and I think it is great because it is very intriguing and called out to me given that I get cat called a lot.
    2. The visual is a serious of comments and tweets of Black women being fetishized in social media by men. The object depicts their argument and blog very well.
    3. I would like to know how mainstream music (e.g. rap and hip hop) encourage this type of patriarchy?
    4. The author connects well to this cultural artifact because they explain the issue in a form that is personal.
    5. I think this blog would have been great if there were more examples of the media of fetishizing Black women and also talking relating in a personal level by given an example when the author was fetishized.


  4. 1. Yes, I think that the title reflects the project’s contents. I thought that it was simple but at the same time made the project seem like it would be interesting.
    2. Yes, there is a visual representation through a series of screenshots of messages. The idea for this artifact is unique and I thought that the artifact connects very well to the written project.
    3. I think it would be interesting to know what is being done to combat this sexual discrimination, if anything is being done.
    4. The cultural artifact is connected to the course material pretty well, though I think that extra background information that we have gone over in the course would help strengthen the message of the project.
    5. I really liked this blog and thought it did a great job of representing a modern difficulty that black women have to face. The only thing I would change is spending a bit more time connecting it to the course material.


  5. Your blog post was incredibly intriguing and very different from many other students’ blogs which I loved! Your title reflects the post’s main idea well as does the pictures of messages used to prove your point of the sexualization of African American women. I would love to read more about how sexualization of Black women today is different from the era of slavery. I also really liked how you brought in modern language used by young people today. Overall, awesome job!


  6. I believe your title is pretty good since it exemplifies what the rest of your post is about.

    Your examples, though repulsive yet sadly not surprising, are also good representations of your message. They directly show how (white) men fetishize women as a conquests or just as their “preference”.

    I would like to know rape statistics around this. Rape tends to be more about displaying dominance rather than sex but the added fetishizing of women probably contribute to the statistics somewhere. I also think it would be interesting to find how women fetishize other women or men as well.

    The author has done a good a job connecting her artifact and the course material by bringing up Patsy who reflected many qualities of life that slave women went through.

    While I enjoyed the blog, I do think the author could do a slightly better job connecting her sources to the post. Her mentioning of Dove talks about negativity of women’s beauty and body image which implies that over 5 million people tweeted against women’s beauty and body image in general.


  7. 1.This title fits what the blog post is pretty well since it talks about how black women are fetishized.
    2.The visual representation provided are conversations between white men and black women on social median. This relates to the blog post by demonstrating the situation black women are going through.
    3.I would like to know the revolution of this phenomenon in detail.
    4. This blog post related the cultural artifact at the end with the movie 12 years a slave shown in class. However, it was too simple of an explanation.
    5. When thinking about and constructing the second blog post, it would be nice to provide some personal experience which relates to the cultural artifact.


  8. Your title reflects what your paper is talking about very well. For the point of what this blog is about, it doesn’t need improvement. You also have good visual representation of your artifacts, as I take that it what the text conversations are.

    I would like to explore this avenue more with some research of my own, and find out the statics of black models in the industry, along with some other key points you made.

    You had some decent key points that related to course material like the 12 Years a Slave Reference and the Eurocentric view, however I think you should have gone much farther with it by going in depth with some of the Dunaway chapters and more of the sexual exploitation in the past of African American Women.

    What you do have is well-written and easy to follow. It’s enjoyable to read but I don’t think it hits most of the goals made for these blogs


  9. The title does a pretty good job saying what the project will be about I do think it could possibly be improved. I believe if you made it clear that the compliment confusion had to do specifically with the fetish of black women or something.
    There is a very good visual representation which is what drew me to the project. This representation is exactly what the paper was about and it was a great way of showing examples of how this eroticism of black women still happens today.
    Before this class did you tie this eroticism of black women to the times of slavery or was that a new discovery through “12 Years A Slave” and this course?
    The material is tied to the course material really well with the example of patsy and her slave master especially. Patsy was like a forbidden fruit that like Claire put it he was somewhat addicted to.
    Great job and I loved your topic and voice in this piece.


  10. Your title is great! your visuals are also very good because it’s actual conversations in order to prove your work on this topic and that it is an existing issue. I would’ve liked to hear some actual stories of colored women encountering these issues. I think the only thing you could improve was connecting it to the class material. Other than that I love your blog! Being that I am of mixed heritage I am too often sexualized into some erotic fantasy so this post really struck me personally.


  11. I love how you do a great job captivating today’s beauty standards and such. I agree that tinder is indeed a terrible hook up application and such. If maybe you included some stories of yourself or friends of yours that have had experiences dealing with it that would be great. In addition, you only have a little section connecting your artifact to class material. Some more references and you will be golden.


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