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 match.com, 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