There is a commercial that has a little white girl walking by a billboard with an extremely thin white woman modeling black bikini underwear. The girl stops and takes a look at the billboard. From the perspective of the viewing audience we are suddenly pulled into the bikini clad billboard to see another billboard of a close up of a photogenic white woman with professionally applied makeup. Without stopping we’re pulled into that billboard to see another billboard of another bikini clad, thin but athletic white woman. And after that we’re pulled into another billboard of a white woman in bikini clad underwear caught running along the beach. We are pulled through into another billboard of an image of a white woman barely dressed, and then another billboard of a white woman in makeup, and the process is repeated over and over again with young women with standards of beauty from a European perspective.
The images stop. The commercial suddenly shows the little white girl sitting on a couch in a living room. The little girl is apparently unhappy and looking a little insecure with herself. She is wearing baggy clothes and is in a pose with her legs pressed against her body trying to minimize how much people can see of her. A message appears on the screen that says girls are under more pressure than ever. The commercial is for a self-esteem workshop created by Dove beauty products.
Obviously the concern is that we are feeding our little girls images of beauty and female body standards that not many people can ever hope to achieve. The images of the women on the billboards have probably been manipulated to make their waist smaller, their bosoms rounder, their stomachs flatter, their legs longer and their smiles whiter among a number of other things. The little white girl is made to feel inferior and insecure with her own body image. That’s unfortunate.
But what about the little black girl? In the Dove commercial, not a single image of an extremely beautiful, obviously black woman was played. What affect does such propaganda have on the development of the little black girl’s self esteem? What affect does the constant barrage of white beauty images combined with the absolute lack of black beauty images have on our collective psychological makeup and in the development of our racial relationships?
Little black girls see the same images of European standards of beauty that the little white girl sees and will develop an even more inadequate sense of self esteem over their inability to meet the minimum beauty requirements. And then we wonder why our beautiful black women spend so much time trying to bleach their skin to appear lighter. We watch and wonder why so many curvaceous black women work so hard to achieve near anorexic levels of body mass. It’s why so many black women work so hard and spend so much time trying to transform their naturally kinky hair into something that resembles the covering of a horse’s ass. Our culture is one that regularly rejects black people for embracing hairstyles that more accurately reflects our ethnicity. Black women who wear an afro to a job interviews might as well wear a sign around their neck saying angry black ho’.
Generally speaking while white girls have at least something in common with their high fashion white role models. But black girls are the furthest removed from such images. And while there may be unreasonably high standards of well known European beauty images paraded in front of the little white girl, there are a large number of other white female role models helping her develop her self esteem. A white women came very close to clinching the Democratic nomination for the White House, a white woman is currently running for Vice President, and white women operate in both houses of the Congress as well as operating as Governors and other state level capacities.
There are white actresses that run the beauty spectrum from Angela Lansbury to Dakota Fanning. There are a number of white women in business as chief executive officers such as Carly Fiorina and Arianna Huffington and Meg Whitman of eBay. But who do black women have to serve as their role model to help them develop their self esteem? Oprah Winfrey? The last time Ms. Winfrey did anything to help anyone in the black community develop their self esteem was last never. I don’t think Ms. Winfrey even knows that she’s black. Her magazine O is the very epitome of European beauty standards. But who can blame the rich, formerly black, female billionaire? Ms. Winfrey is just as much a product of this culture that pretends black people don’t exist as anyone else. Like most black women, Ms. Winfrey has embraced this culture that plays so heavily to the European standards to the point that she, like many other black celebrities who know their place, will perpetuate the stereotypical images of American beauty and poison the self esteem of little black girls along with little white girls everywhere.
It is wonderful that Dove is taking steps to help little white girls resist the stereotypical images of beauty and accept who they are. It’s a daunting task considering the broad spectrum of propaganda that oozes from every orifice of media that says conform, consume, and obey. But given that the restoration of a little girl’s self esteem is an awesome challenge, it pales in comparison to the challenge of helping little black girls develop their sense of self esteem without so much as a single powerful black image to help them not only accept who they are, but to accept their black community as well.