The Misappropriation of Ethnic Female Bodies

Lauren Marfo December 11, 2014

In the wake of Kim Kardashian’s jarring photo of her naked body on the cover of Paper magazine, it brings to mind the memories of old. I remember when curvaceous figures were somewhat of a novelty. To be quite frank, if you were a woman with a voluptuous figure, or more specifically, a woman with a voluptuous rear, you were either looked at as one of two extremes: a rare Mona Lisa or Van Gogh painting or a circus sideshow freak (i.e. Venus Hottentot) that didn’t fit in to the Eurocentric beauty norms.

Let’s face it, as a society changes, so do its ideals and its beauty norms. First it was the pencil thin lips that was considered ideal, next, the plump lip is more of a standard for perfection. First, we had the thin nose as the ideal for the female side profile, now, we have high cheekbones as being in vogue.

This and many more beauty changes prove the notion that the standard for beauty has continually undergone a metamorphosis. As women of color, or more specifically for me as an 1st generation African woman, these standards have historically impacted the way we view ourselves as well as our God-given beauty and features. Instead of embracing our unique features, we then shape ourselves to fit into the mold of Eurocentric beauty.

What do Eurocentric beauty standards and women of color have in common? Well, the recent phenomenon and fashion trend that has made waves is the voluptuous rear. Popularized by the likes of Nikki Minaj, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and the music video by Taylor Swift that shows black women jiggling their rears in slow motion while she slides through their legs, it would be safe to say that this new trend is sweeping through like a hurricane. The most disturbing part of it all is the misappropriation of this bodily feature that is most closely associated with women of color.

But now, with a simple medical procedure, women can now partake in this fashion trend. This feature most notably seen in ethnic women is now being seen in many other women who culturally have been associated with different body types. This is not to bring the assumption that all ethnic women have voluptuous rears, or that all white women have none, but it does beg the question: how does a physical feature, one that is most notably seen in women of color suddenly become associated with Kim Kardashian?

Seeing women like Iggy Azaela of Kim Kardasian is like seeing a caricature of the real thing. As an African woman, I feel very strongly about this because it makes our culture and what is closely associated with our culture look like something that can only be appreciated once the dominant culture takes it and calls it their own. Even though this idea of cultural misappropriation is not new and most identifiable in music (i.e. Elvis, Justin Timberlake, the Rolling Stones, etc.), it’s time we pay close attention to the origin of our culture and whose hands it goes into.

Last Edited by:Sandra Appiah Updated: December 11, 2014


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