The unfair beauty standards given to Black women

Deborah Dzifa Makafui October 18, 2022
An image of a woman of African American descent with "natural" or undefiled hair. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/AveryScott

Negative preconceptions about Black women’s beauty persist in the 21st century, especially since the advent of social media, magazines, newspapers, and even television, all of which tend to set unrealistically high expectations. Because these standards are damaging and prevent a person from truly loving themselves, they can produce despair, a bad self-image, and even anxiety concerning their body image. It is crucial to address these concerns and have a nuanced discourse about them. 

Black women are raised to meet the beauty standards that society has for us from the moment of our birth. We’re supposed to have a bbl-type physique, a specific hairstyle, and a particular skin type. It can be mentally and physically exhausting to have a normalized but extraordinary societal implication driven into you in a society that is supposed to value diversity and individuality with regard to beauty standards.

Items like skin-lightening creams, chemical straighteners, and hair dye are just a few examples of how businesses benefit from the insecurities of Black women. At best, these products put a financial strain on Black women, and at worst, they pose a life-threatening risk. Due to the way that other races have dominated the discourse surrounding “professional” haircuts and attire, Black women are frequently pressured to adhere to these damaging beauty standards in order to be taken seriously in the workplace. We may see cultural expectations for Black women in three distinct ways, including their hair, skin tone, and physical type. 

Regarding the age-old problem of hair, Black women have only recently begun to accept, love, and proudly embrace their hair. Black women have been subjected to the systemic assumption that their kinks and curls are not “good,” professional, managed, or desirable enough, or that they appear too harsh, for decades. Numerous accounts of Black women subjected to hazardous chemicals in hair relaxers used to permanently alter their hair texture as early as five are the outcome of this persistent message (and in extreme cases, younger).

Recent events have left us torn between using dangerous hair products and supporting the harmful hair industry, which takes advantage of women by forcing them to sell their hair for little money only to resell it to people at expensive prices. And this dread still exists for a lot of Black women. 

Today’s world still has a serious problem with colorism. It has a significant impact on Black beauty standards as a race. In our community, colorism is a common practice that establishes a social norm for the appearance of a beautiful Black lady. The preference among Black women appears to be for those who are of mixed race or a lighter shade of black. 

Last but not least, when it comes to body types, Black women who do not conform to the notion that they are naturally curvaceous with larger behinds, thicker thighs, and wider lips are often denigrated. The Black female physique can also be excessively hypersexual, excessively hypermasculine, or both. 

Black women have extremely high societal demands, which must stop being imposed on us. We work so hard to maintain the status quo when the current quo should reasonably be adjusted to fit all, it is physically and mentally exhausting. Even in today’s environment, there is still much work to be done in terms of expanding our perception of what is beautiful. 

As society has become more inclusive and will eventually adapt to fit all of us, we should keep in mind to appreciate our uniqueness and be conscious of how different today is from the past.

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