Looking like the “ideal” woman

Getting on my Soap Box today...is this mic working?

Being female, I am acutely aware of what the world expects me to look like: Long shiny hair, clear complexion, perfectly made up face and perfect attires on a body that will draw cat calls from construction workers.

I admit that I bought into some of that while growing up but consistently found that I couldn't reach the ideal that had been set for me. The older I grew, the more I came to accept that not only could I  not reach it, I really didn't care to - I have instead reached a comfortable place that I am pleased with and which describes who I am, currently. That can change without apologies to anyone. Like most people, I am still evolving.

While I am not trying to suggest that females the world over should let themselves go and not look tidy and well put together, I am stating that we should know our limits. One should also not embark on anything that is dangerous to ones’ self because someone has stated that it is the way to go. A good example would be my Igbo brothers who typically like their girls 'Fair and Fine' This has led to a spate of  skin bleaching with dangerous topical applications to achieve that Fair complexioned look. Years later, a lot of those females have had to deal with severe hyper pigmentation, if they are lucky, or aliments brought about by mercury poisoning if they are not.

I have been lucky enough to come across a video (see above) that describes how I feel about the way women are objectified and made to go through hoops in order to become an ideal. It is stated in the video that: "Failure is inevitable because the ideal is based on absolute flawlessness." It goes on to comment on a picture of the ideal woman and states "It cannot be achieved. No-one looks like this, including her". Does that sound familiar?

I think Tracee is beautiful. However, even she will not meet the criteria for some people.

Source

At NITC2, one of the speakers that we had was the very beautiful Ifeoma Williams who is an image stylist. Someone asked me what an image stylist was doing talking at a natural hair meet up - we all found out really soon. As it turned out, her presentation and the talk she gave not only lifted the spirits of those present, they left the meet up thinking that it was possible for them - despite their choice of having the much-misunderstood-in-Nigeria Natural hair, despite that pouch on their lower belly, despite the cellulite on their thighs - to be happy with their lot. They also learned ways to accentuate their best features (everyone has one).

The other day on twitter, someone was giving out tips on how to get a man and stated "Make an effort. Try to look nice. Work out. Guys like babes. Get that Don King hair done, stop forming "Oh Naturale”  To me, he demonstrated clearly that he liked certain look - which is fine - but to want to impose that on girls the world over?

Something else that struck me when I went to look at this person’s twitter account was the fact that his voice is louder than mine. I have approximately 350 followers on twitter while he has over 26,000 so he is able to reach more people with his 'advice'.  That tweet also got 137 re-tweets (perhaps not all positive) from females and males which means that even more people are walking around thinking that having natural hair is not an ideal. That is how the media works. How conditioning begins and takes root.

What I would like to see is folks, not just making an effort with their appearance just for the sake of pleasing others, but taking a healthy world view to beauty and what it entails. Respecting the fact that that view differs for each individual and that it can also be altered depending on what phase that person is on in their development would also make things easier. For example, prior to having natural hair, I wore my relaxed hair bone straight. That for me was the interpretation of beauty. Now displaying my textured natural hair is. I am still the same person. I have just developed/evolved. I am shying away from using the word ‘matured” as I am not certain it has much to do with maturity.

Fix what you can - by all means go the gym not just to get into those size 4 jeans but also to get fit and healthier. Wear make-up if it lifts your spirit or don't wear it if you cannot bear to have it on your face for extended periods of time. Respect that people have off-days and periods where they do go "Oh Naturale" (yes, I have seen the pictures of Tyra Banks out jogging and I think the world has gone mad for highlighting that picture because she did not go jogging all made up, wearing a body con dress and high heels – what, she's not allowed to puff and sweat?).

Always remember, if you cannot love yourself, how can you teach your child(ren) to do so? How do you influence your community positively in that regard? The cycle then goes on and on and on.

P.S: Please when leaving a comment, don't slag off the author of the tweet I quoted. I truly believe that if he knew better, he would do better.

26 thoughts on “Looking like the “ideal” woman

  1. tia

    Wow, what an interesting discussion. The video you refer us to describes this as a public health problem. It’s really an interesting and truthful way to look at it.

    Reply
  2. Mrs Odinya B

    Hey Natural Nigerian, am a huge fan of your blog. I love this article, I went natural 9mnths ago, since then ppl keep asking which church I go to??? Lol ignorance is bliss indeed. Infact jst left d saloon n immediatel d lady saw me with my fro she asked retouching? I said no threading lol. And next question was “Are you born again? Do you attend deeper life? Jeez, the nerve. Anyways needed to rant. Thanks a lot I really do love your work.

    Reply
    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      My mother got those questions on my behalf. Some folks thought that I had found religion.

      I am so glad that you like the blog. Readers like you make the hard work that goes into it worth it. Thanks!

      Reply
  3. onyinye

    This your blog post is so on point as usual. So much brewing in my mind, but that would turn my comment to a blog post itself lol. I will just give one instance. My mum and some other people think I should add more weight after I had struggled to lose 15kg in 1yr. They think men would not find me attractive at my current weight and my mum kept comparing me with some of my friends that are overweight (and are asking me for weight loss tips!), saying they look very healthy and fresh. I currently weigh 60kg and I am 5 ft 3 inches tall. See me see wahala! Imagine someone telling you ‘I liked you better when you were “orobo” ‘. Ok o! My mum has finally accepted my weight and new body now though.Thank God.

    Let me not even go into how people have offered to buy me a relaxer/comb or how some people think I should be using some ‘toning’ cream to ‘maintain’ my light-skin.

    Reply
    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      Your story resounds with me…the worst thing you could say to my mum when was I was growing up was to remark on how slim she was. She did not have the ori-aku (spender of her husband’s wealth) look – and I suspect felt that other women looked more madam-ly than she did. She did a lot to try and gain weight – but lost it every time she had a child. My mother stayed slim until well into her 50′s and only now looks a bit more madam-ly but not at all fat. She was trying to live up to the ideal of her times when African women were seen as being buxom. Your mum – bless her, being Igbo has already been conditioned to think that slim is unattractive.

      Reply
  4. Fadekemi

    Very interesting and enlightening.. When I was a teenager, I struggled with becoming what is considered “ideal” by the society but now as a young adult I make conscious efforts not be bothered with peoples’ brainwashed ideologies. Sometimes, I still give in to it but blogs/videos like this gives me the strength and keeps me focused on the more important things to life. Nice article

    Reply
  5. Afronuts

    Thanks for such a lovely post.

    In fact I’m inspired to write something on this too.

    If I had been pursuing the so-called ‘ideal woman’ as painted or programmed into my head by society and the media, I wudn’t have married the wonderful woman I now call my wife!

    Reply
    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      Great to have a man’s perspective. I have this friend who is admittedly slightly overweight and suffering from mild Alopecia. However to be with her is to constantly entertained by her wit, benefit from her generosity, experience her fierce loyalty and chic can burn in the kitchen. However, men see only the first two things I mentioned. Their loss.

      Will look out for what you write.

      Reply
  6. Uzoma Okafor

    Wonderful post. I always love reading your posts. Now that you mentioned it, what ways do you think one can treat alopecia?

    Reply
    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      Thanks I am quite honored that you like reading my posts. For Alopecia, I would definitely advice that you see a Trichologist if you have access to one. They will be able to diagnose what sort you have (there is more than one type) and then be able to treat it better.

      Reply
    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      I can imagine that my daughter will too. I can rest easy that I will be there to give her as much support as she needs. However, at the end of the day it all comes down to the individual.

      Reply
  7. Adura Ojo (Naijalines)

    We cannot give love and positivity unless we love ourselves. I’ve suffered from obesity through most of my adult life. Regardless, I do have good self esteem and refuse to let the world’s standards make me a sad person. It’s more important to be healthy. That starts with being comfortable with who we are. Hair, body, et al.

    That’s a great video for an inspiring post, NN. Love your soap box:)

    Reply
  8. Dabs

    Great post! Very deep! I still cannot get over the fact that people say negative comments to naturals! Very mind boggling, I guess people never like to mind their businesses!

    Reply
  9. nd

    was just thinking about that exact post and was wondering what other nigerians felt about what he said. I was pleased to find your article as my first hit. It really does say something about our psyche doesn’t it? We can’t all have the same look- cascading curls etc, some people want something different. That doesn’t make it bad or “not done” it’s just a different choice

    Reply
    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      You hit the nail on the head by saying that “It’s just a different choice”. It doesn’t make it the wrong one. After all, they do say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If natural hair or some other method of expression doesn’t work for you, there are other options.

      Reply
  10. Ore

    Great post! I’m glad that you could write about these issues in such a calm and mature manner. I don’t know if I could. I read those tweets you referred to and when I came to the one about natural hair, I went “Whaaaaaaat???” LOL! But, you said it well: “….if he knew better, he would do better.”

    Reply
  11. Misi

    I love this article. Learnt that there is really no ideal woman, it varies with culture and personal preferencs. My husband believes the ideal woman should be a UK size 14 (minimum) while some might think that’s overweight for a woman. My advice, love yourself, live peaceably with everyone and love your God. Futile to try pleasing everyone!

    Reply
    1. Natural Nigerian

      Post author

      Loved your comment. My friend’s husband has warned her not to lose any weight. She is a size 16/18. I fear for her health but she is beautiful to someone just the way she is.

      Reply
  12. AWEsome

    Wow!! I am very pleased with you and your blog and i will subscribe.
    this is the best i found since k-i-s-s.biz
    will be shopping here and following you on facebook, i do not tweet lol
    i admire natural hair on some people, but i cannot stand it on my head. i prefer relaxed hair. In as much as i am relaxed, i want healthy relaxed hair and skin. By God’s grace i’ll be @ the meet-up, i cannot wait . i have soo many questions
    YOU HAD BETTER COME PREPARED!! LOL

    Reply
  13. Sanni Oluwatoyin

    You know this article came on point, i am the very slim shaped type of lady. I mean very slim. Today, looking at my mirror, i discovered i lack hips and so, most of my clothes does not fit me. I was still thinking of how to go about having a hip enlargement (not through drugs or surgery) but maybe through a gym. Is that okay or should i just let it be. More over, are there any advice on what slim ladies (very slim).

    Reply

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