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?
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.