Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of us all?
Cinderella is a well known fairytale that is read to many young children have; however, it is more than a story set in a far off magical place, it has become a template for the image of female beauty, as well as a kind of romantic relationship to yearn for. Stories such as these have “image_mo_rized” and crept into our subconscious, dictating how we should look and how to behave in relationships. The messaging is powerful and can cause years of distress and a feeling of not measuring up to this unrealistic standard. We are never thin enough, pretty enough, and in the case of women of color, our skin is not light enough or our hair straight enough. Our natural beauty is dismissed in favor of the dominant culture “Cinderella” imagery.
I believe that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” regardless of your skin and hair color, race, or ethnicity. We all hold our own beauty and must celebrate it, not feel a lingering sense of inadequacy. Of course many of us are attracted to certain physical characteristics; however, in the long run it is what is inside a person that makes them beautiful and special, not the outside. Looks fade eventually and we must focus on our inner selves and realize beauty is subjective and informed by a variety of factors, including particular cultural ideals and values.
I rarely wear makeup and reply on makeup that I receive as gifts, otherwise makeup does not play a role in my day. I prefer to focus on natural treatments for my skin and my overall health, which I feel is what contributes to a person feeling beautiful. That said, I enjoy and appreciate those who use makeup as way to create their identity and “look”, and make a statement about themselves and how they feel. Back in the day I remember how lipstick was the number one make up purchase – even before food – and definitely more within reach than shoes or a dress. These days nail polish seems to be the most important and affordable must have makeup item for women, replacing lipstick and even leading to talk of a nail polish index. Image that!
Having five daughters and watching them grow through adolescence into young women, I see the transition from brushing their doll’s hair making them up to fussing over themselves. I recall my daughter Natasha being extremely fond of going into my girlfriend’s make up bags and the next thing you would see is her, even at the age of 3, with make up plastered on her face. She was quite a sight! And now my youngest daughter, Angelica loves to use make up, though much more sophisticated than Natasha as toddler.
Raising five multi-ethnic daughters, it is important for me to reinforce their natural beauty and prevent them as best I can from being too influenced by the dominate culture Cinderella image of beauty. My girls are all tall and statuesque, and very beautiful; however, even they can fall prey the value society places on that “white, light, blonde” version of beauty is not the only way. Many other young people regardless of creed or race use bleaching cream their skin or chemicals to straighten their hair is hazardous and alters their natural beauty. We are all acculturated in this version of beauty and we must fight back for the sake of our health and well being. And that goes for all women of all races, ethnicities and body types.
From a childhood fairytale to the toys we give our children to play with, we are can be reinforcing these cultural stereotypes of beauty and gender. They also receive messaging through the media and other societal influences overtly and subtlety. Our children are our future so we must use their important childhood years to teach them that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and they are the most important “beholder” of their own beauty, not unrealistic images or fairy takes that exclude diverse natural beauty.