Friday, October 22, 2010

Score Two In The Black Girl Battle Against Lazy Beauty Standards!

Sesame Street's "I Love My Hair" Puppet

Now, no one is suggesting that we African American moms exclusively count on TV, songs, movies and the like to make our babies feel good about themselves. But it would be extremely na├»ve at best, disingenuous at worst, to suggest that the psyches of our girls aren’t affected by a constant barrage of media images that seek to set the standard for what’s right, what’s wrong and what we all need to fix to get to this stock version of “perfect. It would be even dumber of us to suggest that non-black children aren't affected by this, either—that they don't come to some not-so-flattering conclusions about their African American counterparts when they have few to no references to refer to when forming those opinions.
So we black moms cloak our babies in the armor—ready them everyday for the battle against lazy beauty standards, pop culture ignorance, and outright black girl put-downs that seem to slap at them—and us!—around every stretch. In my daughters’ cases, I ended up making a border of picture frames filled with pictures of her family on the wall next to their cribs, so that they could see brown faces that look like theirs. I filled their bookshelves with as many books featuring black characters as I could find and requested that my friends do the same. They went to sleep listening to Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire and Satchmo and Kathleen Battle—artists with soulful voices and incredible, eclectic music filled with prideful messages that both our kids and we love to listen to. And Nick and I would whisper in their ears…you are the loveliest, prettiest, most deliciously chocolatey gifts from God any mommy and daddy could ask for.
But Lord, when we spend our days telling our daughters that their skin is beautiful and their hair is perfect exactly the way it grows out of their heads and their lips and nose and hips and booty are full of goodness and that they are, indeed, visible—that we see them, even if nobody else does—it does something to our girls’ psyche when someone other than their mamas says, “Hey, you’re pretty awesome just the way you are.”
Nobody tells little black girls such things.
But this week, two somebodies did...

To read this essay in its entirety, pop on over to the MyBrownBaby page on Parenting's The Parenting Post—and if you're so moved, please leave a comment. We need to show everyone—magazines, radio stations, ad agencies, companies who depend on our cash to stay alive—that black moms and our children MATTER, and I can't think of a better way to do that than by lifting our voices. 

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

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  1. I think this is a great post. I personally take the time everyday to reassure my daughter she is beautiful in her own brown skin. I don't use the words nappy when referring to hair in general. I also point out the beauty in heads of hair all over. I can't help what another parent does at home with their kid, but I can put enough power into the mind of my own that she is gorgeous. Thanks for some positive insight. I loved both videos this week as well.

  2. I totally agree with this post. I think it's also important to instill those same values when it comes to complexion. It saddens me when some of my dark skinned friends are so caught up on and displeased with their complexion. I do also think that this self loathing in regards to complexion can be combatted by good moms like yourself. It starts at home!

  3. I don't have kids yet, but I can't wait to share such inspirational pieces of art with them to empower their development of self-love and acceptance. Often, I wish I was armed with the beautiful and awesome self-esteem Willow demonstrates in her song, video and subsequent interviews. This little girl is already impressive and a great role model for her peers. She inspires me just the same. And kudos to Sesame Street and the white father who wanted to build the esteem of his own African daughter. We need more and more positive reinforcements like these to keep us strong for generations to come!

  4. Indeed! I was so happy to see this week. And I agree that the father who created this deserves a lot of praise for instilling confidence in his daughter and teaching her that she is beautiful just the way she is.

  5. Well Denene, I grew up with funky chunky ugly hair and full lips - - you know I am white. No one ever said my hair was beautiful, thick but not beautiful and I heard some very nasty remarks about my lips. Now my hair is straight (a design of age) and I love the fact that my lips are fuller, otherwise by now they would have disappeared! I, as a white child would have appreciated this positive attitude about my mixed up look. Keep up the reinforcement, your daughters are beautiful, to me all children are beautiful which helps to lead them into their adult life with some self esteem. Something I never had:(

  6. The reinforcement is crucial. My little one has kinky hair and I know she will have to combat and deal with comments. I hear them from people already and it drives me insane. Her hair is her hair. Her beauty is her beauty. I'm glad someone is getting it right though.

    Thanks for the post.


  7. Great post, also put up the sesame street video, it's extremely important to love and take care of our hair and not let anyone dictate how hair should be only what you want it to be!

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