The Economics and Politics of Beauty

Publié le par hort

Ehi Aimiuwu
Monday, January 21, 2008

When I was in primary school in Nigeria, there was nothing I loved more than drama and soccer. I acted in almost any play you could think of. Our favorites back in the day were unfortunately Eurocentric plays like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. It was not until we got to secondary school that we started acting African or Nigerian centered plays. Each time we had a play competition against other schools or against classes, a Black girl was not really preferred to act Snow White or Cinderella. We had to go look for a White, mixed, or a very light skin girl from a well to do background to act the part even if she did not belong to the group or class. At a very young age, it was obvious to the Nigerian girls that they were not worthy of being the main character in their class plays and the boys were made to understand unconsciously that Black girls were not that pretty. At this time, the lighter skin girls walked like they were goddesses because it was obvious that they were the symbol of beauty. This was the time our girls wished for White doll girls for Christmas as if they were wishing that they could play Snow White some day. I also will not fail to remind you of Fela's song titled "Yellow Fever". This was a song he sang in an attempt to prevent our women from bleaching their skins to Snow White.

According to the story, there was a Queen who was considered the most beautiful woman in world by the magic mirror before Snow White was born. Now the story used "fairest" instead of beautiful, but we all know that "fairest", which meant lightest, actually meant the most beautiful woman in the world in the story. According to our version in those days, because they might be newer version now, the Queen was still the fairest according to the magic mirror when Snow White was a little girl. When Snow White got older, the mirror then told the Queen that Snow White was now the fairest. This was when the Queen decided to make up a plan to have Snow White killed, but a prince came along later and married Snow White because she was he fairest of all. What an educational story for young Black children in Africa! This meant that either now White got lighter in years or the Queen got darker in years. Both ways, the unbiased magic mirror felt that lighter was better, and also, the Queen believed that lightness was so precious that she would kill for it. Then, of what value is a Nigerian or African girl that will forever be black?

The purpose of sharing this story is that we MUST collectively protect our women by every possible means, because they are the easiest avenue in enhancing or destroying our way of life. Some say beauty is just skin deep; but it is actually an economical and political factor in who we are and what we become. Before I came to the United States in the early 90s from Nigeria, it was clear to many secondary school boys that our standard of beauty was not fat or skinny, but thick. When I got to America, almost every African girl I came across wanted to either commit suicide or curse their creator for beauty reasons. Their reasons ranged from their waist was too wide, their butt was too big, their breast was too huge, they had to lose weight, they were fat here, to they are fat there etc. No matter how much we told them that they were beautiful and wanted to date them, or jokingly told them that the relationship would be over if their butts got smaller, they always felt that something had to be done to their looks and that we liked them for what they disliked about themselves. It was not long that we discovered that a good number of them blamed their appearance on eba, fufu, pounded yam, moi moi, amala, goat meat, palm oil, ogbono, and egusi etc. In fact, it became a crusade not only to go to the gym regularly to lose their ikebe (! butts), but they also started telling everyone they could find (male and female) to stay away from African food as if it was the only way to enter heaven. In fact, the sexy statement of the time was "I only cook African food because my boyfriend likes to eat it" (make una see me see trouble o). They also claimed that the researchers of some health magazine say that all these African food causes high blood pressure, clogging of the heart, hypertension, stroke, indigestion, and other types of diseases that are yet to be discovered. If this was true, then the African continent should be extinct by now.

I was looking at one Nigerian magazine the other day that showcased different Nigerian fashion at various occasions, and I noticed that many of our women today no longer wore the bubba and wrapper like our mothers used to. It was while we were discussing the issue that someone noted that many of our women today no longer had the waist and hips to make the wrappers look more presentable, so they prefer to wear the traditional attires as a long skirt at functions. This was when I began to understand the power of beauty. Anthropologists say that you are what you eat. What you produce to eat is based on the climate of the region you are in. It is what you grow it in your region that you sell to improve and maintain your economy. What you eat shapes how your body grows, and how your body grows helps to determine the fashion and clothing style of the people.

We must control our standard of beauty or it will affect our economy and food production badly. If foreigners succeed in convincing our women that African food is bad for them, then our economy and way of life will suffer. If our women do not eat African food, their children will not. If our women do not buy it, markets will not sell it. If markets do not sell it, farmers will not grow it. If farmers do not grow it, the African crops might become extinct. If African food crops get extinct and we must eat, then we must depend on and import foreign foods. This is the economics and politics of beauty. It is where one group convinces the others that their food produce is the best for reasons ranging from health, intellectual, longevity, and beauty etc. This means that we must invest in our universities, professors, farmers, and the media. We need to improve the qualifications and creditability of our universities and professors. They need to do research and write publications on how valuable our food produces are to human development. We desperately need to compete in the world of information to counteract most of the anti-African propaganda that are systematically and quietly being pushed on our women from right under our noses. No ma! tter what we eat; we all will die.&nbs p; It is good investment in health care system, adequate and stable incomes, time for moderate leisure and recreation, and eating high quality foods at the right time of the day that makes the difference. Remember that politics and economics is a game and the one that borrows or imports more losses the game. 
Fair skin sells in India's marketplace

White faces, mostly from Eastern Europe, dominate advertising

By Rama Lakshmi
The Washington Post
Sun., Jan. 27, 2008

MUMBAI, India - The TV ad shows an Indian movie star walking on a beach, flaunting his brand-name sunglasses and his six-pack abs. A white woman in a black bikini drops on the sand from nowhere, and then another woman drops down. Soon, a bevy of white models literally falls from the skies, and the movie star runs for cover.

A green-eyed model from Iceland puts her arms around him and whispers seductively, "The fall collection . . . baby." The ad is for a sunglasses company, but its approach is hardly unique in the world of Indian advertising. These days, the faces of white women and men, mostly from Eastern Europe, stare out from billboards, from the facades of glitzy, glass-fronted malls and from fashion magazines. At an international automobile show this month in New Delhi, most of the models were white.

The presence of Caucasian models in Indian advertisements has grown in the past three years, industry analysts say. The trend reflects deep cultural preferences for fair skin in this predominantly brown-skinned nation of more than 1 billion people. But analysts say the fondness for "fair" is also fueled by a globalized economy that has drawn ever more models from Europe to cities such as Mumbai, India's cultural capital.

'Deep-rooted in our psyche'

Indians' color fixation is also evident in classified newspaper ads and on Web sites that help arrange marriages. The descriptive terms used for skin color run the gamut: "very fair," "fair," "wheat-ish," "wheat-ish-medium," "wheat-ish-dark," "dark" and "very dark." Family elders here commonly comment on a newborn baby's color, after checking out the gender. One of the best-selling skin creams in India is called Fair & Lovely. A men's version, Fair and Handsome, was launched last year.

"The Indian mind-set prefers light skin. My pictures are routinely Photoshopped to make me look a bit lighter -- a lot lighter, actually," Riya Ray, 23, a dark-skinned Indian model, said with a laugh. "But when I work in Britain and France, my color is praised as exotic. It is a two-way trend: Indian models are going abroad, and foreign models are coming here."

White models, who usually visit India on three-month work visas, earn $500 to $1,500 for a single shoot, a rate that is relatively low, largely because the models tend to come from developing European countries and are new to the international scene. Bollywood stars, cricketers and top Indian supermodels, on the other hand, command large sums from top brands.

Less inhibited

Advertisers say that white female models appeal to them because they are typically less inhibited than their Indian counterparts when it comes to showing skin and posing in lingerie.Tanya Bohinc, a 25-year-old Slovenian model, has lived in India for the past month, going on shoots for perfumes, clothing and hotel chains, while battling the rest of what India has to offer: omnipresent mosquitoes and spicy curries that wreak havoc with a sensitive stomach. I can sense the local fascination for my skin color here," said Bohinc, who has modeled in seven countries. "I think it has to do with the fact that the British ruled India for so long." Bohinc said she's been trying out for small roles in Bollywood films and learning Hindi lines. A growing number of Bollywood film choreographers are now hiring white dancers in song-and-dance scenes.

International fashion magazines in India, such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Marie Claire and Vogue, regularly feature white women in their spreads. The fashion features editor of Vogue's Indian edition, Bandana Tiwari, calls the approach "going glocal," combining the words "global" and "local" to describe the new urban Indian consumer.  "When we put the white model in Indian clothes, it is a cultural exchange. It shows India's economic self-confidence," Tiwari said. "Of course, it also caters to the general feeling that 'fair' and 'beautiful' go together. For a rickshaw-puller who earns $2 a day, seeing a fair-skinned woman is an escape, a fantasy."

Some advertising insiders contend that the trend is partly an attempt to give products an international look. But this quest is limited to hiring Caucasians. Africans and East Asians rarely make an appearance.  "So many international brands are entering India, and they use white models to emphasize their foreignness. To compete, Indian companies also want to feature white faces," said Rohit Chawla, a fashion photographer and advertising filmmaker who has worked with white models. "The perception is, if you put a white face to your product, it is a quicker route to sales."

A popular footwear and clothing brand, Woodland, began working with white models for its Indian print ads two years ago. A company official cited both the marketing and cultural strategy behind the decision.  "We opened two stores in Dubai last year and are now looking at Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. We now want to say we are a global brand," said Lokesh Mishra, general manager of marketing at Woodland Worldwide. "And we are also playing on the typical Indian mind-set that thinks if the white people are wearing our brand, then it must be good."

'Browning' craze
By Machela Osagboro
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For all my years of trying I cannot seem to understand the continued obsession of most of our men with the 'browning' girls in our society. Jamaican males, both teens and adults, seem to prefer the much lighter-skinned black women, and for what reason? I believe they think she is the closest thing they can get to a white woman.

That goes back to our past as enslaved people, during which we were taught not to love our dark skin, and that anything too black 'nuh good'. White, however, was the epitome of purity and beauty.

As a result the black woman, with her kinky hair, thick lips and thick nose became ugly, while the mulatto woman, with her almost European features, was literally worshipped. Having been taught these concepts of beauty by their parents, the teenagers of this contemporary age have been greatly influenced, after all children live what they learn.

I carried out a study to see how many teen boys would prefer a 'brown' girlfriend to a dark-skinned one and shockingly 78 per cent of those I interviewed answered that they preferred to date a brown girl rather than a darker girl. And when one boy was asked what exactly about 'brown' girls he liked he replied, "Ahh, she just have it yuh know. She just look gooda."

Now to all you darker girls out there, does this sound like a correct statement? Do you think brown girls just look "gooda". I for one do not think so.

And it is especially unfair to the darker girls that some teen boys date them, and secretly wish that their girlfriends were 'brownings' instead. I was once approached by a boy and told that if I was brown with hazel eyes I would look better. Now I don't know if that has ever happened to any of you darker girls but that riled me up. In the end I just pitied the boy because I realised that it wasn't his fault.

We are all black and beautiful women and I sincerely think that you boys should stop being such stupid fanatics about brown women. Most of you don't even end up marrying a 'brown' girl anyway.

Blackness and bleaching

Michael Burke
Thursday, January 25, 2007

Charles Hyatt died on New Year's Day and was buried on   January 13. I got to know him in 1988 when I became an opinion writer for the now defunct Jamaica Record. Hyatt was editor for the entertainment section. I submitted a poem entitled "Black Skin President Day"that proved to be controversial. Along with the editor-in-chief of the paper, Hyatt defended me totally.

The poem was a prophecy that one day a black man would  be president of the USA. After publication on January 19, 1989, someone wrote a letter demanding an apology from the editor for publishing such a poem. Despite an editor's footnote to the published letter, the man wrote again that he was still waiting for an apology. Almost 27 years after political independence as we were at the time, the letter writer was not aware that "baccra massa days" had come to an end.

I saw red. I wrote a scathing article decrying the fact that while people of other races can celebrate cultural activities, the minute a black person uplifts himself, it is called racism. I made it quite clear that with respect to any apology, while I could not speak for the Jamaica Record, I refused to do any such thing.

And I meant it, even if it was the last thing that I was allowed to write for that paper. But fortune was on my side. I had the full support of everyone from the managing director and publisher through the editor and Charles Hyatt, the entertainment editor. In offering condolence to his family, I wish to remind them that in addition to entertaining people and making Jamaica proud for his role in acting, Charles Hyatt also stood by his convictions.

With that sort of background, it is sad that 44 going on 45 years after political independence, nearly 67 years after the death of Marcus Garvey, and 120 years this year after his birth, we are far from being emancipated from mental slavery. A real attempt was made in the 1970s to address this critical situation, but everything got turned back in 1980. However, Edward Seaga and the Jamaica Labour Party, which came into power in 1980, are not totally to blame.

Many times, especially in politics, it is not what is said but what is heard. What is said and what is heard is supposed to be the same thing, but for some mysterious reason it seldom is. For example, when Michael Manley and his People's National Party government of the 1970s spoke of democratic socialism, many thought it gave them licence to take things from those who had more than them.

At that time in the 1970s my brother Paul Burke was chairman of the PNPYO. So someone jumped the fence at my home and helped himself to some limes on the tree. When the neighbour spoke to him he said, "Is socialist yard, I can take what I want." He misunderstood Manley. And many who did not like Manley's message automatically voted JLP in 1980.

The JLP landslide victory that year signalled a licence to bring back all the class and colour prejudices that existed before the 1970s. Once again the words "black" and "ugly" found themselves in the same sentences, something which was suspended in the 1970s. And when it returned, many of us learnt for the first time that the disappearance of such talk in the 1970s had more to do with being politically correct than a change of attitude.

The fact that in the USA Ronald Reagan was elected president a few days after Seaga became prime minister of Jamaica did not help the situation. There is no evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency destabilised Manley and the PNP, but I believe that they did. Too much of what took place in the 1970s resembled a page out of the CIA manual on how to destabilise a government. But whether so or not, the JLP came into power almost simultaneously with Reagan.

By 1982, when Jimmy Cliff won the prestigious Norman Manley award, guest speaker Harry Belafonte was bemoaning Reaganism and certain aspects of the JLP rule. He spoke about advertisements for tourists in the US for Jamaica, which read, "Come back to Jamaica where a black nanny will care for your kids", or words to that effect.

All of a sudden in Jamaica, brown-skinned girls were favoured for certain jobs such as bank clerks. I recall Andrea Williams (now Greene) of IRIE FM telling me that she was turned down for a broadcaster's job on TV because she was not the right colour. Then, to top it all, the PNP toned down its socialist rhetoric to be politically marketable by 1989. No wonder all this disgusting skin-bleaching business has found a home among young people in modern-day Jamaica.

The environment has encouraged its growth just as the stagnant and dirty drains are the right environment for the anopheles mosquito, the carrier of the deadly malaria. We Pan Africanists need to get back to the drawing board. Let us stop the excuses and teach Garveyism in  schools. This was agreed in principle by the government from 1992. Let us do it now.

Publié dans geostrategy

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