Thursday, October 27, 2011

Who's the fairest of them all?

A few months ago, I asked my readers why they thought white had become the standard of beauty. After talking to her mom, my white friend JD offered an explanation that had to do with the Dutch Masters.

Do the rest of you talk to your moms about my blog? I hope so.

Anyhow, I told JD that I was going to read a book called The History of White People . I did, and now I want to share what I learned. This one's for you, JD...

I have to start by saying that the book was really long (400+ pages) and it's been awhile since I read it. It makes me think about reading comprehension, because the whole idea of reading stuff is that you remember it. But I think that is easier said than done sometimes. Okay, I am getting off on a tangent.

There were two reasons that I took away to explain why white = pretty.

1) When the concept of whiteness was getting popular, Americans were really interested in the Greeks. For whatever reason (I'm guessing the whole "founders of democracy" thing,) all things Greek were awesome, including Greek sculptures. The features of those people in the sculptures were celebrated and the whiteness of the plaster (or whatever sculptures are made out of,) was celebrated as well.

What these guys forgot about was that those sculptures were originally painted, and that the paint wore off over the ages. So that bright white color was not an accurate representation of what the Greeks looked like. It reminds me of the realization that dinosaurs might have been all sorts of wacky colors, and that we don't really know since all we ever see are their bones.

2) When the whole idea of white women being beautiful started gaining steam, it was in reference to these women (the Circassians) who were basically being kept by powerful men as sex slaves. You know, like a harem? These women were praised for their beauty, when in actuality they were about as good looking as non-Circassian women. The author posits that is was the sexual availability of these women that was so attractive to men, not something specific to their appearance.

I just had a realization as I looked back up at the title of this post. We all know fair is a synonym for pretty, but it's also a synonym for white! Whoa, man...

I thought the book was good, and I would recommend it if you are interesting in learning more about the emerging field of "whiteness studies." it seems to have some similarities to African-American Studies and the like. It makes sense, because if groups of color can be analyzed and examined, it would follow that the ins and outs of whiteness can be too, and not in some trite "white people can't dance" sort of way.

If you have more you'd like to add, leave me a comment.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fewer words than usual Wednesday

I know it's Thursday. I could give you excuses about why I didn't post this pic weeks ago. However, I have found that when I am reading other people's blogs and they spend time giving me excuses about why they haven't been posting, I'm all like, " JUST SHUT UP AND GET TO THE BUSINESS!"

Ok, I don't really yell like that; I was exaggerating for comedic effect.

But yes, this is a picture that I have had on my phone for several weeks.

Now, if you've been reading my previous fewer words than usual wednesday posts, you can see that this one really breaks the mold I have talked about before. If you haven't been reading them, you can click here , here and here.

We've got ourselves with a trio with a bona fide black person in the middle. And an Asian person on the side! And maybe no white people at all! Well, that lady in the brown shirt might be white, but she might also be Latina or Italian or something! And it's the cover of a major retailer's Sunday paper insert! Yahoo! Progress!

But then I started thinking about this time in college when this black guy was in the quad talking about the game Monopoly. I went to a pretty liberal University that would have speakouts, where they would set up a microphone, and people would go up and "speak out" about whatever they wanted to. So anyway, this black guy compared the United States to the game Monopoly. You have two teams: white people and people of color. The white people team gets to roll the dice three hundred times (to represent the approximate number of years that people of color were legally oppressed in this country,) before the people of color team can even roll the dice once. Of course, since they are such good monopoly players, the white people team buys up all the property, the railroads, the utilities and builds houses and hotels. Then, for whatever reason, they decide that the people of color team can start rolling the dice. The people of color are like, " Wait a second, you already bought everything!!" and the white people team is like, "F*ck you, pay me." (Bonus points if you can correctly identify that pop culture reference.)

So what does this have to do with our trio of beauties above?

Given that things have been so skewed for so long in white people's favor, what can/should be done now that would make things more even? I am not even talking about property or railroads, I am talking about advertisements. Since we've had hundreds of years with white people being overrepresented in advertisements, what's fair? Hundreds of years of white people being underrepresented? A decree from this day forward by advertisers that all groups will be accurately represented? Just a few years of white people being underrepresented, so they can see what it feels like? Ads like this one thrown in wily-nily whenever an ad director sees fit? Or maybe nothing specific or concrete, since that might be reverse discrimination?

I am glad to see the ad above, really I am. But at the same time, I think it's pathetic that the ad is such an anomaly given the multicultural society we live in. Many of us would like to see more ads like this in the future, but I wonder what it is really going to take to make that a reality. And the even more cynical side of me wonders if ads like this are just a fad and will fade as soon as we don't have a black president anymore (yeah, I said it.)

I can honestly say that I don't know what the answer is. And I can also honestly say that I am interested in hearing what you think, so you should leave me a comment.