White Feminism Is Ignoring Black Women's Issues

Feminists, Focus On Black Women Dying From Illegal Injections, Not Convincing Instagram To Let You Show Your Nipples

Why aren't more feminists talking about this? Why isn't the idea that Black women are supposed to be thick and curvy being widely challenged?

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There is one thing, in particular, that is most responsible for how people view themselves and what they deem "attractive," "trendy," or "stylish": the media. We look to the fashion, beauty, and entertainment industries to set the standards, and to entertainers and public figures to uphold them. Over the entirety of human existence, beauty standards have warped and changed so much to the point they become almost unrecognizable from era to era. In our present era, women's bodies are held to impossible, even outright dangerous, standards.

At one point in time, women were heralded for being heavyset. More meat on their bones signified wealth and luxury. Soon, however, things went in the opposite direction.

In the '60s, the era of hippies and rebellion, women were ditching the conservative and overly elaborate fashion choices of the '50s for more revealing and simplistic choices, which led to a greater emphasis on being thin.

Mini skirts became widely popular in the '60s. Source

Taking it to the extreme, in the mid-1990s, looking gaunt and tired was all the rage. Coined "heroin chic," looking rail-thin was popularized by the fashion industry, through models such as Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss, who wanted to reflect the drug addiction problem rampant in the U.S.

Kate Moss, 5'7", at only 100 lbs.Source

Any person would assume, based on the trends throughout history, that now we'd be in an era where thinness bordering on anorexic and sudden death would be popular now. But, that couldn't be further from the truth. It seems as though the media has stopped fixating on thinness and instead wants us to get "thiccer" — in the right places.

"Why is that?" you might ask. Well, insert celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez, and you get a recipe for beauty standard disaster. When these women first stepped onto the scene, they were like unicorns. They had a body type that was not common in the mainstream media. They were thin, but they also had a lot of ass behind them. In fact, Kim Kardashian was boosted to stardom simply over that fact (which was brought to attention by a very popular tape directed by Ray J).

Now, notice I said mainstream media and not media in general. In the hip-hop community and Black community in general, it's always been about ass. Video vixens found in rap videos always had large rear-ends, while in Black movies/tv shows, the actresses were slightly thinner, but still had an apple bottom. Black men have always desired a full bottom. In our community, having a big butt was nothing extraordinary or impressive. It was just the norm.

On a White (or racially ambiguous) girl, however, it was iconic.

Right, John?Giphy

The mainstream media was fascinated with the idea of ditching the antiquated idea of thinness and embracing it with "thick in the right places." For the first time, the question, "Does my butt look big?" was asked with a hopeful lilt, instead of in fear of looking chunky. For the first time, having a big ass and thighs was marketable. Can you guess why?

Bingo! You guessed it. Black men.

Okay, technically it was a mixture of Black men boosting up non-Black women and the media's knack to profit off of Blackness, but Black men are more to blame.

Just hear me out for a second.

When J-Lo first stepped on the scene, which community did she gain fame among first? The Black community. (Remember how she was "Jenny from The Block" and dated multiple rappers? She even started out as a backup dancer on a Black tv show.) When Kim Kardashian first stepped onto the scene, which type of men helped boost her reputation? Black men. (To be fair, that's the only type of men she was interested in as well). They helped to garner attention to these women (which is not bad, I'm not bashing them) and the media ran with it.

Just like with Black men, the wider mainstream audience saw these exotic-looking women as the new-age epitome of beauty. They were perfect to usher in the new era of beauty because they took old ideals (typical European standards, like a straight nose; long, straight hair; light skin, etc.) and fused it with "foreign" attributes. (I should also note that Black women like Nicki Minaj and '"Bootylicious" queen Beyonce helped to usher in this new trend as well, but they uphold many European standards of beauty, which makes it easier for them to be seen as desirable).

And this is becoming a serious problem for women, but especially Black women, whose identity is threatened by this new trend.

Natural booties are not appreciated anymore, not even the ones that are nicely shaped and full. This trend has warped into some grotesque contest for who can have the biggest, most overwhelming rear-end.

As women see these celebrities — with ample money to fund their cosmetic procedures because those asses are not real, raise the bar and continue to make their butts bigger and bigger, they feel more pressured than ever to keep up. Having a normal sized, plump booty just isn't good enough, which pushes many women to seek out additional help through plastic surgery. And in more cases than it should be, the plastic surgery is done illegally using "butt injections" through the black market.

International rap star Cardi B even admits to getting illegal butt injections: "It was the craziest pain ever. I felt like I was gonna pass out. I felt a little dizzy. And it leaks for, like, five days... somebody died on [the black market doctor's] table."

This new fad is problematic in and of itself, but when we take a look at a marginalized group such as Black women, we see that they are more at risk and more severally harmed by these dangers. For the longest time, Black women's identities have revolved around their bodies. It's in our music. Every rapper talks about big booties. And it's part of our culture. Being "cornbread-fed," or thick, is something that Black women have felt has been exclusively specific to us and our body types (except for Latinas... they can get pretty thick as well) for as long as we can remember. Take a look at Sarah Baartman, a South African woman that was captured and toured around as part of a freakshow expedition due to her large buttocks.

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Black women (and men, even) have been fetishized and oversexualized for our bodies for centuries. It should be no surprise that we have adapted to place a significant amount of emphasis on this aspect of ourselves. It can be a source of pride (in a warped way), but also a source of shame. For Black women who are not naturally thick, we can feel less than, as though we're not "Black enough" or something. Trust me, I know how silly it sounds, but it's actually a real issue. Skinny Black girls with no ass often question what went wrong with their genes. Being built like a "White girl" is something feared in the Black community.

When we feel our identities are threatened, we do anything to preserve it, which leads us back to one of the many dangers facing Black women of this generation. Experiencing higher rates of poverty, many Black women don't have money to shell out thousands of dollars on a Brazilian butt lift. Instead, they choose to go for the much cheaper, but much more dangerous alternative: illegal butt injections. Some women have died, like Ranika Hill, 25, and Symone Marie Jones, only 19, while others have been left permanently scarred.

The injections are often administered in unsterile and unsafe environments, or may be filled with dangerous substances, like cooking oil. The prevalence of these procedures is actually much more common than people think, but not much is being done to stop or prevent this practice. Aside from a few news channels doing reports on this phenomenon, not much else has been said.

As an intersectional feminist, I see the need for more awareness to be brought onto this subject, and other feminists should as well. The problem with mainstream feminism is that they are not fighting for women's rights or shedding light onto women's issues. They are fighting for some (mainly White, middle-class) women's rights and shedding light onto some women's issues. Call me crazy, but I don't think not being able to post your nipple on Instagram is that big of an issue. Black women are dying due to the pressure to feel desired and accepted by their community and larger society, the pressure of which is mainly fueled by male supremacy. So why aren't more feminists talking about this? Why isn't the idea that Black women are supposed to be thick and curvy being widely challenged?

For feminists, body image is always a topic of conversation, but the way body image is shaped by personal experiences and identities is almost never addressed. For instance, White women are more prone to anorexia than Latina or African-American women, who are more prone to overeating. As you can guess by now, this difference between the two groups is directly related to the difference in cultural experience. Mainstream feminism is concerned with body positivity, but only on a surface level. In fact, almost all mainstream feminist issues are only addressed on the surface level. For instance, the gender pay gap — yeah, there's a significant gap in how much men and women are paid, but there's also another gap between how much White and Asian women (Asian women actually make more than White women) are paid compared to Black and Latin women. When we fail to have these complex conversations, we miss out on rectifying key parts of the problem.

As feminists, we must do better, and always remember that in addition to our identity as women, we have identities as being Black, Latina, Afghan, lesbian, poor, disabled, etc. and that if we want to fight for women, we have to fight for all women.

Cover Image Credit:

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PSA: Keep Your Body-Negative Opinions Away From Little Girls This Summer

But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with.

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It's officially swimsuit season, y'all.

The temperature is rising, the sun is bright and shining, and a trip to the beach couldn't look more appealing than it does right now. This is the time of year that many of us have been rather impatiently waiting for. It's also the time of year that a lot of us feel our most self-conscious.

I could take the time to remind you that every body is a bikini body. I could type out how everyone is stunning in their own unique way and that no one should feel the need to conform to a certain standard of beauty to feel beautiful, male or female. I could sit here and tell you that the measurement of your waistline is not a reflection of your worth. I completely believe every single one of these things.

Hell, I've shared these exact thoughts more times than I can count. This time around, however, I'm not going to say all these things. Instead, I'm begging you to push your insecurities to the side and fake some confidence in yourself when you're in front of others.

Why?

Because our negative self-image is toxic and contagious and we're spreading this negative thinking on to others.

We're all guilty of this, we're with family or a friend and we make a nasty comment about some aspect of our appearance, not even giving a single thought to the impact our words have on the person with us. You might think that it shouldn't bother them- after all, we're not saying anything bad about them! We're just expressing our feelings about something we dislike about ourselves. While I agree that having conversations about our insecurities and feelings are important for our mental and emotional health, there is a proper and improper way of doing it. An open conversation can leave room for growth, acceptance, understanding, and healing. Making a rude or disheartening remark about yourself is destructive not only to yourself, but it will make the person you are saying these things around question their own self worth or body image by comparing themselves to you.

My little sister thinks she's "fat." She doesn't like how she looks. To use her own words, she thinks she's "too chubby" and that she "looks bad in everything."

She's 12 years old.

Do you want to know why she has this mindset? As her older sister, I failed in leading her by example. There were plenty of times when I was slightly younger, less sure of myself, and far more self-conscious than I am now, that I would look in the mirror and say that I looked too chubby, that my body didn't look good enough, that I wished I could change the size of my legs or stomach.

My little sister had to see the older sibling she looks up to, the big sis she thinks always looks beautiful, say awful and untrue things about herself because her own sense of body image was warped by media, puberty, and comparing herself to others.

My negativity rubbed off onto her and shaped how she looks at herself. I can just imagine her watching me fret over how I look thinking, "If she thinks she's too big, what does that make me?"

It makes me feel sick.

All of us are dealing with our own insecurities. It takes some of us longer than others to view ourselves in a positive, loving light. We're all working on ourselves every day, whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with, our struggles and insecurities should not form into their own burdens.

Work on yourself in private. Speak kindly of yourself in front of others. Let your positivity, real or not, spread to others instead of the bad feelings we have a bad habit of letting loose.

The little girls of the world don't need your or my negative self-image this summer. Another kid doesn't need to feel worthless because we couldn't be a little more loving to ourselves and a lot more conscious of what we say out loud.

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In Case You Haven't Heard, My Body Means My Choice, So Deal With It

With all the political differences and laws trying to be passed, based on what a woman can do with her body, demonstrates how the United States decides to use their power and control others by the means of it.

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Since the beginning of America, there have always been minority groups, which include African American, Hispanics, the disabled, homosexuals, and women. Such minority groups have made it their responsibility to fight for their rights and earn justice for it. However, there has recently sprung up a debate on abortion policies, attempting to alter and re-write the rules on Roe vs Wade per state to pursue when or if abortion is illegal based on certain circumstances.

Now, I am not writing this in any means to deter you from your individual opinion on this situation or your perspective, but I do believe that I have a voice in this situation since I am a woman and this situation affects me if any of you individuals like that or not. And most of all, I deserve to be heard.

Starting off, in no means should a man, government officials, or anyone for that matter be able to decide what is acceptable to do with my own individual body, EVER. How have we become a country that thinks it is more than okay to tell what others can do based on the decision of another person. See, we have this thing called bodily autonomy which means we have independence over our own body, or at least we should. A prime example of this is when an individual dies, a surgeon can not remove the person's organs (if they were an organ donor) until the designated power of attorney says it is okay to do so. However, it is apparently acceptable and illegal for someone who has become pregnant through rape or in general is unable to care for a child to receive an abortion and loses their bodily autonomy for the following 9 months. How does a corpse have more rights and bodily autonomy than a pregnant woman does today?

Currently, the state of Alabama has passed a bill that makes abortion illegal under any circumstances and committing this now known felony, can lead to a very long jail sentence. In fact, committing abortion in Alabama (for the woman or the doctor) can lead to a longer jail sentence than someone who raped another individual. Wow. How is that acceptable????

Many states are following in Alabama's lead and we need to put a stop to it before it becomes too far. We women, need to fight for achieving our bodily autonomy and band together and show America that we are a force to be reckoned with.

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