What This MEAN Side Eye Game Reveals About Obnoxious (Whitewashed) Beauty Standards
|Still image of Maureen Umeh and Wisdom Martin, co-anchors on Fox 5's "Good Day DC."|
I think that, by now, plenty of folks on the Internet have seen this still image (or possibly the entire video) of two Black news anchors responding, in facial expression only, to a way too long conversation about Kate Middleton's perfect nose. First of all, the clip is more than a year old, but it has popped back up on social media, reminding America to continue to STFU about what is or is not beautiful. The clip itself is hilarious, sure, but what does it tell us about these insane deep dives into how society can make typically Caucasian physical features the standard for beauty? I mean, what can we learn from the eye roll and side eye of these two "over it" anchors? How does it reflect the collective Black response to similar conversations that pop up with frequency these days, as Black Girl Magic and TGIT/Shondaland slap America in the face with the sauciness women of color serve up and have been serving for millennia?
I believe there are six things that can be learned from this EEEEEEEEEPIC moment of facial condemnation seen around the world.
Well, for one thing, the eye rolls and unimpressed look on our collective faces say "PLEASE STOP!" No, really, stop. S-T-O-P. Stop trying to invent and reinvent some shit to make yourselves feel pretty. Just feel pretty and you will be. Feel like your natural skin and hair and body and face and physical characteristics are beautiful just as they are, and everyone else will follow. This is a lesson in self confidence Black women in America have been forced to learn. It's been an evolution, but I think that we are living in an era in which Black women are so over cultural appropriation and being incorrectly labeled as ugly or less than beautiful simply because we have kinky, curly, thick hair, hips, thighs, curves, lips, wide noses, oily skin or what have you. We see the money women spend to look like us and the effect it has on others to see us walk into a room confidently and unashamed, and have ceased to give any fucks.
White people have not had to do this. They have been able to control big public narratives and social commentary on what is beautiful and acceptable. There has been no need to use subversion or find underground movements of acceptance and diversity. They have not had to carve out space in the social fabric to legitimize themselves and what they stand for and where they come from. But people of color have. And now that the clamoring for seeing beauty in more places and making society second guess what words like "exotic" and micro-aggressions like "I even date Black girls," actually mean. And what they do to women, including Caucasian women, when they are thrown around so recklessly.
Because Black women have had to find beauty in themselves, it has created this new iteration of the pro-Black movement that is not only unabashedly Black and self validating, but it is also incredibly confident and graceful. We have not only exhibited this new excitement to be and think and do and feel for ourselves, we have done so without allowing the push back to overpower the message which has shifted from "Accept my beauty as being just as valid and meaningful and necessary as yours!" to "I accept my own beauty and yours, and hers, and hers, and hers. So why you mad?"
I am so happy to see this younger generation of self-confident, compassionate, weird, artsy, creative, politically engaged, smart, and sensitive young women and girls of color. To these young ladies, the knowledge that they are beautiful regardless of whether or not someone tells them they are, develops an equation to justify it, or slaps it on a magazine cover, is enough, and they have moved beyond it to say and do and support ideas and movements that I think are world changing.
So, this first lesson to learn from the morning news eye roll of the century is not just asking that White people "stop" because we are all sick of the bullshit (which, we most definitely are, but that's not the main point), but it is really a plea to stop for your own mental health and well being. You should stop coming up with the need to validate your own beauty externally. A) because no one is playing along anymore, and B) because that's the only way you will finally get to see whose opinion of beauty truly matters: YOURS.
2. VET YOUR IDEAS WITH A DIVERSE CROWD BEFORE YOU ROLL THAT SHIT OUT.
So, remember the Dove ad campaign that had everyone up in arms (no pun intended) a month ago? The one where the Black woman turns into a White woman after removing her skin toned top? Yeah, that one. Once people put the image (Black woman turns White) with the product (soap) and interpreted it (unsurprisingly) to mean that the Black chick was the "dirty" before pic and the White chick was the all clean, pristine after pic. Most people's first response to the public outcry was, "Was there ONE Black person in the room when the idea for this was pitched?"
We often find ourselves asking this question, don't we Black America?
The thing is, there is this new invention called Black Twitter that doesn't like one thing slide. Not ONE. MOTHERFUCKING. THING.
Here's the thing, folks, you will now get dragged through the virtual social media public square if you present something to the masses that don't smell right. So, start putting more Black and brown faces in the room when you're brainstorming.
This "nose tip rotation" so-called news segment, was not properly vetted, because if it had been, each and every single producer, writer, and news team member would have known it was not a good idea. How, you ask? They would have seen those goddamn eye rolls before they came out on live television. Also, someone in that room would have just straight out said "BUUUUUULLLLL SHIIIIIIIIIIT!" and laughed them out of the room.
I am totally confident that someone would have called that shit out. I mean, this aired in Washington, DC (so I am totally proud to say that those two shady news anchors are in MY hometown), and Black people watching Fox 5 in DC are not featuring some shit like "nose tip rotation" and Kate Middleton's perfectly beautiful nose. This is how the whole thing got caught in the first place. Someone in the area, watching the news, took a video of that shit and posted it online.
So, why even allow yourselves to be played like that? Here you have two White anchors, who are visibly uncomfortable, particularly when they feel the side eye and realize they are the only ones talking (commending Her Royal Highness on having the perfect, Caucasian nose), and they probably thought to themselves "Am I being Hitler right now? I feel like I sound like I'm being Hitler right now." And whose fault is that? The damn EP who said "Yup...let's roll with that story. It's funny, and I can't wait to hear what kind of conversation it ignites." Zero. Zero conversation. Black people have collectively decided (at our annual meeting) to no longer engage in these ridiculous beauty standard discussions.
3. IN THE WORDS OF EVERYONE'S MAMA: "BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER."
So, now, in my thirties, I have come to understand that this is not something that mothers and grandmothers just say to make you feel better after having a rough day of endless teasing at the playground. Even though that may be the main goal whenever this ubiquitous mantra to combat anxieties about physical appearance and social acceptance is uttered, the fact remains: this statement reflects an undeniable absolute truth that should put us all collectively at ease.
Just take a look around...there are millions of beautiful single people. There are people in lasting, loving, passionate relationships whom you or I or "we" would not call the epitome of beauty. There are people with incredible charisma who amass a wide following (of fans, suitors, lovers, friends, devotees, etc) who aren't physically attractive to most or who are wildly attractive to the people with whom they vibe and who just "get" them and their unique brand of existing on this planet.
While, sure, there are people who hit the genetic lottery and stand out in a crowd for having a dynamite smile or a noticeably symmetric, cherubic face, there is no standard for what ultimately makes someone perfectly attractive. There are billions of people on this planet, all of whom value different things and place value on different physical, emotional, and intangible attributes another person may have.
This is not some overly simplistic, Pollyanna outlook. I would say that is an unfair dismissal of the main point, which is, regardless of how visually pleasing a particular configuration of facial features may be to a room full of people, the fact is...that is just one room full of people on a planet of billions. It is full of specific perspectives, experiences, beliefs, and social norms, all unique to THAT room of people. There are far too many perspectives out there. People who remember the smell and smile and giggle of their mother and look for that in women as an adult, or who loved certain books and films and poems in their adolescence, and meet their perfect soulmate who just happens to be short and stocky, with a lazy eye, but the way that person makes them feel is beyond what they could have hoped for in a true love.
There are more aspects of the human experience than visual reception (the eyes). And, although the saying literally states that beauty is determined by "the eye" of the person observing the person/item/thing/being in question, the deeper meaning of this proverb is that beauty is completely and totally subjective. It always has been and always will be. There is no way to measure, quantify, or qualify what truly makes someone beautiful to another person.
But -- I don't just mean this as "Well...he/she has a GREAT personality." No, there are people who find all kinds of physical characteristics attractive who would be otherwise left out of the beauty standard discussion. Whether it's someone who is overweight, has a gap in their teeth, has a unibrow, has a big ears, or a big, wide nose. I am a curvy black woman with wild, kinky, curly hair, a flat nose with no bridge, and big eyes, and I know that I am beautiful to a wide range of onlookers. And, while I do not know my nose tip ratio, I am sure it is not the same or in the same range as Kate Middleton, and IDGAF.
4. JUST DO A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF THE VALUE OF A CONVERSATION; YOU JUST MAY RULE IT OUT YOURSELF.
So, if you don't heed any of the lessons laid out to this point, at least do a cost-benefit analysis of what you're talking about before you subject the masses to it. What do I mean? Well, let's start with considering what people get out of learning what Kate Middleton's nose tip ratio is, versus what is debited from the public social sphere:
On the one hand (benefit), people will learn some useless fact that a bunch of strangers made up to justify a social sciences grant and that helps us "better know a duchess" and fill awkward silences at happy hour. On the other hand (cost), people will have a new tool to lodge against someone because they do not have a "perfect" nose, and there is a way to prove it, and the awkward happy hour silence is immediately followed with alienating total strangers who have decided that your conversation is measurably lame.
Let's also consider a cost-benefit analysis that considers social impact:
On one hand (benefit), a young girl now has [pseudo] scientific language to apply to her anxieties when she enters the cosmetic surgeon's office, including not only a reference photo, but a measurement and specific aesthetic "disorder" to guide the surgeon's focus. On another hand (cost), we have armed young girls with bullshit language to undergo the knife in the name of beauty.
Do we really need these "benefits"? Do they outweigh the "costs" so that we are elevating the human experience? Was anything of importance or value gained? OR are we damaging ourselves and others in a way that results in a negative impact on how we experience this life?
If the answer to the first three questions is "No!" and/or the answer to the last question is "Yes!" then we should probably give no attention to this conversation. It is literally useless.
5. IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE SAYING THIS DIRECTLY TO A LITTLE BLACK GIRL.
When all else fails, imagine that you are explaining this idea/concept/notion to a ten year-old Black girl.
And go into great detail about why this is the preferred beauty standard and how it was determined. Continually refer to it as science and proven to be a fact and then also offer a photo of a little girl with these perfect Kate Middleton proportions who is approximately the same age as the child to whom you are speaking (10), then give her instruction on how to measure her own and help her determine her own nose tip ratio. Then point out how different it is from this new standard.
And then tell her the local time and temperature and exit the room.
Do you still have a burning desire to give this an entire 2-4 minutes on the morning news?
6. MAYBE MEDIA IS STILL DOMINATED BY SELF CENTERED, SELF SERVING, NARCISSISTIC ASSES.
Perhaps what we have really learned is that we may quite possibly, even in the city that became known as "Chocolate" because of the majority black population, still have a local news media overrun by perspectives that only care about themselves and self-serving conversations that self validate. I mean, how else could something make it to air that half of the anchors on the couch are rolling their eyes about? There was obviously some kind of majority rule decision that was made behind the scenes.
Based on the body language of the two anchors who are, demographically, more reflective of the show's audience, if left to them and other like-minded staff (who would have probably had a better read of the viewership) this segment would have never made it into the teleprompter.
Yet, it did.
Unfortunately, we had to hear what someone thought was a fun "soft news" piece, more likely than not, because it somehow made them feel better about the social narrative on beauty. It somehow validated a choice or belief or value they hold or held about beauty or alleviated some fear or anxiety about a lack of beauty. Even though it may have been masked by justifications like "it's fun," or "everyone loves the Royal family," or "we need something light that makes people laugh and feel good," the joke is on that person, because all we learned is that no one gives a fuck about nose tip rotation except white people, and it's for very shallow, insecure reasons.
We see you.
Get some therapy. Oh, and you are beautiful just the way you are!