Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Black Man's Kryptonite
The original woman as she manifest in the shades of black, brown and yellow is a beautiful woman. One of the main focal points of the Nation of Gods and Earths is that the Black family is of great importance. As such we need our Black women to bring that into existence.
Due to the history of slavery, colonialism and imperialism in the Americas AND due to the incursions of northern aryan tribes into various portions of Asia from earlier epochs there has been a hatred of self planted amongst original people. This hatred of self also leads to an attraction toward things that are not of ourself.
The magnify glass is usually on the 'descendants of slaves' in the Americas in terms of how the 'color consciousness' or 'Willie Lynchism' plays out. Reality is that this is a WORLD WIDE phenomenom that I bear witness to. I remember traveling to Kenya and seeing mad bleach creams for sale and being advertised in the local supermarket. Here in the place where American blacks look to for 'Black is beautiful' and yet they were adopting a white standard. Here is an article that looks at that color consciousness as being rooted in Arab cultures also.
Islam Also to Blame for Prizing White Skin
Just like everything else, perceptions of sexiness have globalized. Hollywood movies, the fashion industry, MTV and Miss World beauty contests have set universal standards for female sexual appeal. It is in this context that Arab and African men have come to measure the beauty of their women. But the pressure on women to meet men’s expectations of beauty isn’t a recent invention, and standards have changed over the years.
Over sexualizing girls is as dangerous as global warming. In the Arab world, the features of an ideal woman changed between being opulent, plump, slim or obese, according to Abdelwahab Bouhdiba in the book Sexuality in Islam. Sometimes large breasts were preferable, sometimes firm round ones. At other times, pink flesh, chubby and curved (samina, maluma), a wasp-like waist, or a bamboo-like figure (ghusn al ban, gudib khizuran) were fashionable.
Bouhdiba even cites that women in the Abbasid era had to compete with the marked homosexual features that were in vogue; something similar to what happens in fashion today. “ The Abbasids,” he says, “ even preferred a tomboy type of women, with hair cut very short and a manly stride.”
Arab men’s views for female beauty, however, for many years sought a firm well rounded behind, large breasts and translucent skin. Arab belly dancers with their plump bodies remain the fantasy of the ordinary Arab man. Fair or translucent skin was always a highly demanded feature of beauty. Even in the old days, Arab women used a bleaching agent known as Batika.
In Mauritania, an Arab-African country, women are still force-fed to become fat and meet their men’s standards of beauty.
Men of the Somali race always have long valued slender waists. It was not that long ago when Somali nomad girls used to tie a rope around their waist to prevent them from filling their stomachs when eating. But extremely skinny women were never in vogue. While fair skin was considered not bereft of beauty (Casaan qurux kama qatana), it was the marriin dhalaal, shinning brown skin that caught the imagination of poets. Fair skinned women were often used as the butt of jokes, accused of being airheads, just as are blondes in the West. Somali women have never come under great pressure to lighten their skin. Those who used whiteners were often looked down upon.
It is Islam, however, that instituted a new set of unnatural beauty standards on women through the description of Hur-al-ain (black-eyed houri). The description of Al Suyuti, one of Islam’s eminent Quranic interpreters of the houris, is telltale. “Their bodies,” he says “are so diaphanous, so transparent that one can see the bones through the flesh and the marrow through the bones, just as a drinker can see the ruby red of the wine through the clearness of crystal.”
No wonder that most Arabs today see no offense in watching ad nauseam a commercial showing a female applicant for a TV presenter job who is rejected due to her brown skin but gets the job after she lightens the tone of her skin with a brand name cream.
World folklore is rife with princesses but I bet there is not a child of any race that has imagined a princess with black skin color, or even a black prophet of any religion for that matter.
One therefore can say that although pressure on women to measure up to the existing norms of beauty is as old as history, it is the conversion of women’s sexuality into a commercial industry using global media as its vehicle that portrays women only as sex objects.
It is soap opera’s such as Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives where the unnatural looks of the models and MTV singers that make today’s standards of beauty for teenage girls around the world.
Also the pharmaceutical industry thrives on peoples’ fear of fat. They portray thinness as the epitome of sexual appeal, thus prompting young generations around the world to suffer from psychological disorders in their quest to boost their sexual appeal and remain in vogue.
Over sexualization is not limited to girls only as boys also undergo similar torture. They have to adhere to certain sexual charisma standards imposed by the fashion and music industry. The industry needs them to be thin, hairless, have a six pack, pecs and dress well.
The banning of skinny models from catwalks by Spanish fashion organizers may be a good place to start a concerted international campaign to help the young generation regain their health, their self-esteem and their natural bodies.
Maybe it is time for the United Nations to assign a panel of experts to study the health and psychological impacts of sexualizing women in cinema, fashion and the pharmaceutical industries. This is indeed an issue that is as threatening as global warming and needs to be addressed at the highest levels of power. If global warming endangers our physical existence on earth, our sexualizing of girls is to use Susan Brownmiller’s words “…the ultimate restriction on freedom of the mind.”
Bashir Goth is a veteran journalist, freelance writer, the first Somali blogger and editor of a leading news website