The Politics of Beauty

Serena

I don’t enjoy Tennis, I yawn at Wimbledon. But over the years I’ve caught glimpses of the Williams sisters and I’ve been inspired and motivated by them; not just because they are winners but because they appear to win on their own terms. I came across a picture of Serena Williams 2 weekends ago looking majestic, strong, toned and defined. She was on a beach, wearing a bikini. The comments under her picture were vile. She was called a gorilla, a chick with a dick, a man. I had to inhale, squint and scroll back up to look at the picture again; what had I missed? I had missed nothing. So I put the picture on my FB page saying something along the lines of ‘ I’m shocked at the vile comments this picture is receiving, she looks amazing”. I expected rounds of agreement. Silence. Silence. Silence, until one very vocal FB male friend chimed in. In his view Serena looked dreadful. Too much muscles. Too manly. Too overweight. In his opinion the bikini look was certainly not for her. And so a debate ensued with just a handful of people supporting Serena. The silence was deafening. The silence convinced me that most people agreed with him.

You may be reading this and think so what’s my point? What’s the big deal if one or more people think Serena looked dreadful. Let me stress and emphasis that it is not whether or not a lot of people find her attractive that is the issue. The issue for me is that the world is going crazy where body image is concerned. The issue for me is that too many people only equate a certain type of body shape with beauty. The issue is that as beautifully made as we are, most women, and in particular most black women don’t fit into this ideal. This is a big deal. It is a big deal because we are expected to integrate, be confident, love ourselves, value ourselves and be the best versions of ourselves whilst simultaneously hearing and seeing messages saying we look manly, too mussily, too aggressive’.

There are a lot of people who will argue that attractiveness is subjective. And so all those people calling Serena a dreadful simply don’t find her attractive. But is beauty really so subjective when we are constantly fed and bombarded with images of what beauty should look like. How subjective is beauty when everything that shouts beautiful, pretty, alluring of desirable isn’t bigger or more rounded than a size 12 . How subjective is beauty when Serena Williams a fit and visibly strong athlete is called such vile and emotive names.

Some people say curves are in; big bums are in, and in turn there is more celebration of the natural curves black women sport. But please look around and tell me whose big bums are celebrated ( leaving aside the fact that it is repulsive to reduce us to bums in the first instance). Black women have been sporting big bums since before Jenny from the block and before Kim K, but strangely these curves are more desirable in everyone but black women. Serena’s bum was sitting up high like she had been doing squats from her mother’s womb; not one compliment. What does this tell you? Her tummy was flat and it flattered her waist and hips; not one compliment. The body fascist couldn’t deal flesh just that bit thicker than the acceptable ‘ magazine ‘curvy’ which is mostly a size 10 or12 (British size).

Serena’s body type doesn’t fit into what we are constantly brainwashed to accept; long and thin. At one point my FB friend changed the argument and said what was dreadful was her bikini. The bikini was not a good look for her. Let’s keep it real. The bikini look was as close to her being naked as it comes. The bikini in question was not ill fitting. It was not too tight. It was not too small. It fitted perfectly. It was the body he had an issue with. A body typical of many black women. If he is reading this he will no doubt accuse me of playing the race card, again. And if you are reading this and think race doesn’t play a role in the politics of beauty then you are naive. What was telling was his use of the word ‘aggressive’ How can the body of a woman strolling on the beach be aggressive? Yes, this is a race issue. It is indirect discrimination by the media and by everyone who has been brainwashed into accepting one body type as the ideal. And just in case you didn’t know, indirect discrimination is often less obvious. When a practice seems fair because it applies to everyone equally, but on closer look shows that some people are disproportionately affected then it’s indirect discrimination. We are constantly bombarded with “thin, slim, long, lean” as standards of beauty and yes this applies universally ( in the Western World at least) but when most black women can’t even begin, for genetic reasons fit into this ideal, then it is discrimination. And yes it is a race issue.

I am worried and very concerned about the amount of people who have been brainwashed into believing that beauty only comes in one guise; slim, fairly toned, but not too much muscles, even for an athlete who earns her living on her physicality. For the first time in my life I think my eyes really opened to the discrimination, bullying, and nastiness faced by those whose body type don’t fit the ‘mould’. And it really bothers me.

Sent from my iPhone

10 thoughts on “The Politics of Beauty

  1. Hi Titilolami, I may have liked this photo if she wore a one peice. I’m being real here! For her shape and body type the bikini was too much. It didn’t suit her at all…. She has too much on show. It’s almost like the if you are wearing a short skirt, don’t wear a crop top or sleeveless top rule. On one body type the mini and crop top would be fine and another it would be vulgar. She should wear what suits her.

    On another hand it’s her business and she can wear whatever she darn pleases. 😀

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  2. She is my hero! I live for her photos. Body is just spuregede …no words. I speak in tongues when I see Serena #boss #winner #teamserena #teamfitthick

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  3. I think Serena looks great. Most of us don’t have her build, and perhaps the average woman doesn’t want as much muscle as she has, but to me she’s the epitome of a fit, strong, successful athlete, as you stated. When I look at Serena, I see beauty and success. I recently interviewed Mary J. Blige’s trainer (http://wp.me/p1FZja-AD) and we talked a lot about fitness, relationships, and body image.

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  4. Everyday I come here thinking “Will this be the day?”, Will she have written something today?”, Will my spirits be lifted with a witty funny story today?”, “Will my working day go by just a little faster cos Titilolami has wriiten something that will keep me chuckling all day as her stories often do?”…but alas! it’s not today..ok, I’ll check back tomorrow 🙂 #nopressure

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  5. Alero, click notifications, you will get an alert when she writes something.
    Maybe there is nothing inspiring to write about, right now. We just wait 🙂

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  6. Love love Serena’s body. I have been praying, training and trying my best to eat my way to that bod. Thanks for this article, it is another form of discrimination. Serena has experienced the same on and off the court.

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