The Beauty Industry (and the World) Ignore Black Women: #NowWhat

The Beauty Industry (and the World) Ignore Black Women: #NowWhat

Black women are too often disrespected by the beauty industry and the world at large.

This disrespect comes in many forms. Sometimes, it’s in microaggression form — like when a white woman thinks it’s okay to touch a black woman’s hair because it’s “stylish”. Other times, it’s in a racist form — like when an app adds a blackface filter. And then there are the times when disrespect turns into legit assault and disregard for human life.

The beauty industry is the problem

Unfortunately, 2017 is fraught with instances where people unintentionally — and quite often intentionally — fetishize black looks and styles.

For example, a makeup artist recently did something that she called the “Chocolate Challenge” to “celebrate” women from various cultures. As if the title of the challenge wasn’t enough to make one’s skin crawl, the artist continued her “challenge” by transforming a white model via blackface.

Then, Jeffree Star launched a makeup campaign that featured a light-skinned model’s “deliberately darkened” skin. And let’s not forget that Kim Kardashian’s KKQ beauty promo photo showed her “several shades darker than usual,” Teen Vogue recently reported.

Why the beauty industry fetishizes black women

Dr. Dina Strachan, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City with a faculty appointment at NYU, explains that this type of oversight in the beauty industry happens because people fetishize what they lack. And the beauty industry under presents black women. (Perhaps this is why cosmetics for black women are more toxic.)

“It is hard to represent and protect what one is unfamiliar with,” Dr. Strachan says.

When more black women are bosses, mistreatment could stop. That’s when black women could help expand the perspective and advocate for their own interests, Strachan explains.

Christian Simone, a lifestyle blogger, adds that within the beauty industry, the desire to appear cool often comes at the expense of black women.

“Black women have often created or set the tempo out of true need and creativity,” she says.

“Being poverty-ridden or unable to find things that speak to us [helped us] create.”

However, when other races noticed this creativity, they took what they liked and shamed the people who created the “look” they praised.

“From taking things, such as cornrows and calling them fish braids, or wearing bamboo earrings and calling it vintage… I believe the black woman has always been the most unwatered fragrant flower that constantly rises,” Simone says.

“At times even our own rip us in order to be seen by other races as acceptable. However, I boldly allow my beauty to shine. A true twirl on your haters.”

The world needs to step up, STAT

Many people don’t take black women seriously. This lack of respect causes many people to treat black women poorly. One truly horrible example of this came to light in the past few weeks.

In 2015, Charneisha Corley got pulled over while running an errand. Corley alleges that “she was then subjected to a public cavity search of her vagina after Harris County officers claimed they smelled marijuana in her car,” Jezebel reports.

Dashcam footage of the altercation was recently released on the website of Sam R. Cammack. Cammack is Corley’s attorney.

The police officers who searched Corley were indicted, but “the charges were dropped in early August… [this] is what prompted the video’s release on Cammack’s website,” Jezebel reports. (And according to Fox 26, the officers involved in the incident are still working for the department, although they are on administrative duty.)

Why this keeps happening

Dr. Strachan points out that the dehumanization of black women’s bodies is part of American history — it’s nothing new. “Think of how black women were treated during slavery — [they were] raped, beaten, wet nursing the children of their captors, bought and sold.”

Simone adds that black women are financially, emotionally, and mentally taken advantage of, too. “The mental confusion that haunts the black woman from her appearance to how she interacts with the world is damning,” she explains.

“The pressure of making sure one doesn’t appear [as] anything but acceptable to others is hard… Other races believe they are better. Other minorities don’t want to associate [because] they don’t want to fight the status quo.”

After all, when a human is not seen as a valid person, it’s easy for others to dehumanize them.

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Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.