For decades mainstream media has oversexualized black women and their bodies. This, in turn, has caused black women everywhere to make unnecessary changes to not only their bodies, but their hair as well. This epidemic is something that has plagued the black community for some time now. Many have lost their lives due to the complications of either undergoing surgeries or the negative effects that come along with dieting and waist training. Famous rapper Kanye West’s mother passed away due to complications she was experiencing after undergoing not only a breast reduction but liposuction, as well. Stories can also be found on the internet, as well as on TV, regarding the downfalls of having such procedures done, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Many women who cannot afford to pay to have them professionally done opted to have them done on the black market which increases their risk for complications.
Harris explores how body ideals relate to ethnicity by comparing the idea of beauty amongst whites and African Americans. Harris found that obese African American women had a more positive body image. This study can also be related to the stigma that in order for a black woman to be considered attractive or beautiful she must have these outrageous curves to match society’s view.
To be black and to be a woman means that you are expected to be this sex symbol, every man’s dirty fantasy. When thinking of black women, many envision the video vixen type; Big butt, big breast, small waist but not too small, oiled up and half naked. Positive images of black women’s bodies are rare in mainstream western media. (Doy 1996 & Nochlin 1991). The only way to see a black woman in media is either through the hip-hop culture or through pornography. The lack of positive images of black women in the media has caused depression and self-esteem rates to rise in the black community. Black women are held to the standards of these images daily. Unfortunately the sexualization of the black woman’s body starts at a very young age. Black women are taught as children to cover up and not dress and act a certain way so that they do no provoke grown men.
In the media today, plastic surgery seems to be on trend. Plastic surgery is a form of body modifications used to help individuals fix the things that they don’t like about themselves. At one point this was something that was only done by celebrities and the “higher ups” because the procedures are costly. Now that the surgeries have become so popular, more people are starting to have them done. There are many socialites and celebrities who are praised and admired for their bodily features such as Kim Kardashian and her family, as well as Blac Chyna, Lira Galore, and Alexis Sky. Three of these names may not be as recognizable as the Kardashian Klan, however they also have heavy influences on their followers. Blac Chyna for example, is an African American woman who is the spitting image of plastic surgery gone too far with her enormous rear end.
Nowadays beauty standards have changed, there has been a norm to sexualize the black woman but now the pressures have increased for black women to be “sexy”. The pressures that are being placed on black women are unbearable. Naturally black women are born with some form of curves, some may stick out more than others but nonetheless it’s genetic. With the popularity of having large breasts, a small waist, and huge bottom being at an all-time high black women are now undergoing major surgeries in order to be accepted. One celebrity who has had the same amount of work done as Blac Chyna, K. Michelle recently had her surgeries reversed by receiving a butt reduction. The R&B singer can be seen interviews referring to her butt implants as “Betsy.” She goes on to explain to interviewers why she made the decision to have her butt implants removed. Her main reason was the pain that having the implants caused. Having a butt of such stature seems appealing to most, but many don’t take into consideration the fact that their body has to be able to support all of the additional weight that comes with having it.
Some authors have suggested that the negative portrayal of black bodies in mainstream media may lead to privileging paler skin color within the black community (Nayak 1997). In other words colorism, this is something that has plagued black people for centuries. Colorism is the idea that was instilled in blacks by white people. It dates back to the days of slavery and the concept of house slaves and field slaves. Lighter skinned blacks are deemed as more attractive, especially amongst women. Darker skinned women are forced to be ashamed of the extra pigmentation in our skin. It wasn’t enough to be hated by white people, but we have to hate each other as well.
In other words, yes there is an overall sexualization of black women; however there are even greater pressures on those of darker skin tones to be “thick”. A lighter skinned black woman can get away with being pretty, and having curly hair. When it comes to the darker skinned women, especially in the media it is almost as if there is a checklist of requirements that they must endure in order to receive any shine in the industry. This idea is something that should have been left in the past. In the year of 2018, black women everywhere are forced to live with the thought that they will never be good enough or beautiful enough for society.
BET staff. (2018, February 01). Ms. New Booty!: K. Michelle Debuts Her Real Butt After Getting Implants Removed. Retrieved from https://www.bet.com/style/living/2018/02/01/k-michelle-new-booty.html
Grogan, Sarah. “Age, social class, ethnicity and sexuality.” Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children, 2nd ed., pp. 136–191.
York, J. L., & Angeles, N. D. (2007, November 13). Kanye West’s mom dies after nip/tuck surgery. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/kanye-west-mom-dies-cosmetic-surgery-article-1.260506
Reshaé Butler is a 22 year old senior at ODU working toward obtaining her degree in fashion merchandising in Fall 2018. She originally transferred from a private school in NOVA called Marymount University. She currently works at Victoria’s Secret, and is using her time there to learn more about what it takes to be in visual merchandising. Reshaé has spent her entire life in the Hampton Roads area, outside of her one semester at MU and has plans to move much warmer climates soon after graduation.