COLUMN | Stop policing black women’s bodies by humiliating them for not meeting Eurocentric beauty standards

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Singer Makhadzi always rises above negativity and has constantly taken jabs from the public because of her appearence.
Singer Makhadzi always rises above negativity and has constantly taken jabs from the public because of her appearence.
Makhadzi Muimbi Music SA

She was having the time of her life. Singing, dancing and doing what she does best - entertaining. She was in the moment, so when a photographer took a rather non-flattering picture of singer Makhadzi’s dark inner thighs, she wasn't even thinking about angles. 

Until the picture hit social media and she quickly trended as many people started body-shaming her and talking about her thighs. It got so bad that the singer issues an apology for essentially not being perfect. 

Let's think about that for a second. She apologised to fans who were disappointed by the image. An image that captured her dancing, singing and having the time of her life in Malawi had suddenly turned into a weapon for some to use against her. 

This kind of attack isn't new to Makhadzi. She has been ridiculed by the public and the media because she is a dark-skinned woman with African facial features and a natural body that does not ‘fit’ the Eurocentric beauty standards.

Despite being a talented artist and a great performer, she has often had to defend herself in the media as sometimes people focus on her 'looks'.

The truth is that black women have always been expected to possess Eurocentric features like a small nose, light skin, silky hair and the media makes it worse by pushing the agenda of colorism and featurism.

What is colorism and how does it affect black women?

Colourism refers to the prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

It is deeply rooted in racism and during slavery/ apartheid people of lighter skin colour received preferential treatment as opposed to those who have darker skin. 

While some people might think it doesn't exist, colourism has caused many debates over the years within the entertainment industry with many actors, musicians coming forward to discuss how they have been victims of colourism.

Colorism is a big issue in the black community globally and black girls are usually alerted of their ‘unattractiveness’ due to their dark skin and African facial features at a young age.

It has become normal and almost expected that dark skinned women will be shamed for their skin tone, features and their bodies once they do not meet the hyperexualised image of black women that the world has created which includes having light skin, a small waist, thick thighs and in some cases, a perfectly laid wig.

Black women’s bodies are always under inspection and restriction. One can’t wear a bikini or revealing clothes if they have dark bits, dark inner thighs, stretch marks, scars and any form of ‘imperfection’ that people find to make women feel ashamed and uncomfortable in their bodies.

Although there is no set definition for featurism, it can be summed up to being prejudice towards individuals with certain features and a preference towards those with features that correlate with a set beauty standards usually deeply rooted in western culture.

The hyper sexualisation of black women and how it affects them

The bodies of women have been hypersexualised for centuries. This dates back to the times of Saartjie Baartman who was taken away from South Africa and put on display. According to Black Past,  she was named the “Hottentot Venus” by Europeans as her body was publicly examined and exposed inhumanly throughout the duration of her life across the globe.

We see the bodies of black women being hypersexualised in the media through music videos, social media and even in advertising. When a woman does not meet the ‘desirable’ image, she is dehumanized and shamed for not reflecting the over commercialised hyper feminine black woman with Eurocentric features.

Makhadzi issued a statement of apology to her fans and to all the people that were ‘offended’ by her inner thighs and continued to state that she felt humiliated by the photographer’s choice of pictures.

“I would like to ask everyone who reacts with this picture and edited pictures that you are planting something that can affect me badly. I humble myself politely to ask everyone to stop humiliating me," she posted on her Facebook page.

The entertainment industry is the foundation of representation for many young girls and what we see being portrayed as beautiful and acceptable in the public space does not represent dark skinned young girls who have little or no followers on Instagram.

A woman shouldn’t have to apologise for having a natural body that may have cellulite, dark bits, dark inner thighs, fat upper pubic area (fupa) scars, stretch marks, you name it. This increase in body shaming has negative effects on people’s self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.

Imagine what this kind of talk does to a child that is still learning to love themselves? 

When it comes to body image, black women are never afforded the opportunity to be their authentic selves and it's time for that to end. Can we allow women to just be? If you don't like the sight of a woman's natural body and all it comes with, just scroll on past, because while it might take you a minute to write your criticism, it will take her a lifetime to get over it. 

Be kind.

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