Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Women are Beautiful, Men are Men"

The Black Power Era brought about the rise of the phrase "Black is Beautiful." Many people viewed this expression, initially, as a tool of empowerment and acceptance of the natural biological make-up and physical uniqueness of the African-American. However, I am convinced that this movement turned into a tool used to measure the social acceptance of the black woman. It went from men and women wearing afros and dashikis to men setting the ideal measurements and hair length of the African-American woman. It went from African-American nationalism to a national announcement about the amount of women who do not meet up to the standards set by society.

In the movie that I watched, The Imitation of Life, a young, really bright-skinned African-American girl grew up convincing herself that she was white. She had seen the struggles of her mother and she knew how black people were treated so she told herself that she hated black people. By creating this living psychological battle within her mind, she continued to "pass" as white on into her adulthood. The point of my bringing up this movie is to bring attention to the storyline and the title. This young black girl was imitating a white woman and the movie was named The Imitation of Life, symbolizing that being white is living and being black is death. Not to mention, her black mother dies at the end of the movie. This movie was created in 1959, only about a half of a decade before the "Black is Beautiful" black nationalism movement began. I believe that there were still some women who were confused about what they really wanted in life during the late 60's. While blacks were convincing themselves to embrace their blackness, men were convincing women to look like the stereotypical and socially-acceptable woman. Not only was the girl in The Imitation of Life wanting to be white, but she also wanted to be accepted, and she knew that she could with her perfect-colored, "just-below-the-shoulder-length" hair, bright eyes, and thin waist. This look was perpetuated into the late 60's. My question is: why wasn't the ideal image of the male as reinforcing as the ideal image of the female? Yes, there were those who were willing to go against the status quo and create the "big butts" song and KING magazine, but once again, both of these were presenting icons of women. Were women not privileged enough during the Civil Rights Era to go against the socially-accepted view of men, or was it just understood that "guys will be guys"? I think that the "Black is Beautiful" movement provided grounds for an increase in the female organizing movement. Don't you??


  1. Definitely, the movement was not just about equality for men. That would have been a contradiction since the movement was about equality for all races. Today provides a wonderful example of the struggles that women still go through. They have to be thin, long hair, "beautiful" in others eyes. Beauty is only a word. Everyone is beautiful and should see it that way in their own eyes and ignore what others say.

  2. I think that women were a bit left out of the Civil Rights movement as a whole. While obviously the status of women in American society has advanced significantly from that time, this struggle doesn't seem to be as documented or highlighted in history. As hard as things were for all women, it was especially difficult for black women to gain power because they had two things "going against" them: that they were female and African American. They also seemed largely excluded from organizing the movement that was supposed to increase their stature and quality of life.

  3. Yes I do believe that black women took the “Black is Beautiful” slogan and ran with it. Though women were as recognized as men throughout the Civil Rights Movement, they could be seen for their beauty. Being black and beautiful gave women the opportunity to express their beauty in ways that they couldn’t because men were constantly in the spotlight. And I also believe that the slogan has ruined the image of black women especially from the oversexed images of black women from the 80s and 90s that we are still fighting and recovering from that only gets worse with the presence of the media.