Black Women and Mainstream Society

Black Women and Mainstream SocietyIf I could offer every Black women in America any advice about self esteem, it would be to forego any thoughts of defining your self worth and self esteem via outlets like the mainstream society. Bleh. It is a trap that only leads to self doubt, self scrutiny, and self esteem issues. If I could put this message on the top of a sky scraper on a billboard that was large enough for every sista in the world to read I would.

Now, I am in no way judging Black women for committing what I consider to be one of the biggest faux pas any woman can do because we all have fell prey to this at some point in our lives no matter how brief.  Yours truly included. That being said, it is definitely time to put an end to any remnants of being made to feel that you are somehow “less than”.

If we were to look at the situation from a rational point of view instead of an emotional one, then more Black women would be able to see that comparing yourself to the standards of mainstream beauty–White beauty, is the most nonsensical and debilitating act that any Black Woman could do to herself.

First of all, we have been deemed second best if that in the eyes of society since slavery. Although this may seem a bit disheartening, it is submersed in truth. For eons Black women have been expressively told by mainstream society that they are in no way equal to that of their White counterpart. We have suffered through years of having every element of our very being scrutinized. From the way we speak, to our physical attributes, to the way we dress, and so on… It is has since become an unspoken truth in our society and in some ways also a very well known one, that Black women are less attractive than that of White women.

Therefore, I find it irrational for any Black woman to attempt to define her self worth through the eyes of mainstream society. They are basing their rating scale of beauty on a system that was never designed for us to come out as top contenders. The scale is designed so as White women are the idealized object of beauty. They make this apparent in the way that they are celebrated for possessing characteristics of Black women. However, when those same characteristics are possessed by Black women–which they have been for years–it somehow is not as favorable.

I want to cement this second point because I want this to truly hit home so please forgive me for any redundancy.  Men control what is thought of as beautiful; not women. In our society, although women of all races have made strides in education, equality in the work place, and being seen as more of a equal to men in general, we still do not control what is deemed aesthetically pleasing in the eyes of mainstream media. These decisions are sadly still majority wise controlled by men and men only. At the end of the day, one of the top priorities dictated to women is to aim to be considered attractive by the opposite sex. “What’s going to make him happy” takes priority. Now by “him”, I am not referring to a woman’s significant other or husband. I understand the give and take relationship. I am speaking generally for all the other headhunters of the world.

Let’s examine this further. Men were the ones who made the decision years ago in the days of Marilyn Monroe, that a curvy woman who was voluptuous was sexy. They were also the ones who many years later said “ehh, I think maybe she is getting a little too round for me”. So they recanted on that and decided that a thin or more athletic body was ideal. Now, women keeping a thin frame but achieving large breasts and a full rump are supposedly the norm.

Black Women and Mainstream SocietyDo you see the irrationality in this? If not, read carefully, women are banging their heads and their bodies up literally and metaphorically,  trying aimlessly to be pleasing to men aesthetically, when what is considered admirable traits in a woman changes significantly every few years. So, women go to their plastic surgeon and spend thousands upon thousands of dollars, allowing themselves to be transformed into what is considered beauty at the time, to only find out years later that those characteristics are no longer considered attractive in the eyes of our society. But now they are stuck with whatever “look” of the time for the rest of their lives unless they chose to jump on the merry go round and give it another go at the plastic surgeon’s office. What! Who wants to go through that? Why would you put yourself through that type of mental and physical torture? They often say that beauty is fleeting. But I tend to think that what is considered to be beautiful is ever changing and even more fleeting. Why stress over something that is based in pure irrationality?

Lastly, there has to come a time in every woman’s life where she must fully and unequivocally accept herself in her own skin. Get over it. You are what you are. Toughen up cookie. You are going to have what you have.  As Black women, we should already know our history. All of the attributes that Black women are known for and were once criticized over- full lips, wide hips, round buttocks; women of other races are now paying someone to have. It only became beautiful when White women were able to have them as well. In fact, the Black woman has only recently achieved a certain level of exotic beauty in the eyes of our society that never existed before. However, there is no defined timeline as to how long this acceptance will endure.

This is why you cannot delve into the criticism or the hype for that matter, of what is considered beautiful by the mainstream. More importantly, one should not allow what society and the mainstream media says is beauty to be the basis of your self esteem.  Nor should you internalize the criticism you might receive over what society says is not beautiful at the time.  It is far more logical ladies for you to manifest your own individual ideology of beauty and to revel in your own skin. Allow that to be what you internalize. Is this an easy task? Hell no. I would be lying to you if I said it was. It is something that must be worked at daily. However, mastering it will be what will keep you sane no matter how many butt injections, breast enhancements, nose jobs, lip augmentations, lace wigs, Botox treatments, cheek replacements, and the many other enhancements go on around you.

We must all remember that their applause and or boos are fleeting and should never be absorbed internally either way. Finding assurance in your beauty from within and not from outward concepts is second only to peace of mind.


By: LJ Knight

Author: LaJuanda

LJ Knight is a featured writer for and a freelance journalist on her site She currently resides in Los Angeles but is originally from Chicago. She is dubbed “the voice of the urban sophisticated woman.”

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  2. Well, I can admit than in general black women need a lot of improvement overall. I’m black too but I have noticed this most of my life. Luckily the women in my family were extremely feminine, but I was exposed to something outside of the norm. It’s not that people just want to make them feel bad, they really need to take a look in the mirror and accept that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Attractiveness is perceived most of the time. Look at Asian women, they are in no way as physically attractive as white women, but they completely usurp white women on overall quality. They try to hit the basics physically by controlling their weight, and just looking healthy overall but they don’t go overboard. They don’t really strive to be the most beautiful women in the world just high quality women by working to be a complete package. This means being strong in areas that require discipline and talent: motherhood, wifehood, academics, professions, sef-expression.

    Black women need to do the same. Don’t strive to be equal to white or whoever, strive to be top notch in our brand. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing a bit of this and that from others to become original. There’s nothing better than originality. At the time, yes black women are less attractive as women because they simply don’t invest much in themselves and it shows internally and externally.

    How many bw exercise regularly, eat healthy foods mostly, have natural beauty regimens? All this stuff makes you beautiful. Not only that but many don’t have a softness about them. This can be nurtured by becoming more in touch with their femininity. Natural beauty regimens (physical, mental and physical) help a lot in this area. They seem to prefer shortcuts with a lot of things instead of taking a discipline, authentic approach to their beauty and a good eye for detail. Learning how to develop a sense of elegance goes a long way with the eye for detail. This too can be learned and developed.

    My thing is, no we are not the victims we see ourselves as, it’s just that people are reacting to what we present to the world. Everyone loves a classy woman regardless of how she looks naturally. Even the ugliest woman can be perceived as beautiful when she is elegant. Remember this please.

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    • Regarding shortcuts, no one respects people who shortcut something that is supposed to reflect long-term effort and nurturing.

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    • “…black women are less attractive as women because they simply don’t invest much in themselves and it shows internally and externally.” This statement and the entire paragraph that follows is a complete generalization of ALL black women. Unless you know for a FACT that every single black woman is unhealthy, doesn’t invest in herself internally/externally, blah blah blahh, there is no way in hell you can make a statement like that. Coming from a slender, vegan, classy, put together black lady, I know numerous black women in my circle that are the very opposite of your generalization.

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    • I found just what I was needed, and it was enigttarnine!

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  3. Totally agree with this post. It’s so unreasonable trying to match your standards of beauty to what society deems as beautiful, especially when the beauty industry is male dominated in the first place. I remember that it was popular only recently to have thin eyebrows, but now all these girls where I live are hell-bent on trying to pencil their eyebrows to look thicker. I think it’s sad, but that’s society for you. :/

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  4. Totally agree with this article, and not out of arrogance, but out of strict confidence, I have always felt black women, my sisters, are the MOST gorgeous and deep down, others especially whites, KNOW this as well, no matter how they try to suppress. It’s the reason for the suppression in the first place!!! Make them think or even feel inferior and the rest is and will be history. From the time I was a little girl, as far as I can remember, my dad, uncles and grandfathers always told me how pretty I was. It is vital that black girls are raised to not just hear this but KNOW this. Again, not peppered by arrogance, but confidence. ANY woman of color who tries to compare herself to what this societies standard of beauty is will be setting themselves up for constant internal scrutiny, coupled with the scrutiny of others. For anyone, that can be too much, both mentally and physically. Embrace who you are. Black, white, brown, yellow. God made us, who we are, for a reason. We aren’t cookie cutter and isn’t that wonderful!???

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