Women in Africa and the Diaspora: I Got it from my Mama

What does it mean to be beautiful? Why is it so important to us women? Why does it matter that we see representations of ourselves, people who are not us but look like us, in the world? Why do we clamor for those representations to be based on reality, accurate, positive, and accepted as good enough? These questions have bounced around in my head since I signed up to write this piece. I don’t have the answers yet, but those things are head knowledge anyway. The things I do know are heart knowledge.

I have a one year old. She is the most incredible person on the planet to me, delightful and joyous and alive in ways that make me redefine the word ‘wondrous’. My daughter has cropped hair, which everyone says is bad because she looks like a boy, and light skin, which everyone says is good because they think it makes her pretty. I am acutely aware of her Africanness and her femaleness, and I worry about how it will affect her experience of the world. I think about how people’s compliments to her change when they realize her gender; from ‘big boy’ to ‘so cute!’, from ‘he is so active and strong’ to ‘she will have such a big bum when she grows up’, and how their remarks about her looks must always include her skin tone, and my heart breaks for her.

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Women in Africa and the Diaspora: I Got it from my Mama
What does it mean to be beautiful? Why is it so important to us women? Why does it matter that we see representations of ourselves, people who are not us but look like us, in the world? Why do we clamor for those representations to be based on reality, accurate, positive, and accepted as good enough? These questions have bounced around in my head since I signed up to write this piece. I don’t have the answers yet, but those things are head knowledge anyway. The things I do know are heart knowledge.
I have a one year old. She is the most incredible person on the planet to me, delightful and joyous and alive in ways that make me redefine the word ‘wondrous’. My daughter has cropped hair, which everyone says is bad because she looks like a boy, and light skin, which everyone says is good because they think it makes her pretty. I am acutely aware of her Africanness and her femaleness, and I worry about how it will affect her experience of the world. I think about how people’s compliments to her change when they realize her gender; from ‘big boy’ to ‘so cute!’, from ‘he is so active and strong’ to ‘she will have such a big bum when she grows up’, and how their remarks about her looks must always include her skin tone, and my heart breaks for her.
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