Double Consciousness at Miss Bronze Contests

by Miyu Fujihara

In “The Color of an Ideal Beauty Queen,” Maxine Craig talks about how Miss Bronze or beauty contests clearly show “systems of representation”, which makes contests such as Miss Bronze significantly different from beauty contests mostly for white women. System of representation can be simply explained as differences of perspective. Specifically skin color is one of the elements that decide representation, as well as other factors like body features. For example, blond hair represents white race and a dark-skinned person evokes the image of low social status, and so on. However, since systems of representation are different depending on the racial group, features can represent anything. Thus the definition of beauty differs a lot among groups, thus making different impressions. What black people and white people think is beautiful can differ.

As Craig mentions in her chapter, at the Miss Bronze Contest, black contestants try to walk carefully so they can show their well-educated behavior, which reminds people of middle class manners or the social representation of whites, and some straighten their hair to be “white” in order to achieve beauty acknowledged by the majority.

However, at the same time, since it is Miss Bronze, the contest which decides the symbol of the race, contestants want to keep their blackness or authenticity in their appearance. This is why some get their hair short in order not to be too white (long hair is regarded as element of being white). The one that meets the both expectations wins the contest, in other words, the one that is regarded as beautiful from both whites and blacks can win. This whole process to be the winner is said to be based on the one’s double consciousness.

From what I’ve mentioned above, this can be applied to Asian American women in the United States. Keeping racial identity and achieving the majority’s standard of beauty for them is to have black hair or Asian hair, but to keep it long like other white people do. Thus this shows how they have double consciousness.

In my opinion, this is something very considerable and profound in a way it shows that there’s more than one standard of beauty exists. Cherishing her race and natural appearance will build self-confidence and stop people from rushing to get plastic surgery whenever they want to change their race. As for the day a black woman won the beauty contest, it’s proved that the one that’s beautiful is not always white, but black or Asian and any other race. However, even recently it seems that  colorism still exists in a form of social hierarchy. This explains how the concept of multiple standards of beauty was established with color-based social hierarchy coming from colonialism. It sounds difficult to change this issue. Nonetheless, people at least are secured to have their own racial identity and are given the environment where they can be respected from each other in disregard of racism.

Reference

Craig, Maxine L. 2009. “The Color of an Ideal Beauty Queen” in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Still Matters, edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

“Bronze signified race but not a specific color”

Sharon Bailey, Miss Bronze Local winner Carolyn Blakey and Belva Davis (Pageant producer) (Photo credit: turnstyle news)

by Lulu Maginde

“Bronze signified race but not a specific color”

This particular statement seems to support the idea of the Miss Bronze beauty contest, however whether this is actually true or not is debatable.

First of all, the question has to be addressed, would someone find it offensive if they were to be labeled as bronze in terms of their race? Why one thought that it made sense to associate bronze with race or a beauty contest for that matter, is beyond me, especially during a time where one was persecuted because of their race, however in some aspects it did help in dissolving color boundaries so to speak.

The beauty contest that was created during the height of segregation in the 60s, for the purpose of bringing together African American women of all different skin colors as well as making a political statement. Originally most of the winners of the contest accounted for were light-skinned and most commonly came from stable backgrounds. Due to the contests, ‘black beauty queens became important symbols of black worth’, yet if winners were being chosen for the lightness of their skin tone, how do people differentiate between what they are supposed to stand for and what they are being led to believe by these contests? And also what is the standard of measurement for black women, if according to beauty institutions, black worth amounted to the accomplishments of lighter skinned contestants?

It seems that after the first dark-skinned contestant was crowned, people suddenly started taking notice. In an institution that has been dictated by this sense of “white is right”, having a dark skinned beauty queen symbolized that this idea of the lighter skin girl was not as significant or dying down.

For the longest time the many people, from the judges to audiences and even contestants had applied a form of “double consciousness” in regards to their appearance. This sense of double consciousness, where African Americans see themselves and judge themselves as white people see them, as W.E.B. Du Bois described it, only seemed to become less important throughout the end of the 1960s, being replaced by black empowerment. The Miss Bronze beauty contest was the first of its kind created for black women and so it meant a lot this division of color did not persist.

The role these black beauty contests in shaping the way black girls and women in turn see beauty had a great impact as in turn the color regime whereby light skin was the dominant was disappearing, all due to that one lady.

References

Craig, L., M. (2009). The color of an ideal Negro Beauty Queen: Miss Bronze 1961-1968. In Glenn, E. Shades of Difference: Why skin color matters. (pp. 81 – 94).Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Gee, R. (April 21st, 2011). Sharon Bailey, Sacramento producer of the Miss Bronze Pageant, Local winner Carolyn Blakey and Belva Davis.

Retrieved from: http://turnstylenews.com/2011/04/21/belva-davis-black-female-and-breaking-news-for-40-years/miss_bronze/

Measurement of beauty in the Miss Bronze Beauty Contest

by Moe Miura

The concept of “beauty” is something really strong in many places. If we say a single word “beauty”, though it is just a one single word it have different meanings for each person who hears it. The definition of the idea of “beauty” is now so expanded that people have started to have their own idea of “beauty”. However, if we look at how one society, or even many countries together, define the idea of “beauty”, we see the “trend”, or collective ideas about beauty. Often, the way of promoting or influencing these trends to people is to define “what kind of people is beautiful”; and often, that is done through the beauty contest.

It is not exaggerated when we say the winner of the beauty pageant shapes the idea of beauty that people have. Often, these beauty contests had excluded “black beauty” from the criteria to measure people’s beautifulness. Then there was born the beauty contest called “Miss Bronze”, and it actively recruited a lot of women of color for the contest. Even with this situation, skin color was something to measure one’s beauty, because they still had the idea of lighter skin as better and more privileged than darker skin by various reasons.

However what I want to look close to are elements other than the skin color. Though skin color has been talked about one of the most important elements in defining “beauty”, however there is particularly one thing that I would like to focus on: hair.

As people set the ideal image of skin, people also try to achieve the ideal hair. As for the Miss Bronze contestant, since they were African American, many had short and tight-curled hair. However the ideal hair was “long and straight/wavy/silky” hair. Even until today people have been using hair relaxer to straighten/soften their hair, though it has harmful side effects.

I believe there are a lot of similar points between the action of whitening skin and relaxing hair; first advertisements (magazines, commercials, and so on) played a big role in making people believe that using these product will give them better life or privilege. Also, these two factors strongly connect with social stratification. Both claim that having lighter skin or straighter, smoother hair will result in privilege. With the created ideals and brainwash of the media, people who has too seek beauty (people in beauty peagent) and even others are seeking the way to go close to their ideal image of “beauty”.

Colorism, segregation, and beauty pageants

by Shinoko Itakura

In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe.

“Miss Universe” is the most famous beauty pageant in which female representatives of each country compete. In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe. Until this happened, there had been many attempts to argue beauty of black women against colorism. “Miss Bronze” was one of such attempts, challenging racial exclusion and colorism. Each woman is representative of her own black community.

I was a discussion leader of this topic today in the class of Race and Ethnicity in the Modern World. I have come up some questions and two of those were “if there is beauty pageant TODAY for only white people, do you think this is discrimination against non-white people?” and “What about if it was for only black people or Asian people?” I was expecting that the most of my colleagues would say yes right away to the former question and no or maybe after they consider for the latter question. Yet, one of the colleagues said that this is not about racism nor discrimination but the idea of having different beauty contests of ethnic groups or racial groups are same as segregation. I have realized that the idea I have come up without any concerns was horrific thing which colored people have been suffering. Also “The standards of beauty” including not only skin color but also physical features are based on white standards. For example, in the beauty contest, fat people or short people cannot be seen. Everyone is extremely skinny and tall.

Women always want to stay beautiful. “Beauty” is forever theme for women. However this beauty should not be decided based on one particular “standard of beauty”. There are different styles of beauty. Every woman is beautiful no matter what skin color she has, no matter how tall or how skinny she is. Every woman has right to show how she is beautiful. No one can judges whether the woman is beautiful or not by skin color.

Reference

Craig. M. L. (2009) “The Color of an Ideal Negro Beauty Queen.” In Shades of Difference: How Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Color? Look for beauty in its own

by Kanae Mukaihara

“Hey!”

When a person sees another person and exchanges a word, they likely have already distinguished the other person’s race according to their appearance. This is the reality. In current time periods, there still is obvious discrimination in the society. For example, in Japan, many foreigners are not able to get a part time job or even rent an apartment. In addition, sometimes, still a sign “Japanese Only” may be seen in shop entrances. This may not be regarded with their skin color, yet people still judge others by skin color. If one is non-white, others would regard one is inferior to those who are white.

“People do not want to be distinguished by their skin color and at the same time people do not want to distinguish others with their skin color.” I wish every single person in the world would think in this way. It sounds simple, yet wheels within wheels, it is more complicated than it first seems to be. Those who have white skin color tend to have better employment, better income, better treatment and even better life (Nakano, 2009). Society is constructed with bunch of people in which discrimination are occurring from color differences. Thus it should have been actively argued for everyone to have equal eyes more than equal society. However, in a sense of beauty, it could be different.

The standard of beauty differs among countries. However, world widely, having lighter skin color, taller nose, bigger eyes, blond hair is considered as beauty in most of the countries, including countries in Asia (Chung, 2011). In Asia, Westerners have been the role model of beauty.  For example in Japan, people would buy cosmetics which is lighter color than their real skin color since they have the idea of white or lighter skin is more beautiful. Korea as another example, it is more severe. In Korea, beautiful women are more likely to be employed and to have better life (Stewart, 2013). Thus, people get plastic surgeries and try to become beautiful to compromise to the society. Regarding white as beauty in the world is more common while has becoming a standard. Yet, in Brazil, they discover beauty in darker skin.

In Brazil, race is classified by skin color, which mainly has category of white, brown and black. In the society of Brazil, as same as other countries, the lighter skin one has, the better employment and income they could get (Nakano, 2009). In Brazil, there is discrimination in society. However in Brazil, not like Japan or Korea, women want to have golden and tanned skin. Thus women with lighter skin color use darker cosmetics to make their skin color darker than they have now (Stylist, 2014). In addition, in comparison with Korean more focuses plastic surgery in face, yet Brazilians more focuses on shape of their body. There are not many countries which find beauty in darker skin.

From these findings, I consider that one should not be treated based on the skin color they have or their looks. In a sense of beauty, the standard of beauty should be created by countries and create the standard of beauty from cultural aspect and also careful consideration in the society. Every race has its own charming point in every single part of their body and personality. From doing this, I believe more women in the world would be able to find much more confidence as who they are. Respecting others, respecting cultures, respecting one’s looks will lead to brighter future I believe.

References

Chung, C. (2011). ‘Westernizing’ surgery on the wise. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/westernising-surgery-on-the-rise-20110905-1jsye.html

Stylist. (2014). Made in Brazil: Why Brazil leads the way with beauty trends. Retrieved from http://www.stylist.co.uk/beauty/made-in-brazil

Stewart, D. (2013). I can’t stop Looking at these South Korean Women who’ve had plastic surgery. Retrieved from http://jezebel.com/5976202/i-cant-stop-looking-at-these-south-korean-women-whove-had-plastic-surgery

Telles, E. (2009). “The Social Consequences of Skin Color in Brazil.” In Shades of Difference: Why skin color matters, edited by E. N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Skin Lightening in South Africa

by Yutaro Nishioka

The trend of skin lightening, especially among women, is getting increasingly common all over the world, including South Africa, where the major part of its population is black. According to a study from the University of Cape Town, as many as one in three African women use bleaching products to lighten their skin.

Skin lightening products often create serious medical complications; many patients suffer from diseases caused by a combination of use of lightening products and sunlight (africa.com).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also mentioned the negative effects of some skin lightening products. Mercury, one of the common ingredients in lightening creams, is said to have harmful effects and could also lead to kidney damage, as well as other side effects such as “skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections” (africa.com).

Why is skin lightening becoming so common in South Africa despite its negative health effects? Professor Lynn Thomas, co-author of the book Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, mentions the history of South Africa being colonized by Europeans. The Europeans and South Africans were not treated equally, and there was the notion that light skin was somehow better, not much unlike Hitler’s idea that Jews were inferior. More recently, apartheid, the government policy of racial segregation against black Africans in South Africa, was renounced officially only in 1992.

The effects of the history of discrimination can still be seen in the current South African society. For example, Nomoto “Mahoza” Mnisi, a famous South African musician, is known for her extensive use of skin lightening products. She says, “I just want to be light skinned… I was tired of being ugly.” She is assuming that dark skin is “ugly” and light skin is not.

People that have heard of this news have reacted differently, but the majority of the comments on the internet do not seem to approve of her changed appearance: “she was so much prettier before; her husband must be blind”, “God created her black and she looked so pretty. She looks pretty now but she looked better before”, “She is insecure and that’s bad.”

As there is a difference between Mahoza’s view and that of her fans, it is questionable to say that the history of the colonization and discrimination is the sole cause of the contemporary trend of South Africans’ skin lightening, but it is probably one of the factors that have contributed to the trend.

Reference

“Not Happy Being Black?” – Posted by Africa.com Editorial Staff. http://www.africa.com/blog/not-happy-being-black/

Thomas, Lynn M. 2009. “Skin Lighteners in South Africa: Transnational Entanglements and Technologies of the Self.” Pp. 188-210 in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E. N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Color complexes in the Philippines

by Lulu Maginde

In ‘Filipinos and the Color complex,’ Joanne Rondilla questions the reader, especially readers here in Asia, what the ‘ideal’ concept of beauty is, and how different people within Asia perceive beauty. As Rondilla focuses specifically on the Philippines and how skin whitening is utilized, or rather highly emphasized, it was interesting to find how skin-lightening products are marketed and sold as well as what these products are saying about beauty.

Rondilla claims that this concept of having a fairer complexion/lighter skin, stemmed from the Philippines’ deep history of colonization, after having been occupied by Spanish for over 300 years. This history most indefinitely influenced the way of life, culture and traditions, not to mention language and the concept of what is deemed beautiful.

After the departure of the Spaniards, then came the Americans, and many Filipinos will claim that until present, the Philippines is still a colony of the US, as most of the way of life in the Philippines has been greatly structured around a more Western way of life. Of course the country still has its rich culture and heritage, as well as its strict religious value system, however it is not hard to deny that US presence has greatly affected life in the Philippines.

This ties in perfectly to my next point of how Rondilla compares standards of skin color between Asian immigrants to the US to Asian Americans born and raised in the US. The main difference between these two groups is that while Asian Americans chose to tan, as it symbolizes wealth and a more luxurious life, Asian immigrants, for instance the Filipinos who immigrate to the US, are more likely to use skin lightening products in order to assimilate  into society. In the Philippines, having darker or more of a tanned complexion immediately reflected what social class one belonged to. If one had a fairer or lighter complexion, they belonged to an a higher social class, simply because they were not as exposed to the sun as working-class laborers.

This notion of a ‘relatable ideal’, or the claim that a certain type of beauty is the shared/common ideal amongst women in the Philippines is what is striking. Consciously or unconsciously, these women buy into an industry, in conjunction with certain media institutions, that greatly influences what may be deemed as beautiful. Thus, they buy into the idea that, due to capitalism, ‘everything can be bought and exchanged’.

Reference

Rondilla, Joanne L. (2009). “Filipinos and the color complex.” Pp. 63-80 in Glenn, E. Shades of Difference: Why skin color matters. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

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The trend of Japanese whiteness

by Yusuke Shiga

For women in modern society, whitening the skin by cosmetic products is so prevalent, and this trend is becoming more significant in terms of racial discrimination today. The influence of colonialism on not only developing, but developed countries is incalculable in various aspects. Still today, one’s appearance, especially skin color, plays a tremendous role in one’s access to essential stuff, from necessities for life such as housing, food, and clothing, to social security and social welfare. By lightening the skin color, people can more easily get these kinds of advantages and live more comfortably in a society. This social structure promotes the preference of whiter skin, however the skillful advertising and marketing strategies of cosmetic firms also affects this social inclination to white skin. Evelyn Nakano Glenn (2009) argues that the giant multinational corporations have grown by meeting the needs of women in each nation, thus the market for cosmetic products has expanded. When you focus on the Japanese case, the complicated contents can be seen.

Recently, Japanese women have sought white skin, as they think that white skin is beautiful or healthy and they persist in trying to to have whiter skin. There are some arguments about the reasons for this tendency, and some claim that Japanese ideal image of women is almost Caucasian because of the advertisements of media and companies. They insist that in most cases, whites are chosen as the models of cosmetic companies, and regarded as beautiful women, and therefore Japanese women try to mimic Westerners. On the other hand, others claim that whitening one’s skin color is part of Japanese traditional culture, because even in the Nara period, people already had customs to whiten their skin tone by using “Oshiroi” (White powder). However, in my opinion, these arguments neglect some important points toward this question “Why do Japanese women seek white skin?”.

Of course, we cannot define the main cause of Japanese preferences for white skin, since there are lots of causes and all of them are associated with each other. Through the discussion of my class, many of the interesting, persuasive ideas are came up and I consider this issue deeply, then I came to the conclusion.

In my opinion, we Japanese all share the misleading idea “Japanese must have nearly same white skin tone naturally”. Therefore, we sometimes discriminate against “Jiguro people (people who naturally have blacker skin compared to other Japanese)” regardless of their birthplace, and draw the line between “naturally white Japanese” and “naturally black Japanese”. Furthermore, because of this premise, “skin whiteness” symbolizes one’s youth or health. Having white skin implies that you make an effort to keep your youth by caring for your skin condition.

In Japan, a proverb says “stand out from the crowd and you just invite trouble for yourself”. Not to be “others”, to keep one’s youth, and to become healthy, Japanese women are paranoid to have white skin, I guess.

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Beauty Standards in the White Imagination

by Shinoko Itakura

The phenomenon of changing skin color has been happening all over the world. Some attempt to get lighter skin and some attempt to get tan skin. The reasons behind those two attempts seem opposite yet, the purpose is the same, “high class”. The symbol of high class depends on where you are, and how the standard of the beauty has been created in your society, because the standard of beauty  includes class status.

But who created the standard of beauty and how? We tend to describe people who have straight jet-black hair, and large, double lidded, almond-shaped eyes as “Asian beauty”. Even though we are Asian, whenever we see people who have those facial features, we say, “You are beautiful like Asian beauty!” In fact one of my colleague just described another colleague as an “Asian beauty” the other day. It just feels weird when Asian people describe another Asian as an “Asian beauty”. This is because the idea of Asian beauty has been created in the white imagination. We do not say European beauty or Latin beauty, because the standard of beauty is already based on European (white) features. What is more, something which is called a “universal standard” or “universal beauty” is just not universal. It always based on physical features of white people.

The standard of beauty seems to be controlled by mass media and the marketing of cosmetic products. Cosmetics companies use many strategies to gain more and more profits. “Relatable” is one of the important key concepts; if consumers find any similarity to the advertising models, for example “Asian-ness”, they believe that they can achieve those models’  look, and the universal standard of beauty. Those advertisements do not directly say “you guys can be like this model, if you use this products!” yet they are implying this by using racially ambiguous models. In order to sell the products, they also give us images of dark skin as dangerous, unhealthy, bad, and wrong by using terms such as aging or skin cancer. But what really matters is “skin color”.

I feel wrath about how skin-lightening products are marketed. It is so depressing that somehow we have to feel pressure of skin color or looking, and have to try to look like someone else, just because we are not white. This situation must be stopped and there should be the world which do not judge you by your skin color.

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Selling whiter skin for beauty

by Kohsei Ishimoto

In Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters (2009), Joanne L. Rondilla looks at the different techniques are used in the cosmetics industry. When looking at the Philippines, advertisements focus on ‘whitening’ the skin, because the people in the country tend to have darker skin. On the other hand, when looking at European countries, advertisements look at ‘brightening’ the skin, for there is the idea that people in these countries naturally have light skin.

When looking at these advertisements, it can be seen that to be beautiful, you must have white skin. Rondilla explains that there are many people in the Philippines who buy skin-whitening products to look beautiful, but is being ‘white’ really being beautiful? The main answer to why ‘white’ is thought to be ‘beautiful’ is colonization. To the countries that had been colonized, the European countries had been superior, fixing the image that ‘whites’ are ‘better’.

When reading Rondilla’s chapter, however, it can be seen that there are various ‘types’ of white skin. One is the European beauty that was mentioned earlier, and the other the ‘Asian beauty’. This refers to East Asian countries, such as China and Japan. Filipinos are actually looking at ‘Asian beauty’, possibly because these countries are closer to them. In Japan’s case, the country looks at being ‘white’, trying to achieve the European look. This statement can be said to be wrong however, for recently Japanese people want to be seen as individuals.

When looking at various advertisements, it can be seen that models of different skin tones are used. For advertisements that use ‘white’ women, companies state that they are the ‘result’ of the product. On the other hand, companies that use models of a darker tone state that it does not look ‘right’, telling the consumers to change by buying the product. It is a fact that many purchase skin-whitening products to gain their ‘beauty’, but exactly how close are they to their ideal image? Will consumers ever believe that they are beautiful enough? The answer to this is probably no. The cosmetics industry has control over the consumers, by selling only a small portion of a product, or changing advertising techniques to trick us into believing that our images are not yet satisfactory. When thinking about this, it is interesting to wonder why people use cosmetics in the first place. Can not having any make-up on be considered beautiful? The answer to this can be explained through society; how people see you, and how you want to be seen.

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