Throw in our biological preference for youth and symmetry, the global status that white skin is given; and the social construct of beauty that varies across cultures and time periods.
It’s messy. Complex. Oppressive.
But I’m not as interested in defining beauty as I am in women possessing their beauty.
What is possessing one’s beauty? Is it figuring out the right makeup and hairstyle for your features?
I appeal to a blog post recently written by a friend to offer insight. Possessing your beauty is “to see beauty in yourself.” It is a release from shame. From oppressive beauty standards. And yes, from the belief that physical beauty is worthless.
It is the freedom to “delight in beauty. Yes, even your own.”
Possession of our beauty doesn’t happen all at once.
You might catch glimpses of it. Underneath a blasting shower, a ringlet of hair bounces with the steady stream of water.
Maybe we find freedom to delight in our beauty in a quote by Kola Boof:
My look, mind you, is not chocolate like Lauryn Hill, Whoopi Goldberg, or Naomi Campbell–it is pitch black and shimmering like the purple outer space of the universe. I am the charcoal that creates diamonds. I am the blackest black woman.
And sometimes we possess our beauty outside of our own culture. Away from our own ethnic group and a culture that upholds a certain beauty ideal.
We possess it in a space where we are the exotic.
In our laughter as a stranger stands in the street, grips his chest and sings out: “Morena de mi corazon.”
We see our beauty in the eyes of others as they take delight in our presence.
I possessed my beauty during my eight month stay in Lima, Peru:
I came home to myself. I took out the braids and I was left with a kinky, coily, curly ball of hair. And I fell in love all over again.
I think of the shame that we as black women sometimes live with. For generations society has repeatedly told us that our hair is ugly. It needs to be hidden. It needs to be changed. It needs to look less African (whatever that means) and more European. But as I walked down a street in Lima with my big fluffy hair I felt glorious. I felt feminine. Womanly. There was a rush of power, defiance and self-acceptance.
…in this culture I am the Other. But I I’m going to enjoy being the Other. I’m going to enjoy the GLORY of my hair. I’m going to enjoy its BOLD, BIGNESS DEFIANCE.