After Beyonce’s groundbreaking release of “Lemonade” on April 23rd, social media has been ablaze with talk of “Becky with the good hair.” Many took to Rachel Roy’s (and Rachel Ray’s) feed dropping lemon and bees like there was no tomorrow accusing her of being the aforementioned Becky. Others went back and forth with Iggy Azealia who felt the line was a racial attack on white women. The reference, however, deals with a much larger elephant in the room.
From corsets to waist trainers, women have worked for centuries to keep up with the world’s ever-changing beauty standards. The women views as beautiful enough to grace magazine covers and TV screens have traditionally been white (or very light), skinny, with straight hair. Black women see this everywhere they go, yet fit nowhere in this mold.
In a Time interview with Misty Copeland President Obama speaks to this truth by stating, “Women are put under enormous pressure to look a certain way. The pressure, I think, is historically always has been harder on African American women” when asked about how culture affects his daughters. This pressure he speaks of is trying to feel beautiful in a country that says we are not.
Black being inferior is ingrained in our history. Even after slave masters had no say in the division of porch and field negroes we still continued to separate ourselves according to the shade of our skin. Anyone with skin darker than a brown paper bag did not merit inclusion into many major black organizations including fraternities, sororities, churches, and civic groups.
Though the brown bag test is no longer an openly stated qualifier, women with darker skin, fuller lips, larger waists, wider noses, and short, coarse hair are still outliers on the beauty scale. This is not only true in white communities, but black ones as well. Our psyches have been drowned in European standards for so long we truly began to believe that their definition of beauty is the only one.
Growing up I don’t remember anyone specifically telling me “blacker skin is ugly”, but I do remember thinking “I don’t have enough confidence to be dark skined” as early as middle school. It was as if a chip was put in my brain that switched on the moment I became interested in the way I looked. I was happy that my skin wasn’t as dark as some girls or my hair as short and nappy, but I wished day and night that my lips and nose were smaller.
Fast forward to late 2015 and people are appreciating full lips, big butts, and cornrows but not on black women. Everything we’ve ever been is taken, repackaged and celebrated. It’s seriously like a scene from Bring it On.
Lil’ Kim has recently been all over the news after debuting her new face and though people may think it’s funny, it’s really sad.
It seems easy for everyone to look at the photos and speculate on her insecurities and mental state without looking at what she’s been through. She said herself in an interview with Newsweek:
All my life men have told me I wasn’t pretty enough–even the men I was dating. And I’d be like, ‘Well, why are you with me, then?’ It’s always been men putting me down just like my dad. To this day when someone says I’m cute, I can’t see it. I don’t see it no matter what anybody says.
Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking. You know, the long-hair type. Really beautiful women that left me thinking, ‘How I can I compete with that?’ Being a regular black girl wasn’t good enough.”
When all you’ve heard is that you’re not good enough, and all you see in media is the exact opposite of you, what do you do? How do you stay strong and confident in yourself? How do you remain confident in yourself and your looks when all anyone in your industry talks about is slim red bones and foreign women?
So, here she is today with significantly lighter skin, a thin nose and blonde hair. She is one of the most public examples that people are still socialized to believe that black is not beautiful. And even after altering herself to look like what society says is beautiful she still isn’t “good enough.”
It’s sad that it’s taken this long for people like Viola Davis and Kelly Rowland to speak out and actively want to change society’s views on beauty. What’s even worse is that people are actively fighting to keep it the same.
Becky with the good hair is more than just some white girl. It’s Vanity and Appolonia. It’s Kylie making big lips cool and claiming to have invented the wig. It’s the media saying Kim Kardashian ushered in the age of the booty. It’s being the baddest b***h in the game and your husband needing the exact opposite of you to find satisfaction.
So, if we want to be tired of Becky and want to send our cheating men right back where they came from, we will do that. And Iggy and any other woman who feel that “Becky” directly attacks them and whatever lip service they do (or don’t) like to provide –don’t take offense. Becky with the good hair is bigger than you.
Tiffany Perkins is the co-creator and resident natural hair guru at Tiffandcoco.com. Lover of lipstick and empowered women, Tiffany aims to encourage women to find their passion + live in it. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram to learn more.