Eurocentrism: “Focusing on European culture or history to the exclusion of a wider view of the world; implicitly regarding European culture as pre-eminent”. Eurocentrism plays out significantly in many segments of society most notably, in literature, in history and in beauty.
As a black woman, my experiences often lead me to question whether or not I was beautiful. Whether or not my kinky curls, thick lips, wide nose, melanin-enriched skin and larger derriere would ever equate to beauty. I watched as the white girls in my class would run their fingers through their hair before retying it into a beautiful ponytail that swished and swayed as they moved their heads.
It was in fact due to the constant ideals of beauty perpetuated by our society.
I knew that if I so much as dared to undo my two tightly packed ‘puffs’ I wouldn’t be able to re-tie them without my hair defying gravity to explode into an afro, meaning I’d have to endure the rest of my primary school day with a dead arm from the process of grasping my curls back into hairbands.
For my tenth birthday, my well-meaning white friends bought me a straightener, with a card that read, “You’d be a lot prettier if you did your hair like ours”. Luckily enough for me, my thick skin allowed me not to take their ‘benevolence’ too much to heart. As I grew older and more sagacious, I soon realised that this view was as little their fault as it was mine; it was in fact due to the constant ideals of beauty perpetuated by our society.
She detached herself from her wide nose, melanin-enriched skin, and thick lips in her attempt to be ‘beautiful’…
Lil Kim’s recent Instagram post has shown her transformation to stretch far beyond the use of a new hair stylist, a different brand of make-up, and a few Instagram filters. After years of repudiating rumours of cosmetic surgery, she now sits at the forefront of wider discussion surrounding the pressures faced by people of colour within society.
She told Newsweek, “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 can I compete with that?’ Being a regular black girl wasn’t good enough.”
Her fellow Junior Mafia member Biggie Smalls rapped “Heartthrob never, Black and ugly as ever” in his song ‘One More Chance’. Alas, she detached herself from her wide nose, melanin-enriched skin, and thick lips in her attempt to be ‘beautiful’.
How can we blame a woman for crumbling under the pressures our society exerts?
The transformation has left many to resort to hurling abuse at the rapper but how can we blame a woman for crumbling under the pressures our society exerts? Surely, it should be the companies that exploit racist standards of beauty for their fiscal profit that should feel our wrath?
By pointing the finger and judging people for using these products, yet leaving those behind their production exempt from criticism and not advocating wider representations of beauty as a society, we too are playing a sinister role that encourages Lil Kim and others alike to go to extreme measures to fit white ideals of beauty.
Lil Kim’s transformation, along with these international figures, depicts the harmful effects of Eurocentrism…
NY Times reported in 2007 that lighter skinned immigrants earn 8-15% more than their dark skinned counterparts. Incentives like this target people of colour and increase approval of skin bleaching. BBC News reported in 2010 that India’s skin whitening industry was mounting at a rate of 18% annually and valued at $432 million.
In 2011 the World Health Organisation reported that 77% of women in Nigeria used skin bleaching products as regularly as 40% of women in China, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea.
Lil Kim’s transformation, along with these international figures, depicts the harmful effects of Eurocentrism. It’s deeply saddening to see the price many are willing to pay in order to detach themselves from their features to fit into the white ideals of beauty.