Question: How can parents challenge western beauty standards?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I was recently reminded of the film short A Girl Like Me by the 18 year-old black female filmmaker, Kiri Davis. It’s a powerful seven minutes that demonstrates the extent to which people, especially women, have internalized messages about what it means to be beautiful.

This film focuses specifically on black children and teens, but I think many people of color have been raised to equate whiteness/fairness with beauty and goodness, and blackness/darkness with ugliness and evil. Growing up in Hong Kong as a Chinese/Belgian girl, I remember being constantly complimented only on my European features: “She has such light skin! Such a high nose bridge! Beautiful light brown hair!” I don’t ever remember receiving any positive feedback on my Chinese features.

How can parents best challenge these narrow standards of beauty, which are perpetuated continuously by mass media and pop culture? And those of you who are white parents of white children, how are you preparing your child to appreciate all phenotypes, and not just the blonde-haired, blue-eyed ideal?

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