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Associating dark-skin with masculinity and it’s harmful effects

Associating dark-skin with masculinity and it’s harmful effects

Associating dark-skin with masculinity and it’s harmful effects
October 15
10:30 2020

Colorism, the prejudice against those with darker skin tones among people of the same racial group has plagued the Black community for centuries. During American chattel slavery, slaves with lighter skin were assigned domestic tasks while slaves with darker skin were tasked with work outside in the fields and often subjected to more strenuous work. During the 19th century, the “paper bag test” was implemented in the employment process of Black people.

If an individual was the same color or lighter than the paper bag, they would be granted that opportunity. Though in different forms, colorism continues to plague the Black community today. While colorism impacts both men and women, it is further complicated by sexism, thus making dark-skin Black women have the short end of the stick and face the most prejudice, having a  detrimental impact on issues of identity, self-esteem and social capital.

After posting a selfie on Twitter, popular user @thedigitaldash was faced with countless harsh comments regarding her appearance. The influencer, a dark-skin Black woman with short amber-colored dreads, received many comments comparing her to Atlanta rapper Gunna and other dark-skin Black males. Though some found the comparison to be humorous, at the root of it is colorism.

Similarly, well-known rapper Meg Thee Stallion has also faced an incredible amount of disrespect due to her complexion. Because Meg is of a darker skin tone than a majority of her peers in the industry and stands taller than the average woman, she too has been subjected to colorist hate and misgendering.

By comparing the two women to men, their cyber abusers are further pushing the narrative that dark-skin Black women lack femininity. This perceived “lack of femininity” strips dark-skin women of their freedom to be themselves without facing such harassment. This association of dark-skin and masculinity harbors a host of complex issues regarding self-identity within dark-skin women. There is already a massive lack of representation of Black women in media and film, and that lack of representation is increased when it comes to dark skin women.

From a young age, dark-skinned Black girls grow with few to no positive representations of herself in the media she consumes. Often times if there is a dark-skinned character, they’re written with a stereotypical identity which paints them to be aggressive or antagonistic.

This trope is not only present in children’s media, but also in other stages of adolescent years. Netflix’s “Dear White People,” for example, has lead character Samantha White played by Logan Browing, a light-skinned woman, whereas the presumed antagonist of the show, Coco Conners, is portrayed by Antoinette Robertson, a dark-skinned woman. This negative portrayal of people they identify with often leads to complex issues in identity and self-esteem.

The inaccurate portrayal in the media, accompanied by the association to masculinity by society, the mental health of dark-skin women is heavily neglected. Because the world tells them that their complexion is less valuable, dark-skin women resort to dangerous measures to adopt more eurocentric features under the assumption that they are less desirable. The use of skin bleaching products, hair relaxers, skin toners, and straight hair extensions have become widely popular among dark-skin women of all races.

This comes as the result of the conditioning that their skin tone is inferior at the hands of colorism and sexism in their communities.

In addition, comments such as, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” and similar remarks are often told to dark-skin girls as compliments which are actually far from adoring and are instead insulting and degrading.

This further drives the notion that they are less desirable because of their dark skin. Colorism has plagued dark-skinned women all over the world for far too long. It is time for society to recognize having darker skin is not a burden.

Featured Illustration by Durga Bhavana

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Michelle Monari

Michelle Monari

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