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From: "Cheryl Sanchez"
Subject: The Cosmetic Capitalists and African Women
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2002 20:04:46 +0000
The Cosmetic Capitalists and the African Women
They say, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder". Others, "beauty is from within". Beauty can be said to be a way of thinking, behaving, dressing plus the physical aspects. However, it is the interests of the cosmetic capitalists, to target men and women of all creed and races. After all, the industry is valued at more than £211million. Daily Mail March. What concerns about these cosmetic capitalist is the fact that, the industries are based in the Western world and, the owners are mostly protestant white men or jews. They use aggressive advertising, using only wafer thin European women/men. By so doing, these capitalist are replicating the European idea of beauty. This means, millions of African women are excluded from advertisement because, they are viewed as "ugly". When African women worldwide use these products, they do 3 things.
1) They help expand the profit margins.
2) They unwittingly put their health at risk via skin bleaching agents and lyle base hair straightening creams. And,
3) They also maintain the ideology of a Euro-centric universal concept of beauty.
My intention is to give the dictionary meaning of beauty and cosmetic.
Then, give explanations why African will "any means" necessary to look "European". How African go about go about their daily lives hiding their identity under wigs etc. Finally, how African women worldwide could break free from this type of bondage. The meanings of cosmetic: 1) intended to adorn or beautify the body, esp. the face. 2. Intended to improve only appearances (A cosmetic change). 3. Surgery or prosthetic device) imitating, restoring, or enhancing the normal appearance. (The Oxford Compact English Dictionary-1996)
The meaning of beauty: 1) A combination of qualities that pleases the aesthetic senses. 2. A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense. Other words used to conceptualize beauty are, pleasant, enjoyable. (The Oxford Compact English Dictionary 1996) One could also add good dress sense, no awful body odour or bad breath, the right shade of lipstick and lip gloss according to the skin shade, appropriate shampoo for women with wooly hair, frequent dental and foot care etc. So, in fact, beauty is a combination of many things.
However, women including African women have tended focus on 2 things- bleach the melanin away and, get rid of the wooly hair with either a hot comb or a lyle based hair straightening cream. All the other aspects of the beauty are left on the "back burner"
The big question is why? The feminist explanation would argue, this practice has had a long history and, will continue to be a social phenomenon, as long as men are in our midst. We have to use certain paraphernelia/acessories to draw men to us. We cannot bare to use the intellect plus some of the above. The feminists would say, "we pander to men's fickle needs"? NA'im Akbar(1984) and Carter Woodson(1933) would say, the practice of skin bleaching and hair straightening arose of self hate-self disrespect, mis-education, negative representations of Africans in the media etc. Perhaps these thinkers do have a point. From our first meeting with Europeans back in the early 14th century, when they sets all terms about how the European/African relationship must proceed, they sublimely continue to set the terms. Hence the Cosmetic capitalist do no not even produce products suitable for African women, but we continue to support their industry, without questioning.
Who is gaining? Who is losing? Why are some of trying to remove the melanin with bleaching agents, as if it is an inconvenient skin polish! Is it something to do with psychological slavery? A learnt self-hate/self destruction, which we cannot stop!
The Pan-Africanist argument would go something like this. In as much as most of the African women do not see themselves as part of a worldwide family, they must ape/imitate the physical appearances of the people of Europe. This makes the Europeans even more arrogant and inflates their ego. As a pan-Africanists, I have been the subjects of abuse and ridicule, when I have asked my colleagues to look after their hair and, learn to plait their hair. When I have questioned African women about the need to straighten hair or wear wigs, I have been given a series of lame excuses.
We have some idea why African women try to emulate the unachievable physical features of European women. Now, we must show them how to unlearnt self hate. We must surround ourselves and our homes with African art. We must familiarize ourselves with the diversity of physical features of Africans from (West, North, East and South of Africa). We must make it our business to visit some part of Africa, at least once in out lifetime. We must see ourselves as part of a worldwide African Family. We must share our time, our skills and our money with our poorer brothers and sisters. We do need the blue and green lenses-we need foresight and perceptiveness to understand how we are giving the cosmetic capitalist free money, due to our learnt self hate of all things African! We do not need the "white masks" to hide our African identity and African features, we need to learn about ourselves and about our people. In the end, it is better to think with clarity, than to dress fashionably and at times, inappropriately. It is time to unlearnt unhealthy habits
Cheryl Sanchez firstname.lastname@example.org
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