Dr Claudette Carr discusses the beauty of black/African women and their representation or lack thereof in mainstream media/ entertainment /music industry? Is Beyonce right – Do girls run the world? Is this the new Feminism?

“Feminism never offered me any help, for it fails to address the power of women as well as their powerlessness.” ~ Gillian Rose

On beauty …

Where to begin. Well, nah, nah, nah. We need to rephrase that  ‘it’s a pity that people don’t appreciate black people’ nonsense — who cares … that’s up to them. Thing is, it’s a new day, and it’s time for African women to perceive it, and quit chasing waterfalls. Especially, in terms of redressing the balance when it comes to notions of beauty. African women have been taught to negate their own self-worth in pursuit of an ideal of beauty that is killing us all actually. Time to flip the script.

In order to do that, there will have to be a process of re-education –a corrective to address the miseducation that has resulted in ‘African self- loathing’. We have lessons to learn from the Negritude movement on this front, and as one of it’s major proponents - Aime Cesaire asserted:

“I have a different idea of a universal. It is of a universal rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars there are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all.”

Moreover, as Cesaire wisely observed:

“No race holds the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of strength, and there is a place for all at the rendezvous of victory.”

As for eurocentric notions of beauty – here’s a hand grenade for that dominant narrative: Mene, mene tekel upharsin … GAME OVER.

Here’s another. A very interesting White Perspective on anti-Black Racism by Irish Singer Sinead O’Connor:

For those out there who believe black people to be less than pure royalty, let me inform you of a little known, but scientifically proven, many times over, FACT. Which after reading, you will hopefully feel both very stupid and very sorry. For you dishonor your own mothers and grandmothers.

EVERY human being on earth, no matter what their culture, creed, skin colour, or nationality, shares one gene traceable back to one African woman. Scientists have named it ‘The Eve Gene’. This means ALL of us, even ridiculously stupid, ignorant, perverted, blaspheming racists are the descendants of one African woman.

“One African woman is the mother of all of us. Africa was the first world. You come from there! Your skin may be ‘white’.. because you didn’t need it to be black any more where you lived. But as Curtis Mayfield said … “You’re just the surface of our dark, deep well”.  So you’re being morons. And God is having the last laugh at your ignorant expense.

If you hate black people, its yourself you hate. And the mother who bore you. If you kill or wish ill on black people, its yourself you kill and wish ill on. As well as the mother who bore you.When you dishonor the the utter glory and majesty of black people, you lie. Your heart lies to you and you let it. Despite seeing every day, all your life, how you and your country would be less than wonderfully functioning and inspiring to the world, without the manifold and glorious contributions made by the descendants of African slaves, who did not by the way actually ask to go to America and leave their future families there to be disrespected for eternity.

What are you doing hating yourself by hating your brothers and sisters who daily show you nothing but inspiration and love, despite having NOTHING, in their own country? Despite having barely a chance of anything, because of racism. Despite being granted no ‘permission’ for proper self-esteem.”

On faux feminism and mauvais foi …

Furthermore, the simplistic notion that all women are good, and all men need their ass-kicking, is undermining the goal of genuine women’s empowerment. Many blacks who embraced the audacity to hope that Barack Obama – who had become in the eyes of the besotted, a sort of Messianic leader, who’s loyalties would be unquestionably and deeply bound up, not only with African-Americans, but with Africans everywhere, have been sorely disappointed.

So too, have such lofty expectations been thrusted upon the shoulders of women by women — especially those in prominent positions of power. Equally troublesome, is the role women play in colluding with, and promoting vacuous notions of women’s empowerment. Ultimately, there is no genuine women’s empowerment, without a process of conscientization that addresses power and gender inequality.

It is one thing to espouse the rhetoric of liberation, and another to seek transformative justice for all, that challenges the simulacrums, endemic to neo-liberal paradigms — including women’s internalisation of patriarchal structures. Also included, would be internalised dominant western notions of ‘beauty’ by African women and women of color. We should not negate the fact, that women too have power -that the exercise of power is not exclusively negative or positive, rather it is a complex network of relationships, which calls for a nuanced analysis of ‘difference’ as it relates to the intersectionality, of race, gender, sexuality and class. It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff and on this I concur with Foucault:

The strategic adversary is fascism … the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”



(C) 2012, Dr Claudette Carr.
About Dr Carr:

Dr Carr is the founding Director of the Jethro Institute for Good Governance (JIGG), and has over seventeen years experience lecturing in International and Community Development, Youth & Community Work, Social Work, and Social Policy, at Brunel, Birbeck, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland) and the University of Westminster. Alongside Lucerne colleagues, as Principal Lecturer, Claudette  co-ordinated the programme for the MA in International Community Development.    As the London Course leader, she successfully facilitated the Summer School in International Community Development at Westminster. In Partnership with J!GG, The Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee, and the University of Westminster, Claudette has set up and secured funding for the Sylvia Pankhurst Scholarship for Ethiopian girls, and the Dr John Garang Scholarship for South Sudan starting in September 2012.

She holds a PhD in education and degrees in social science and applied anthropology from Goldsmiths College, and is also JNC qualified in youth and community work. Her research interest include Community politics and new social movements; black and ethnic self-organisation in the UK and Diaspora; the emergence of vernacular histories and indigenous knowledge(s) and their impact on the assertion of ethnic identity.  Her PhD thesis looked at ‘How Black History is constructed and represented in different sites of education’.Claudette is currently researching ‘Diaspora Organisations in the Horn of Africa and their role in community Governance (Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia)’. She is the co-author of an open letter to the Swedish Minister of Culture, that address the recent Swedish Racist Cake controversy, and recently participated in the conversation- ‘Racism is No Joke A Swedish Minister and a Hottentot Venus Cake’, which will be published in a forthcoming anthology, Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe (Routledge, 2012), edited by Michael McEachrane and with a foreword by Professor Paul Gilroy.

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