Guest Post by WAVAW Volunteer Doaa Magdy
I grew up in a country where being dark-skinned was a sort of shame. To avoid that, I was pressured into using Fair and Lovely, a fairness cream. I’m glad they didn’t explicitly produce one called Dark and Ugly. But wait, its title suggests that anyway, right? I even avoided swimming in pools because I heard the pool water (not the sun) would make me darker. I remember clearly being harassed in the streets on my way to school because of the color of my skin. Also, I have curly hair which doesn’t fit within “white beauty standards.” Therefore, when I grew older I started straightening it. I also remember how classmates made fun of my hair when it was straightened because they assumed it must have been a hell of a lot of work to get it that straight.
I have never seen myself as a beautiful person (no wonder why). As a teenager I loved the Spice Girls and the only black woman in it was nicknamed “Scary,” which I imagined was because of her curly hair. Then I realized the media’s major role in creating societies that seek to control women’s physical appearance.
One day I decided to go blonde, but everyone around me told me that it would never suit my skin color. I had to refer to Beyoncé as an example, but obviously she was a beautiful woman while I was not.
In my early twenties I traveled to Europe. I faced the same problem of getting weird looks whenever I went to a hairdresser. One day a lady literally burnt my scalp (intentionally or not), but I didn’t do anything because I felt I was inferior as a woman with a headscarf, not white, and with curly hair.
Even now I have the same problem in the “super-tolerant” Canada. Whenever I decide to dye my hair, all the models I see are white. Even if I find a black model, she is always in the isolated section of black women’s products: hair straighteners and relaxers.
Then I think, okay, maybe I should check how Rihanna or Beyoncé look with this hair color on them. Then I remember: damn, they are all photoshopped to have lighter skin.
I bet millions of women of color out there have the same issue as me. I suggest we all work together hand in hand and make a change. Let’s start making hair products for non-white curly hair and have models with their real hair type and real skin color. Let’s prove to everyone that all women in all shapes and colors are beautiful and deserve to be portrayed the way they are.