The New “It” Factor

Thanks to CNN, I know why people have suddenly become repulsed by me when they used to line up around the block to buy me drinks. Apparently, “ethnic beauty” may be the new “it” factor. Go ahead, read it if you want–you can probably guess exactly what it says, though. Blah blah blah, “exotic”, blah blah, “thick lips”, blah, “curves”, blah blah, “Beyonce and J.Lo”, blahdi blah, “growing sense of cultural awareness”. I find it just SCREAMINGLY funny, though, that they casually mention how awesome it is that Gabourey Sidibe is an Elle Covergirl–yeah, they only lightened her skin about a million shades.

Articles like this really bother me for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is an unavoidably huge amount of essentialism here. Black women are curvy, white women are thin, etc, etc. This always annoys me because it ignores the fact that people of different ethnicities don’t all look exactly the same. And hey, let’s maybe all agree to just like permanently cut it out with the calling minorities “exotic” because they have thick lips, hmm? I also get really irritated because this new “exotic” beauty still has many of the unforgiving standards that it always has: sure, we like to see curvier hips now, as long as its still someone with a tiny waist. Another thing that bothers me is the tendency people have to freely diminish the current standard of beauty under the assumption that it doesn’t count as offensive if you’re insulting something that everyone knows is pretty (see: “The use of curvier, more rounded figures looks refreshing”; “ethnic women have this exotic appeal — it’s the curves and the fact that they don’t have this carbon-copy look like anyone else”; “The desire for individuality leads people to embrace the image of ethnic women over typical “cookie-cutter American beauties””). It reminds me of something I see a lot in fat-positive activism, when you get people saying things like “real women have curves” and “It’s so refreshing to see a model who doesn’t look anorexic”. I understand the impulse: skinny white women have been the reigning queens of cute for a while, and it doesn’t seem so bad to kick the throne a bit. But let’s not. Please?

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