There’s a simple explanation for this love

“Andromeda, supposedly the most beautiful woman in the world, was however from Nubia and therefore black.” My memory of this “however” in a Greek mythology textbook, it has haunted me – through my adolescence, and long into adulthood – with its assertion, both explicit and implicit, of the contradiction between being black and being beautiful.

This clearly was not simply one author’s prejudice; when I was young it was reflected in the absence of black women in the beauty and fashion industry. Black women, apparently, did not wear make-up, hair spray or perfume. Or worse, the marketers knew we bought their products but were so ashamed of the results they preferred not to advertise to us.

While many in the feminist movement rightly spoke out against the objectification of white women, they largely failed to notice an entirely different exclusion – of black women. There are many valid criticisms of the fashion and beauty industry: the pressure on girls, and increasingly boys, to match unhealthy body images, the airbrushing of reality from the pages of glossy magazines, the impact of packaging on the environment – but it has an important role to play in the normalisation of blackness.

That is why I am hosting tomorrow’s launch of the Black Beauty and Fashion Awards 2017 in parliament. The awards aim to promote equality and celebrate diverse beauty, giving consumers of black beauty products a voice that can be heard clearly.

We have come a long way since I was growing up – there are now supermodels with darker skin tones, and just about every fashion advert has the apparently obligatory Afro. But there is still a long way to go.

The norm remains white, even for me.

Advertising to a society will reflect that society. A society with few black women in it will have few black women in advertisements. The point of such advertising being “Buy this product and this could be you!”

There aren’t that many gingers used in advertising in Nigeria. When the UK had rather fewer with copious melanin there were rather fewer with copious melanin in advertising here.

This is not unusual nor an outrage – it’s normal.

29 comments on “There’s a simple explanation for this love

  1. Imagine reading “That is why I am hosting tomorrow’s launch of the White Beauty and Fashion Awards 2017 in parliament.”

    (Comment reprised from yesterday.)

  2. Thomas Fuller

    Anyone writing that would be accused of both 1: objectifying white women and 2: discriminating against back women.

    It’s almost worth trying that article out for size Tim.

  3. “Objectifying” ( tm Marxist shite) white women is so very wrong but wrong-er still is leaving black women out of the said objectifying?

    And people pay money to read such shite? MAD magazine was at least funny at times.

  4. I read the however in a different manner.

    As in: Greek mythology so one could expect the most beautiful woman to be Greek or thereabouts. But the Greeks being open thought a woman from Nubia, hence black (and not the other way round), was more beautiful. That she was black was irrelevant.

    Quite positive actually.

  5. This “however” in a Greek mythology textbook, it has haunted me – through my adolescence, and long into adulthood”

    It would have nice to have been haunted/remembered the book or the author. Would have been good to have checked it.
    It does seem a strange construction though. Somehow i don’t think it likely the classicist author was saying: “Andromeda was the most beautiful woman in the world but she’s from Nubia so take that with a pinch of salt chaps”

  6. Andromeda was actually Aethiopian rather than Nubian. And while Aethiopian does seem to mean “burnt face”, it is far from clear that this necessarily and always means black. Some classical writers mention white Aethiopians. Some talk of Aethiopia extending into the Sinai as far as the Red Sea. Arabs perhaps

  7. It’s Black Bullshit Week at the Groaniad.

    That racial antagonism won’t start itself, you know.

  8. and just about every fashion advert has the apparently obligatory Afro. But there is still a long way to go.

    The norm remains white, even for me.

    Maybe she’d be happier living on a continent where the norm is black. If only such a magical place existed…

  9. This bothered me because i always thought that by Ethropia, was meant Arab peninsula.( Enc Britannica says that it is in Palestine.) Bit like the Queen of Sheba, who unfortunately is now burned into my head as being Gina Lollobrigida.

    It is like this Cleoptara was black nonsense : it is vaguely possible that “a” Cleopatra was born of a Nubian concubine and so ? Nubia was a mighty empire that dominated the lower raches ofthe Nile (Sudan) and east Africa and so a pretty mixed population.

  10. The list of people that need to be given a choice between being sent to North Korea or Venezuela is lengthening by the hour.

  11. tomorrow’s launch of the Black Beauty and Fashion Awards 2017 in parliament

    It’s good to see that MPs have time to celebrate the dernier cri in the world of equine accessories: party numnahs for the discerning mare, martingales for the headstrong gelding and a selection of overreach boots suitable for horse and parliamentarian.

  12. Utter bollocks.
    Look at industry sales for e.g. hair products.
    Every bank ad has a black person in it, as if they had all the money.
    etc

  13. 20,000 mostly middle aged white blokes singing Oh Maro Itoje at Eden Park is obviously racist because… er… um…

  14. The crap never stops. I wonder if anyone in their office has ever tentatively raised an arm and said “er, why don’t we write about normal stuff and normal people?”.

  15. The famous Cleopatra was – by modern standards – clearly white. She was a member of a very in-bred imported Greek royal family planted there by Alexander The Great. So in-bred that all her great-great-grandparents and her great-grandparents were the same two people.

  16. Bif,

    Indeed, and Moeen Ali doesn’t do bad for praise from mostly white, middle aged, middle class men either.

  17. Jgh, I am getting ideas for a new Cleopatra project, with Polly, Snippa, Harriet, the almost exhausted donkey, a snake so friendly he is amorous, and a West London rugby club. The themes are GILF, GMILF, snippaphilia and pole dancing. Polly has unlikely tattoos in unlikely places… Just in case you don’t subscribe to my site already

  18. “While many in the feminist movement rightly spoke out against the objectification of white women, they largely failed to notice an entirely different exclusion – of black women. ”

    Key-rist.

    Its like a South Park episode.

    Objectification is bad – but I’m mad and hurt because you didn’t objectify me.

  19. Definitely not Nubian, and probably not Ethiopian either since Anfromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea-serpent and that rock was on Perseus’ way home: the alternative view, that the rock and sea-serpent were in the Mediterranean and Andromeda was pale-skinned, are much more plausible (If you take a line from Greece to Ethiopia or any nearby sea-shore that might have been part of Ethiopis in the time of Perseus, you find that Medusa must have lived on a raft in the southern part of the Indian Ocean).
    But don’t let facts interfere with a Grauniad rant!

  20. The ancient Greeks appear never to have given a damn about skin colour, at least from what I remember. Maybe the Guardian could learn something from that.

  21. John77, classical sources say that Andromeda’s parents were the King and Queen of Aethiopia. Sorry

  22. The construction is awful.

    ‘That is why I am hosting tomorrow’s launch of the Black Beauty and Fashion Awards 2017 in parliament.’

    Follows from nothing above it. She’s hosting because there are valid criticisms of the fashion industry? Is Ms Onwurah blonde?

  23. @ Rocco Siffredi
    I had noticed that SOME classical sources say that – that’s why I explained that for Ethiopia to be on Perseus’ way home would require that Medusa lived in the South Indian Ocean. Most classical sources say that Perseus was on his way home from the Atlantic Ocean via the Atlas mountains, so Andromeda must have been chained to a rock in the Mediterranean.

  24. John77, name your classical sources. Since the Ancient Greeks had no concept of the Atlantic Ocean, I can only suspect that you are making this up

  25. Rocco – don’t be ridiculous. The Phoenicians traded with Cornwall. Pytheas of Masssilia is reported to have circumnavigated Britain in the fourth century BC and was the first to report midnight sun
    Gibraltar and the matching hill on the African shore were called the Pillars of Hercules. The Atlas mountains are named, somewhat inaccurately, because Perseus turned Atlas to stone at the Titan’s request. The legend of Perseus and Medusa has Perseus visiting the Hesperides at the western end of the Mediterranean world, near the Atlas mountains and they directed him to the island in the great sea to the west where the Gorgons lived.

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