In this modern day and age, technology and media are blooming and growing, which in turn, shapes our lives, perspectives and beliefs. It constantly surrounds us, making it inevitable to not encounter in our everyday lives. This is why it’s so important and socially sensitive.
The media is there to make money, yes, but what is shown on it can be, in the long-term, harmful.
Women tend to be portrayed in the media as domestic and passive, the “side-kick” to the man. They are sexualized, and represented as quiet and soft.
Generally, coloured women in the media are sub-plots and are rarely the love interest or the extremely successful ones. They are there to be the “sassy black girl” for drama and humour or there for other purposes other than being the beautiful, successful, overall well liked characters.
A good example of this is the Disney Channel sitcom The Proud Family. Penny Proud, a light skinned girl, is perceived as this adorable, pretty, likeable character whereas other darker skinned characters, for example Dijonay Jones, are perceived as stupid and unlikeable characters.
An article I found, Pride and Prejudice: Pervasiveness of Colorism and the Animated Series Proud Family, written by Catherine Steele couldn’t have said it any better:
“Attributes of wealth, beauty, and intelligence are applied to characters with Eurocentric phenotypic characteristics while deviance, stupidity, poverty and unattractiveness typify characters with more Afrocentric facial features.”
The Gross Sisters, bullies who tend to be violent, are blue. Yes, they are blue. Why? In The Proud Family, these characters are made to work on the weekends by the parents, with the hot sun beating down on the them. They supposedly cannot afford lotion and that is why they are blue. The show emphasises they are “ashy blue” because of their dark skin. Collectively, the dark skinned characters in this show are associated with stupidity, aggression and poverty.
This was a kids show. A show in which kids will watch and go away, their minds imprinted with the idea that being dark skinned is ugly.
You don’t need to have fair/light skin, freckles or a thin nose to be pretty or beautiful. You can embrace “ethnic” qualities like dark skin, bigger lips, wider noses, etc, and be beautiful and smart and likeable because white women aren’t the only type of women that can be successful. Race shouldn’t define success.
Since The Proud Family, which ran between 2001-2005, there have been more occurrences of colourism in the media. However, there have also been shows which fight this misrepresentation and broaden the branches of feminism from just white feminism. Examples include the women in Black Panther, Orange is the New Black, Iris West in the Flash (yes, she did start off mainly as a sub-plot), Annalise Keating in How To Get Away With Murder. And we need more of this!
All we really ask is for dark skinned women not to be defined beautiful by European standards and to be portrayed in the media, not as their stereotypes but as developed and dynamic characters!
“…little black girls of any skin tone won’t ever have to question their looks. Society will learn to tell them they are beautiful, and they can respond confidently by saying, ‘I know’.”