Straight Hair, Brown Skin, and a Killa' Shape: Beauty Standards for Young Black Girls
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My goal in conducting this research is to include black adolescent women in the discourse on body image, respond to the shortcomings of the literature and research attempting to speak on behalf of black adolescent women, and empower black adolescent women to address and complicate these prevailing misconceptions by encouraging them to speak on their own behalf. Based on the qualitative research that I conducted with the 7th and 8th grade young black girls participating in “Girl Talk”, I found that there is a recognizable standard of beauty that young black girls desire to live up to. The girls identified straight, long, flowy hair, medium skin, and a curvy but skinny shape as an approved template for attaining beauty. On the other hand, the girls felt insecure when they did not have their hair done, were poorly dressed, or felt that their skin was too dark. As the girls actively negotiated black womanhood, they remained both connected and disconnected to a legacy that preceded them. The issues that the girls were facing such as a desire for agency, self-definition, inclusion and mobility were very similar to the desires of black women in the past. As the girls navigated beauty ideals, their awareness of the battle they were simultaneously fighting against racism (and the extent to which their social norms have been intoxicated with white ideals) remained vastly underdeveloped.
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