The preservation of Black Beauty
A review of Sisters of the Yam by Bell Hooks.
“Sisters of the Yam” explores issues that have existed amongst black woman for many generations, stemming from the roots of slavery: having self-esteem and loving yourself, understanding the black woman’s attractive side, and exploring the possibilities of having healthy, committed relationships with others. The author, Bell Hooks, is an American activist who has addressed various issues including race, gender, class and sexuality.
She describes the way black parents and families protect their children from racism – through creating stories. They also had to live in black only neighbourhoods fearing the white as they told them they are ugly, they had to protect each other from the hatred. Television made a negative contribution to racism as in its beginning it belittled the black race. Parents constantly had to find ways to explain the cinematic experiences to their kids.
In the author’s opinion, racism encourages self-hatred and low self-esteem in black children and grown-ups. They are constantly told that the black is bad so they must remind themselves of its beauty and to do so they create representation of their world in the form of quilts and dolls. The quilts commonly illustrated little houses and black folks taking care of nature and they usually depicted a black woman’s ideal world.
The 20th century black psyche is to dislike their own hair and prefer westernised hair. This feeling is worsened by magazine depictions of straight hairstyles and family and men’s affirmation of a black woman’s hair. Bell Hooks demands that black women assert their right for natural hair and people experience the sensual pleasures of its texture.
Because for centuries black women have been told that they’re servants, this led to neglecting of their bodies. Louise Hay relates basic care to the well-being of the body. Women need to take time for themselves and their needs. When Harriet Lerner tries cutting some of her other activities so she could take time for herself it led to many people being angered and disappointed and based on this she wrote her book “The Dance of Anger”. Black females, the author asserts, also think of food as solace. They are too concerned with their skin tone to self-actualise themselves. This leads to many black women being obese and bigger sizes in clothing usually cost more which leads to shopping in specialty stores.
Famous black celebrities who have the ability through media to empower black women sometimes do the opposite. Bell Hooks gives example with Naomi Campbell as she often has straight blonde hair which is unnatural for black women. She then gives a positive example with Tracy Chapman who proudly presents her natural beauty. Women should affirm each other’s beauty and not put each other down.
Bell Hooks gives many reasons that led to internalised racism in black females. I am particularly interested in the way media in the form of Television or editorials tells us what we should look like or what we should have. We are being marketed by brands and companies who try to sell us an image through their products rather than the product itself. They call this “Lifestyle Branding” which is branding that embodies the interests of a group or a culture. The Kardashians popularity is the result of the success of such “lifestyle branding”.