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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor — A call to women of color: the ways we love our body

Love Your Body Week has always been one of the most popular events on campus, and not without reason. It is an event that promotes sex positivity with education on performances of sexuality, alternative menstruation products, and clothing optional photoshoots, yoga and cooking. All of this is to be commended, for fulfilling a campus need by providing events that anyone who feels comfortable enough to do so can go to. However, as women of color, we have always felt, and have previously expressed, that there has been something major missing that leaves us with a level of discomfort.
For all of the talk surrounding loving your body, most conversations never specifically addressed a major dilemma for women of color: how to love your physical body when the rest of the world looks at everything about your body with disdain or fascination for being so far away from the beauty normative of whiteness. These conversations and events have never tackled issues of colorism, hair discrimination, eye shape, or any number of issues with which women of color struggle. And this struggle is a constant one that isn’t helped by the fact that we are regularly inundated by images from the media telling us that if we’re not white, or if we don’t fit in with ‘acceptable’, societally-imposed standards of beauty for women of color, then forget about being considered beautiful. Loving our bodies, or even someone else loving our bodies, outside of fetishization or spectacle, shouldn’t even be an option.
We, as women of color, need to have this conversation, because this societal belief—that we are not beautiful in the normative sense; and no matter what we do we can never be beautiful outside of being considered exotic—is not absent in our lives on this campus; and the effects of this fact on our self-esteem and self-image are real. We, as women of color, need to have this conversation because for the past 4 years, at the very least, this conversation has not been had on a community-wide scale and the invisibility, negation, and/or ignorance of our body issues has not been in our imaginations. For all of the rhetoric, social justice, and education, the Grinnell community has not been spared the historic discord and tension between white women and women of color in the women’s movement.
Thus, we’re proposing a Love Your Body Week specifically for women of color and by women of color. This will no doubt prompt some kind of backlash from those who question why we can’t just host a workshop for Love Your Body Week addressing our concerns or why we even have to go and make it about race when there’s nothing race-specific about clothing-optional baking or masturbation. But therein lies our problem: that there is nothing race-specific about Love Your Body Week, and so many of our body issues are rooted in the fact that we are women of color and so far away from the white—the normative—standard of beauty. One size definitely does not fit all here. And we deserve more than just one workshop, primarily because even though the group “women of color” is more specific than just “women”, it is still an umbrella term, and there are differences within us as well. But especially because the issues of beauty for women of color have been so overlooked here for so long, we need to have this conversation.
To be a woman of color trying to love her body free from the racist and imperialistic trappings of society requires a little more than what is currently provided. Love Your Body Week, as it stands, fills a need for most of the campus, but it doesn’t fulfill all of our needs.  Talking about sex positivity is great, but we, as women of color, truly do need to love our physical bodies first, especially with the knowledge that there will be so many groups of people out there hating them. We need to reclaim them for ourselves. For this reason, we feel a Love Your Body Week for women of color and by women of color is not only important, but absolutely necessary.

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