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Amanda Poppei

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"The human spirit yearns for goodness as the eye longs for beauty." ~ Felix AdlerAmanda Poppei
Updated: 4 hours 50 min ago

Beauty and the Beholder - A Platform Response

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 19:51
Before we begin our December exploration of Celebration, I wanted to share a final word or two on Beauty (November's theme). Some of you may have heard my platform address on November 16, when I began by wondering whether I should call my children beautiful. I struggled with both wanting them to know their beauty on a deep level, and not wanting to reinforce societal norms of beauty on the other hand. After the platform, I heard from a number of folks who had the same struggle, including parents who have decided not to use those terms to describe their children. I also had a great response from newcomer Marsha Ford, who wondered whether my question reflected my own Euro-American/White identity...and found a different answer as a person of color. Marsha gave me permission to share some of her thoughts here: "As with many other things, we are taught/subconsciously told what constitutes beauty. It is, I agree, a white, Western European ideal, created here more so than in Europe, I would say. "The eyes we see with are covered with a lens....what we are told to believe is beautiful". But the other side of that is the notion of what is NOT beautiful. It's obvious, I realize. But it's also often left unacknowledged and it's implications are ignored as well. If white is beautiful and beautiful is good and good is desirable, then what about everyone who doesn't fit the mold of even the first requirement (white)? The seemingly added questions -calls for justification or verification? - that the black designer gets? I've been on the receiving end enough to feel an almost Pavlovnian defensiveness in my insistence on NOT justifying or verifying my choices. Blond hair, blue eyes...It isn't just blond hair, blue eyes; it seems like it's anything, anyone that can be construed as white or not-other. (i.e., if blond were somehow no longer the "standard," wouldn't it just turn to some other variation of whiteness, like redheads with or without freckles?). Yes, there are and have been men and women of color who are considered beautiful. But they are too frequently referred to as something "rare" or "exotic" or "unusual" in being acceptable. A black supermodel is never just a supermodel. A Hispanic is never described without Hispanic or Black/African American or Asian.... But it never seems to get questioned." Marsha's take was that because of these standards, it was actually important for parents of children of color to reinforce their beauty, to name it and honor it--in a way that I, as a parent of white children, didn't need to do, at least in the same way. What's your take on all of this? How do we help our children, and ourselves for that matter, understand their beauty while simultaneously challenging beauty norms? And how does our racial and cultural identity, and that of our children, play into these questions?
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