I have been scooped by The New York Times! In all seriousness, I wrote a draft of this post two months ago with the hope of comparing Venezuela’s obsession with breast implants to Brooklyn’s obsession with booty. It all comes out in the mannequins. I was waiting to post this until December when I returned to NYC and took some pics of the mannequins in my old neighborhood, but it’s not meant to be because The New York Times just released a similar article. Sooo…here’s my post about it all, here’s an earlier post about Venezuelan beauty culture, and here’s a link to the New York Times article about it too. Enjoy!
Which mannequins do you prefer?
Option B: (mannequins with large booties)
Option C: (the mannequins you see at a “typical” American mall).
What is beautiful and where do you fit in? To be honest, I always thought Option C was the “normal” mannequin until I moved to good old Flatbush, Brooklyn (a West Indian neighborhood). There, Option B is the norm. It is an oft-told fact that large derrieres are considered attractive in African Diasporic communities. The mannequin is announcing that much.
In my mind, mannequins tell you quite a bit about what a society considers physically attractive. So, when you don’t look like the mannequin are you still beautiful? I for one don’t look like Option A, B, or C. The answer, of course, is yes. You’re still beautiful.
But it can be hard to believe that when it seems like what’s around you is proclaiming the exact opposite. In Venezuela, it is clear that large breasts, whether naturally big or surgically augmented, are considered beautiful. When I first noticed this pattern I wondered why women did not get their breasts a little smaller so they could at least lie and pretend they were natural. I mean, everyone cannot be equally proportional, large, perky, and a Double D.
I think that’s beside the point for many people here. Real or fake, the girls are out to be seen. At the beach, around the neighborhood, and definitely at the gym. To be honest, when I go the gym or wear a spaghetti strapped dress I feel a tinge (or more than a tinge) of self-consciousness. I sense that people are looking at me because of my race (1) and (2) because I’m daring to walk around with my non-chest having self as if everything was normal.
But for me, it is normal. It’s my normal. I don’t have a chest. I should be President of, forgive my language, the Itty Bitty Titty Committee. A wall has more curves up top than I do. I never worry about a shirt showing too much cleavage. You’ll see my breast bone. I don’t worry about shirts being too small because of my chest because, again, I barely have one. If anything, I have to take in dresses and shirts to have them fit closer to my body so they’re not too baggy in the area where my breasts or personalities, as a high school dance teacher called them, are supposed to go.
Although I would like to have more up top, it’s not important enough to me to undergo surgery. If a woman wants hers done, more power to her. I’m not about to engage in a conversation about plastic surgery being superficial, ridiculous, vain, etc…
Please, let’s not fool ourselves here. There are plenty of flat-chested women who are also superficial, ridiculous, and vain out there too. The conversation runs a little deeper than that.
That being said, I do strongly believe that a woman’s body often becomes the site on which a society inscribes its beliefs and expectations. In some areas we’re physically scarred if we step outside cultural boundaries (i.e., acid attacks, gun shots, stabbings, rape, bruises and broken bones, etc…). In other areas we scar ourselves (via anorexia, bulimia, cutting, etc…). In short, our bodies can become a site of war even if we’re living in a time of peace.
A close, close friend of mine wrote her college thesis on definitions of beauty. I find myself pondering about the same thing. What is beautiful? What dominant society says changes depending on the country you’re in.
I’m a petite-framed woman. I’m not even 5’3″. I stopped growing in the seventh grade. Literally.
There was a time I carried some extra weight on my frame, thanks to gaining more than the Freshman Fifteen. However, once I started student-teaching the weight began to come off. When I moved to New York City, my college weight and then some dissipated because of all the walking (and teaching). I couldn’t gain weight even if I tried.
Stress also caused my weight to dip, and one of the worst years of my life took place in The Big Apple. Thankfully, the clothes from that year I can no longer fit because I’m not that stress-induced size anymore.
For many people in the African-American community I’m skinny.
And being skinny is not a good thing.
It may not even be beautiful.
I get a pass because I have some semblance of a booty. Not Flatbush mannequin booty, but enough for people to purse their lips and say they’ll let me slide.
But you know what I think is beautiful? When I myself–a fairly confident woman who still second guesses if I’m “beautiful” or not some days–and other women win the battle of bodily self-acceptance and then go on to win the war.
One mannequin, one breast, one booty at a time.