The past few months I have been thinking a lot about how women view themselves. In April, Samantha Brick wrote an article about what a terrible trial it was for her to be beautiful. She became the subject of a Twitter storm with people saying the most awful things about her. Is thinking she is attractive the worst thing a women can do?
I'd love to instill in my daughter the kind of self-confidence that says, "Yes I'm attractive", rather than a body-image that will make her analyse every morsel she eats, over-exercise and worry about whether that tiny piece of skin above her knee makes her look fat.
I've had a few incidents that made me think that black woman have got it right. Walking along Holloway Road in London with comic Matt Kirshen a couple of weeks ago, three large black girls walked past us. They were immaculately made up, with long painted nails and skin-tight clothes. I am considerably smaller than they and yet I wouldn't have the confidence to wander up the street dressed in spray-on jeans - but they looked amazing. I said to Matt; "Black girls have so much confidence with their bodies"
"They do," he said. "And it serves them well"
It does. These three girls looked strong, attractive and sexy.
Two days after that I was in a store and overheard a lady saying; "I go to the gym every day. I look fantastic. I don't feel 67 and I certainly don't look it". I peered over the rails to see a gorgeous black lady chatting away to her friend.
How do you get that?
I stumbled on a study by The Washington Post and The Kaiser Family Foundation about black woman and body image and it makes for interesting reading. While 41% of average-sized white woman report having high self-esteem, 66% of black women who are considered obese say they have high self-esteem.
Black women are also more likely to have a different view on what is attractive, according to Princeton University Professor Imani Perry. Whilst white woman put it down to an accident of birth, attractiveness for a black woman is tied up with, style, grooming and how you carry yourself. This is amazing and once again, something I'd like to give my daughter.
How did this happen?
Once again I look to Imani Perry who points out that black woman have been over-looked by mainstream culture. They've either been represented negatively or not at all. Vogue magazine started in 1892 but Beverly Johnson was the first black woman to appear on the cover in 1974. Not until 82 years later! I should point out that it was American Vogue. British Vogue put Donyale Luna on the cover in 1966, but this was amidst rumours that she had to cover her nose and mouth.
White women have had this idea of the perfect female form rammed down their throats for years and it's not Marilyn Monroe anymore. It's Angelina Jolie or Keira Knightly - neither of whom is terribly curvy. In the absence of these ideals of body perfection, black woman have been forced to come up with their own theories of what is beautiful and it has served them well.
I do recall an episode of Scrubs where the lead JD is discussing the difference between dating white girls and black girls with his friend Turk. "There is no difference. Except when a black girl says, 'Does my ass look big in this?' you say "hell yeah!".