The Doll Test began in the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark designed and conducted a series of experiments known colloquially as “the doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. Yet, a new viral video that has shaken the nation entitled the“Doll Test” puts on display the blunt racism that People of Color face from a young age and how it affects them today. A certain clip of the video that went world wide is an excerpt of a young black girl who when asked who is the prettiest doll, she points to the fairer doll. She then explained,
“It’s pretty because it is white.”
Some people in the media might say that this has nothing to do with the portrayal of beauty in media and that is just the result of bad parenting or poor self image. But, there comes a time in a young person of color where they look in the mirror and feel inadequate because they are not white. This message is thrown at Black and Brown bodies everyday until they pass away from this earth. We can pretend and try to use the colorblind theory and say we don’t see color. That would be a blatant lie, seeing color is what makes People of Color beautiful. The issue of harmful beauty standards, something that media is constantly pushing into young People of Color’s head until they begin to conform to those standards and causing self hate and self segregation.
Skin bleaching, something that has recently under scrutiny by people for it’s under regulation and high levels of mercury has found it’s way into the market under a clever new term. “A healthy glow.” Take a look at the lotions, creams, makeup and face cleansers that are on the market and being pushed by media right now. Almost everyone one of them are probably marketed to “make your skin glow.” or “brighten your skin for a healthy look.” A Kaiser Foundation study by Nancy Signorielli found that: the commercials aimed at female viewers that ran during the television shows most often watched by teen girls also frequently used beauty as a product appeal (56% of commercials). If you are seeing these on products, daily on commercials and tv almost everyday. Some may say that this isn’t the case. Some people might say that toxic beauty standards are just a myth and they actually cause of this is self hate within the community and not at the hands of media yet that can’t be the case because we find racial bias and colorism in media often. Magazine are known for their “brighten” of people of color skin tone in ads. Freida Pinto, the breakout star of the film Slumdog Millionaire, was a victim of “white-washing” in her campaign for L’Oreal Paris. Both The Daily Mail and ABC News pointed out that Freida’s skin tone looks much lighter in the ad. However, L’Oreal released the following comment: “This campaign was meant to highlight Freida Pinto’s make-up colors applied on her eyes and lips. Thus, some powerful studio lighting with ring-flash have been used for this purpose to create a ‘runway’ effect on the picture.” But this type of thing isn’t new to L’Oreal and they had a similar accident in 2008 with award winning star Beyonce. You may hope that the incidents of skin lightening were accidents and that no skin tones were intentionally altered. However, it is still difficult to see these images held up as beauty ideals based on what they represent. Countless people of color around the world are looking at these images and absorbing the depicted standard of beauty. It makes being darker or tanner or a different shade and seem like it is the worst thing you can be because media is telling you about these products or tips that can change your brownness, so you can be “beautiful.” Media tells you to fix it, you must fix your color to fit our image of beautiful fair skin. And the effects of this message is damaging, proven by a 1996 study that found the amount of time an adolescent watches soaps, movies and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction. There is only one culprit, it is beauty standards that is being jammed into ours heads since four that cause that staggering body dissatisfaction.
The day award winning Davis was called less classically beautiful by a critic in the New York Times. The nation got a glimpse into the daily abuse People of Color face in the eyes of Eurocentric beauty standards that is pushed upon them by media. In September of 2014, the Times’ television critic Alessandra Stanley referenced Davis in an article about Shonda Rhimes, who is the executive producer of the show, and the actresses she casts for her series: “Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama. Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry.” Viola whose rich dark complexion, voluptuously thick and full body, mesmerizing brown eyes, wide noses, enviable full lips, and versatile kinky textured hair was considered to be less classically beautiful in comparison to younger, lighter and more European centric looking women. The idea that since Ms. Davis didn’t have straight hair, a narrow nose, medium to small lips and skin that she wasn’t classically beautiful is an a message that is harming young people of color. It is telling them that they must change or find a way to alter the features they were born with to fit the look that media and others have told them is good and beautiful. Take the US journalist Julie Chen, whose former boss at an Ohio news station claimed her “Asian eyes” made her look “disinterested and bored”. Later, a big-time agent refused to represent her unless she had surgery to make her eyes bigger. After she underwent the surgery, her career took off. She was basically told if she wanted to be successfully she would have to change herself to see more like what media would call beautiful. If it’s not people telling people of color to change it is subtle blows in the everyday media we consume. You will open a magazine and see things like 11 ways to make your eyes look bigger or 4 way to reshape your nose. Pressuring young kids to rethink the way they look and pushing them to change themselves.
A pit of discontent sits at the bottom of my stomach when I watch a young black girl, barely old enough to be in elementary school point to the white doll when asked which one is the prettiest. I cannot ignore the agonizing feeling when asked why she was choosing the fairer doll and she answers because “it’s white.” It is heart wrenching to watch young children who barely understand the concept of money, understand racism and bias. The only way to fix this, is to have our generation stop the cycle of self hate and self segregation by becoming more aware of the media we consume and things we hear and say. And also become more self aware, rethink the things you say and how it is damaging the people around you. So please think again when you say, “She/he/ they is pretty for a person of color” , “I wish she/he/they was a little bit lighter” or “I don’t date (certain ethic because xyz)” because not only is it racist and rude but it is leading to some thinking that lighter skin is better, or “more glamorous” than their own color or others features are better and that theirs are lesser. Ultimately, thoughts like those can be damaging on a global scale.