Kevin Moye | Staff Writer
Since the dawn of Western civilization, white supremacy has influenced nearly every aspect of our society. One area in which white supremacy remains to be pervasive is in our perceptions of beauty within the western world.
Eurocentric standards of beauty have been a hallmark of American society since the inception of our nation. Even now, these standards are continuously perpetuated in today’s age through the portrayal of beauty in the media. One of the key ways in which we get our standards of beauty, the acting industry, continues to be a white-dominated field. With the overrepresentation of white people in Hollywood, much of what we think is beautiful becomes centered on the archetypal white women in film.
These standards value European features, like lighter skin, straight hair, thin noses and lips and light colored eyes, which are heavily associated with whiteness. Preference for these features can even be observed at an early age regardless of race, as evidenced by the infamous doll study by Kenneth and Mamie Clark in 1947.
Originally, segregation was thought to be responsible for black children preferring to play with white dolls or thinking they were better; however, the lack of change in the findings from the study from 1947 to now suggests that the way our society perceives beauty is to blame.
In online dating, this outlook is made abundantly clear to women of color, and particularly black women. A blog post by OKCupid in 2014 tracked the racial preferences of users of their app in a study they conducted. The results of the study confirmed that racial biases still play a massive role in online dating.
The study showed that black women and Asian men were the least desired groups with black men not too far behind. White men were 18% less likely to interact with black women while white women were 12% less likely to interact with Asian men.
The findings of OKCupid were corroborated by another study conducted by Cornell University. The researchers in this study discovered that college students are more likely to exclude blacks, and particularly black women, as possible dates.
The online dating scene can get even worse when accounting for the intersection of identities. LGBT people of color have a sizeable disadvantage in their already small dating pool because of the gay and bisexual community being even more likely to distinguish potential partners based on race than the straight community.
These ideals that we place on women can be particularly damaging for black women that may end up internalizing these European beauty standards. A black woman that is seeing that she receives much fewer matches than her white counterparts may begin to resent the beauty of her own unique features.
When not being dismissed because of the color of skin, black women are often the subject of fetishized by users for the same reason. This type of attraction is often based around harmful stereotypes surrounding black women like being “thicc” or much more pernicious stereotypes about them having hyper-sexual behavior.
Black women report receiving a number of messages that reference their race as the focal point of their match’s sexual conquest. Accounts of various black women tend to result in similar jarring messages, like one Chicago native who said she received several messages about her “curvy shape” or “big booty” despite not evening carrying either of these qualities.
For black women that are struggling with online dating, it is of the utmost importance for them to understand that, like in most aspects of life, they are playing a rigged game. They should not be discouraged. What one user sees as dismissible, is beauty in the eyes of another.