I’m so f***in’ sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks
Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks, ayy
With a few short bars, Kendrick Lamar opened a debate; but it isn’t the debate that you are thinking. The debate isn’t about #teamnatural vs. #teambeat. The debate is about what a woman SHOULD be able to do vs. what a man THINKS a woman should be doing.
Now, as a woman of a certain age, I can remember a time when guys of the Ashen persuasion would go on Twitter, Facebook, or the outdated Myspace and tell women that they should cover up their flaws. I once was the subject of a Black Planet page where a person told me (and a select few others) that I should take down my page and fix my flaws (“No one wants to see that”).
The men of the Ashen Tribe would tell women that if they jumped through these 50/11 hoops, they would be more desirable. This “advice” was usually directed at women in the 20-29 age range; the age range of women who are still growing and learning about themselves. Women were told they should cover up their flaws, make sure their hair is done, and dress in a certain kind of style. Because the message was sent repeatedly, the messenger soon morphed into other black women as well. And just like that, women changed their appearances. Women who weren’t into makeup before suddenly became Sephora beauty insiders and started shopping at stores that were tailored to clothes with cutouts in all the right places. In essence, the message sent to women was received and followed.
Now fast forward a few years and the tide has turned. We now live in a world where a man named Tyrese who went from singing about Coke on a bus to everybody’s black buddy in quite a few big budget action flicks has the platform and the unadulterated gall to tell women how they should carry themselves. Because, of course, we were waiting with baited breath on his “critique.” He is another story all together.
Men are now telling women that wearing makeup, wearing a certain type of clothing, having a weave or additional hair pieces, and getting plastic surgery means you are sending the wrong “message.” Women who dress a certain way are “asking for it” or are “a certain type of woman.” I believe Mr. “Beauty Expert” himself, Tyrese, called these women…um…skeezers? There are memes galore of men dousing women with water to remove their makeup to show the “real” them. Men praising women who conduct themselves a certain way and belittle women who are doing the contrary. Again, there is this trend of men telling women how they should conduct themselves to be more “desirable”…to men.
Now, we are going to come full circle to this lyric from “Humble.” Full disclosure: I enjoyed the song. I like Kendrick; I always have. As a woman, I KNOW the problematic nature of rap music. So, this lyric is of NO surprise to me. It didn’t offend me, per se, but I understand completely why the offense occurred. Kendrick is conveying his preference. It is his preference and he has every right to state it. Yet, the message sent was that it was somehow women’s fault that they bent to the will of the “impossible beauty standard.” That women were responsible for or created “Photoshop” (even though Photoshop was invented by two men: John and Thomas Knoll).
And as if Captain America himself asked them, the Ashen Tribe “assembled” to use Kendrick’s preference to denigrate black women yet again. Telling women they should get off their high horses and “be humble,” as if women are who Kendrick is talking to when he says “be humble.”
When it comes to belittlement, no one gets it worse than black women (but THAT is another post in its entirety). It is so common for a man to tell a woman how she should dress and how she should accommodate a man’s preference. Because the sad part is, we have allowed it. For so long, women bought into this notion that the woman next to them is competition. That the woman next to them would “steal their man” if they didn’t toe that line of patriarchy. And if a woman decides to “buck the system” and not conform or state that she owns her own body and makes choices for herself, she is automatically given the title of feminist (a title that she herself may not choose to have). Believe me, women who identify as feminists have no problem stating they are feminists. However, if a woman just has a differing opinion, branding her the scarlet “f” does not negate the fact that it is her opinion and she has every right to feel that way.
Calling BS on the impossible standards of beauty is a woman’s right. And the fact of the matter is, many women wear weaves, makeup, or get plastic surgery because she wants to do it for herself; not for men. I know that seems like a hard concept to grasp so why don’t I Iet Kendrick say it:
I can’t fake humble just ’cause your ass is insecure.