On Miley, twerking, and brown bodies as white wonderlands




Thanks, Xeni. Her aside about paper money is historically incorrect, but the viewpoint she shared was both well written and well worth reading. I'm glad I read it.


It's a great article. However, I challenge her assumption that being considered pretty = economic success. That is only true if your definition of achieving economic success is through marriage. How many pretty women fight the notion that they cannot also be considered smart?


Pretty privilege is a real thing. Pretty people get better, higher paying jobs than their "non-pretty" peers, this has been studied and proven over and over. So while some women may use their attractiveness for financial gain, and some just want to be recognized for their brains, the fact is, if you're pretty you're in a system that is going to give you privileges whether you want them or not.

Support: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/games-primates-play/201203/the-truth-about-why-beautiful-people-are-more-successful


I really value the perspective and observations made in this piece, and I'm glad that it was written.

But the writing style feels insular and inaccessible, and I doubt I'm the only one who feels that way. I want voices like this to be heard, and I think plain speech can help people be at least a little more willing to listen.


I work in Engineering and my impression is that men do reward prettiness in female type careers - in Marketing departments, for example, I have seen lots of pretty women promoted over more qualified, less attractive women. However, within Engineering, I would say it's a big bonus to be a little asexual; the last really successful woman I met (head of field engineering for a large company) gave off a "plays for the other team" vibe though she did not. Computer programmers seem less likely to be judged one way or the other - it seems to be a meritocracy in the code jockey world, though the women in that field do not seem to be the beauty pagent winner types, but, I have met a few very high ranking women software developers and some were attractive and some not so much, but all of them were talented.


Very interesting read. I feel as though I viewed Miley's performance differently than how she believed people would view it though. If she was using black women as an "unattractive" backdrop to her more attractive, thin whiteness, from my perspective at least, she failed. Nothing about her outfits, hair, makeup or her socially "ideal" super-thiness was attractive in the least, from my view. The black women sharing the stage with her looked miles better. On the other hand, I'm not a heterosexual man, so I'm not the target audience. Were there tons of winking white men in on the joke, thinking how sexy Miley looked up there?


"female type careers" is a fairly sexist thing to think/say.

I used to be a QA supervisor, not so much with the meritocratic world you're describing, at all, including my hiring and promotion.

"why aren't there more women programmers" is a fairly consistent topic these days, and generally the answer is "institutionalized sexism/misogyny" usually accompanied with a comment like "ladies just don't like/aren't good at it I guess" and thats usually from well meaning dudes. Like this dude.


That all said, I think we actually agree? smile


I have been going out to bars for the past 20 years on average once or twice a week specifically to go dancing and not once in that time have I ever witnessed what that author described in the first couple paragraphs. I'm not saying it doesn't happen but I question if it's really as common as she's making it out to be. I mean I would question if it's racial in nature at all or these couples looking for a threesome or to dance/grind whatever weren't approaching everyone in the bar.


Well, probably, though I'm not among their number. I thought she looked far more ridiculous than she usually does. I guess I'm too old to be her "target audience," but then, how many men of any age buy products that line her particular bank account? Not very long ago, preteen girls were her target audience. I'm not sure who she's aiming at these days.

Then again, in their respective eras, Madonna and Britney Spears played up their sexiness and raked in enormous profits, but not so much from the straight men to whom that particular sexiness should, at first glance, appeal. If the girls in the audience think they look sexy (rather than ridiculous), then the act works. It doesn't really matter what the guys think.


Do you physi

No, thats exactly what you're saying.


Yes. And it is by and large a specifically female privilege, and as the article points out, a white female privilege.


Yes, we agree?

I'm more than happy to talk about white privilege too! Kind of the focus of the article really. smile


I think she might have discussed the desire of black men as well as that of white men?

I am no real threat to white women's desirability. Thus, white women have no problem cheering their husbands and boyfriends as they touch me on the dance floor. I am never seriously a contender for acceptable partner and mate for the white men who ask if their buddy can put his face in my cleavage.

Very true. I know PUA-types go on about "female hypergamy", but it turns out men are just as hypergamous, especially when it comes to who we commit to rather than who we might want to bump-and-grind with on the dance floor. And what is racism, if not a pervasive raising of the status of white people over black? Those white men might take a more serious interest in Rihanna or Beyonce or Halle Berry, of course, but only because of their personal high status.


Well, I wouldn't call myself pretty but I'd be in complete denial if I wasn't aware that being a 6'4" white male did not open many doors for me. Somebody once described it as playing life on the 'easy' setting. Not that there aren't challenges - every life has them - but any of us white males who pretend we aren't getting a relatively free ride are wearing blinkers and blocking their ears to what people around them are experiencing.

On top of that, I grew up in a near monochrome suburb, and the few friends from my childhood that I still have minimal contact with have wholly internalized almost all of the subtle assumptions our culture makes about people who are not white. In Alberta that mostly exists as racism towards South Asians and Natives, though I have little doubt that most of them would be happy to feel superior to anyone else who comes along that is different.

I once had a girlfriend who was black, and it appalled me how often her colour was the first topic of conversation for my friends (if she wasn't there). Often in a highly sexualized way - them expressing prurient curiosity about that 'it would be like', and implicitly assuming that I was involved with her for purely sexual reasons. Which they simply would not have done, at all, if she had been white. That was the end of most of those friendships - I couldn't really like them anymore once I realized where they were coming from.


You could also argue that the high status of women like Beyonce, Rihanna or Halle Berry may be in part because they are pale and thin, attributes that are coveted under the banner of "white beauty" (Beyonce is even blonde). Giant fucking topic really.


Yes. There is also a "cultural endogamy" angle: there are cultural differences between black and white people, and white people tend to show an aversion to cultural "blackness". I think this is why Obama could be elected while Jesse Jackson never could: Jackson reads as "culturally black" while Obama reads as "happens to be black". Halle Berry also reads as "happens to be black" no doubt because she (like Obama) was raised largely by her white mother.


Is she supposed to look like this?

I'm glad you think so. Here we have a conversation about how successful black women are successful in part due to looking white, and one because she dyes her hair blonde.

Because apparently blonde hair is problematic.

Here we are, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and we're still hashing out this crap about how light-colored black people aren't fully black, or fully white. Any of you Social Justice Warriors stop to consider that these folks face racism from both white and black people? Yep, I'm a white guy; and yep, I've seen it. Clearly Obama rose above it, but I got to see with my own two eyes just how privileged a half-black girl was in a mostly white town. Her white step-parents had to leave town one night, quickly, for a skin color that was about as dark as Halle Berry's. I hope I don't have to spell out why her family had to leave in such a rush; let's just say it's a small, all-white, Mid-south town and leave it at that.

Let's take a look at another picture.

Nowadays, her success as a black woman would be disparaged because she's "white-passing", not to mention pretty. Back in her day, though, after she was famous, she once performed at a hotel as the headliner act. When she decided to take a dip in the pool, though, the owner cleared the pool, then drained and refilled the pool for the comfort and peace of mind of the white guests. And she had to eat in the colored section.

Dismissing someone like her for being mostly-white and pretty completely erases her life experience.

I can't believe how incredibly goddamned ugly and racist this conversation has turned, while talking about fairness and equality.

50 years, and we have a long fucking way to go.


Non-pretty? You don't have to be negative, you know. We prefer the term, "people with ugliness."


Um... I think you're reading a lot of things into my comments that are not there, like, at all?

We're having a rather reasoned and civil conversation about all the pressures (and privileges) placed on women, white and women of colour, and how that can subtly manifest in a myriad of different ways, that can include the subtle pressure to look a certain way. At no point have we disparaged anyone for being "too white" or for being ... I don't even know not white enough?

I honestly don't know what it is that's got you riled up. Did you read the article these comments are stemming from? Its about the use of African American women as a backdrop to white sexual fantasies. It's a really good article.