Beauty standards and male voices

04 Jun

A friend of mine shared this video with me:

Later, we were talking about it, and my friend asked, “How much do you think it matters that the speaker is a young, white male?” If the poet were a woman, especially a woman of color or a woman with other non-normative physical features, would the message seem as powerful? Think of how many times women (white and of color) are dismissed for being “too sensitive” when they claim that they are being treated differently because of their gender or race. It seems like there’s a bizarre and twisted assumption that people who experience oppression themselves are not the most trustworthy sources to report on that oppression, perhaps because they have something to gain personally from that oppression ending. From there, it’s an easy step to assume that a privileged voice is actually the most trustworthy: “Even though he’s in a position of power, he thinks the situation is unjust, so he must be telling the truth.”

Does the power of male, white, and heterosexual voices mean that any movement, including the movement against harmful beauty standards, needs a strong group of privileged allies in order to succeed? How can a movement effectively convince people to care about an issue that doesn’t directly affect them?


Posted by on June 4, 2013 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Beauty standards and male voices

  1. laurenkchow

    June 5, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Ohmgosh, this is SUCH a pet peeve of mine! It’s so frustrating when any privileged group in a certain identity speaks out about that identity and gets so much more attention than people actually marginalized for that identity (i.e. male feminists, etc.) It reminds me of this article I read the other day: (you have to scroll down to the second subheading or so)
    Relating this to beauty… I think this still applies, even though I don’t feel like “beauty” is a traditionally recognized ‘axis of oppression’ or anything. People considered more conventionally attractive who speak out about problematic ideals of beauty, probably get a lot more media attention than people conventionally considered ugly. (How many videos are there out there of celebrities and models talking about problematic standards of beauty?)

    How can we change our framework of activism to one that elevates the voices of the marginalized on the issues that affect them?

  2. pencee

    June 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    This is frustrating, to constantly see voices of privileged groups receive a very disproportionate amount of attention when speaking out about identities than marginalized groups, or that sometimes it seems as if any movement “needs a strong group of privileged allies in order to succeed”.

    Although, I tend to see a more positive side of this voice. In a way, I think this statement is given merit and attention because white males are often viewed as the most guilty offenders of identity marginalization. So, in a way, seeing this supposed ‘prime offender’ speak out against these issues could be viewed as a sign of victory against the “enemy”. Maybe seeing people who are not affected by these issues speak out against them proves the fact that these issues are not just for the people affected, but rather society as a whole? Just because you are a white heterosexual male doesn’t mean that harmful beauty and power standards are not your responsibility to be aware of and out of your control.

    Again though, I do understand the frustration.

  3. reedh2013

    June 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    As frustrating as it is that the individuals most affected by beauty standards often get the least attention when they speak out, white men and “beautiful people” have the power to make these voices heard. Like Emily pointed out, it’s impactful when the “oppressor” speaks out about oppression. What’s important, I think, is that these privileged individuals speak from their own experience and not on behalf of marginalized individuals. I think men, celebrities and models have plenty to contribute to discussions about the negative aspects of beauty culture, but their experiences are very different than most women, especially when beauty intersects with issues of race, class, and sexuality. Still, I would much rather that privileged individuals bring attention to problematic beauty standards than have them go unnoticed.


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