Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Williams sisters and definitions of beauty

Interesting how weeks after the conclusion of the Australian Open the media is only now addressing the very strange 10 Most Beautiful Women of the Open slideshow on the tournament's website. [You have to listen to the accompanying audio--it's pretty bad!]

Oh well, I frequently get around to things in a not necessarily timely manner, myself.

Anyway, the coverage of Serena's and Venus's absence from the list has engendered some discussion about standards of beauty and racism. Good!

Unfortunately some of the articles fail to actually condemn the presence of the list in the first place. This one by Jewel Wood at the Huffington Post is very good but doesn't ask why women's tennis has such a list in the first place. Why do people have such a difficult time understanding the intersections of racism and sexism??

The website The Root did their own slideshow (and accompanying article) of Venus and Serena, which was intended to exemplify the sisters' beauty. I say intended not because I think that it did not, but because just showing pictures of black women in evening gowns is not going to create a paradigm shift in people who will not see anyone who is black as beautiful. (Then of course there is also the other-side-of-the-spectrum problem of eroticizing women of color.) But of course Root is correct that European standards of beauty are still ubiquitous and often unconsciously reified through overt (like the slideshow) and more subtle displays of feminine beauty.


Diane said...

I remember that slideshow. I was repelled (though hardly surprised) by the idea that the Open marketing people created it, took note of the absence of either of the sisters, and also shook my head over some of the selections. Because it isn't just the Euoprean idea of beauty that is the forced standard: It is also the idea that very young women whose faces have barely formed are "beautiful"--i.e., people can project what they want onto them.

ken said...

Good point about the age of the chosen. I hadn't thought about that. I guess I am so accustomed to the youth=beauty that I don't question it as much as I should. Also, I don't really consider the Williams sisters old!