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The Destructive Effects Of Standardizing Beauty In Society

1902 words - 8 pages

The Destructive Effects of Standardizing Beauty in Society
In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the standardization of whiteness as beauty has devastating effects on the lives of black girls and women. Each character in the novel displays an internalized belief that whiteness is superior, and it is primarily expressed through thoughts of beauty. Claudia realizes the veneration given to white beauty by seeing the attitudes towards white baby dolls and Shirley Temple. Claudia and Frieda are the least susceptible to this self-hatred resulting from standards of beauty in the novel. On the other hand, the adult women in The Bluest Eye cultivate a hatred of their blackness and find those with white ...view middle of the document...

It is implied that once the girls reach adolescence, they will feel the self-loathing that currently plagues the people around them. The imminent self-hatred is made out to be a natural part of life for a black girl. Claudia explains that she was “younger than both Frieda and Pecola, [and] had not yet arrived at the turning point in the development of [her] psyche that would allow [her] to love [Shirley Temple]” (19). She could not love Shirley Temple because she has not, at that point, reached the stage of maturation when she would begin to worship whiteness and curse her own skin. She acts on her “immature” emotions when she is given a white baby doll for Christmas. She is told that the doll is “beautiful, and if [she is] on this day ‘worthy’ [she] may have it” (21). At this stage in her maturation, she cannot understand what the doll has that requires her to be ‘worthy’ of it. She “had only one desire: to dismember it. To see what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped [her], but apparently only [her]” (20). All of the adults, older girls, newspapers, magazines, and the rest of the world concluded that a white baby doll should be treasured, but Claudia could not see why. On the other hand, Pecola begins the worship of whiteness when she gets her period. This drastic stage in development symbolizes her newly acquired view of whiteness. This suggests again that self-contempt is an inevitable stage the girls must go through. Pecola worries about her new ability to have a baby and that somebody must love her to do so. Pecola asks Claudia and Frieda, “how do you get somebody to love you” (32)? She has never seen expressions of love towards her, and this is because everyone around her is busy obsessing over the “perfect” little white girls. Claudia cannot give Pecola an answer because she has not been faced with the impending problem. She is immune to questioning herself in that way while Pecola is consumed by the thought.
The ubiquitous standard of whiteness as beauty breaks down black society from within, creating instances of intra-racism. Claudia and Frieda remain impervious towards the affection for those of lighter skin, especially when a half-white girl named Maureen Peal enrolls in their school. She instantly enchants every person in the school except for them. Claudia describes her as a “high-yellow dream child… as rich as the richest of the white girls, swaddled in comfort and care” (62). Maureen is easily comparable to a white girl, and therefore fits the standard of beauty that society has deemed lovable. Claudia and Frieda are frustrated by her instant popularity and put a significant amount of effort into finding her flaws. They engage in a fight with Maureen that leads to her shouting about how cute she is compared to how black and ugly they are. After this battle, the accuracy of Maureen’s words engrains itself into their minds. Claudia knows that Maureen is cuter than them,...

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