(Reposted from the New York Times)
Young black people have, in theory, embraced the concept of “body positivity,” which encourages self-love and acceptance of “natural” features. I wish this movement was a capacious one that not only critiqued unrealistic beauty standards but also embraced all kinds of bodies. Instead, it has been co-opted by women who uphold the status quo by celebrating only conventionally attractive bodies and policing how women can achieve them.
It may be surprising, but the conversation that dominates the body positivity movement is not about hair but about plastic surgery, which has become popular among black millennials, some of whom even go abroad for their procedures or seek underground alternatives to save money.
There are two factions in this conversation. On one side are women like Cardi B, who are candid about undergoing procedures to obtain exaggerated hourglass proportions. The beauty elites of black Instagram, Amber Rose, Blac Chyna and Summer Walker, have all acknowledged having surgical procedures, in some way or another. Plastic surgery, once the province of wealthy white women who sought to keep their procedures secret, is now a trend among black millennials.
On the other side, the much louder one, are those who are adamant that women should have only “natural” bodies. This camp has co-opted the language of body positivity to shame women, including Cardi B, who use plastic surgery to get hourglass figures. Those on #TeamNatural claim that the reality TV star Angela Simmons and the rappers Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, who both described themselves as “natural,” have ideal bodies.