Society Calls Me Ugly

By Edwina Williams

Published May 7, 2015

Poetry is a form of expression that I have used since I was a little girl. It was difficult for me to verbally share my feelings with others, so I would write down my thoughts and concerns instead. During my stay at MiraCosta College, I was introduced to spoken word and performance poetry. Dr. Bruce Hoskins, who was my sociology professor at the time, helped me realize that I could use poetry not only as a means of journaling but also as a way to convey to the masses how unjust the world is. More importantly, I could write about how the many systems of oppression in our society impact our lives directly and indirectly.

Original Art Piece by Edwina Williams, 2015

After watching the movie “Good Hair” by Chris Rock, I started to reflect on how societal norms have impacted the ways in which beauty is socially constructed through the eyes of Black women. As a Black woman myself, I considered how I have been directly impacted. The only Black women I see being idolized in the media are those who adhere to European norms of beauty. This usually entails wearing hair weaves (e.g., hair extensions), straightening one’ss hair, and/or undergoing surgical procedures such as bleaching one’s skin. A tremendous amount of pressure has been placed on Black women to become “Beautifully White.” Perceptions of Black as “bad” or “ugly” continue to affect how young women of color perceive themselves. I wrote the following poem to reflect this everyday struggle:

Society Calls Me Ugly

Society calls me ugly. My cocoa complexion, my kinky roots, you see…these characteristics are not beautiful to society. Society calls me ugly. I have heard it so much that I begin to believe, that being Black is not necessarily a beautiful thing. So I alter my reflection and side with society’s perception of what “true” beauty is. Beauty is “long hair, don’t care”, so with white cream made of harsh chemicals I burn away at my black roots and abandon my culture. Like a fool I contribute to the oppression because you see society says straight hair looks better, better than my kinks. Nappy roots and dark skin, those two things should not be linked. Society tells me that my natural look is not acceptable, straight hair and light skin looks more delectable. So yes, I wear weaves and yes I relax my hair. But only to mask the imperfections that society put there.

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