Not enough people talk about the experience of being subjectively attractive. It’s a strange, confusing and often disheartening existence. Sometimes, you’re given unsolicited and damn-near traumatizing feedback on your sex appeal or lack thereof. On other, rarer occasions, you feel desirable enough to believe your yearnings for romance will yield more than a masochistic venture.
There may be entire support groups for White girls who struggle to accept their appearance, but Black people tend to have other things to concern themselves with. The dejection associated with having been deemed “not cute” ain’t one of them.
We’ve put our energy into tossing colorism into the colonial gutter in which it belongs. We’ve gradually begun unpacking toxic Black masculinity. And we’re finally addressing the pervasiveness of mental illnesses in our community. Now, there’s another struggle deserving our attention.
On Tuesday, comedian Leslie Jones shed light on the plight of women who’ve been made to feel less than attractive. The Ghostbusters actress and Saturday Night Live star tweeted about her weight-loss journey. Conveying her workout ritual felt fruitless because men still weren’t noticing her, she shared her fear of living a life devoid of romance.
“Ok back to cardio,” Jones wrote. “But confession I feel like I’m doing it for nothing. I know it not [sic] I’m healthy and look good but I really feel like ‘what’s it all for’ if the people you want to notice don’t. I just feel like I might die alone. Sorry that’s pretty heavy today!!”
Jones’ statement could casually be swept under the rug as another lament from a woman afraid she won’t scoop a man.
But as someone who’s had “what’s it for?” constantly swirl about in her psyche before every workout and purchase of cute clothes, Jones’ wasn’t just in her feelings. And as much as actress Meagan Good (bless her heart) tried to uplift Jones in response to the post, pretty girls just don’t get it. The 50-year-old was giving a glimpse into the experience of being a subjectively attractive woman. And it wasn’t her first time doing so.
The actress first shared her struggle to feel accepted in the summer of 2016. Amid the hoopla of the Ghostbusters premiere, Jones was on the receiving end of the cesspool of misogynoir that lives on social media. She was subjected to a flood of cruel posts from Twitter users. A number of the tweets likened her appearance to that of an ape. Right-wing extremist Milo Yiannopoulos even took a screenshot of her Twitter page that was captioned with “rejected by yet another Black dude.”
Jones has been made to feel “less than”—and like too many women, it’s dictated her sense of self-worth. The celebrity was forced to temporarily deactivate her Twitter account.
Ok back to cardio. But confession I feel like I’m doing it for nothing. I know it not I’m healthy and look good but I really feel like “what’s it all for” if the people you want to notice don’t. I just feel like I might die alone. Sorry that’s pretty heavy today!! pic.twitter.com/Dla9RHD5EX
— Leslie Jones 🦋 (@Lesdoggg) January 30, 2018
Racism is something Black people have grappled with for centuries. But Jones wasn’t attacked for only being Black; she was also taunted for not being considered attractive. For many people, that’s not a battle as familiar as racism—but in some instances, it can be just as isolating and dehumanizing.
If we’re going to concern ourselves with the state of mental health in our community, we need to care about the other beliefs employed to make us feel devalued—especially when it can trigger mental illnesses, such as depression or the lesser-known body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
BDD is characterized by Mayo Clinic as a “mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance—a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable.” Among the risk factors and causes of BDD is body image-based teasing. One of BDD’s symptoms is frequent cosmetic procedures.
Rapper Lil’ Kim once admitted guys would tell her she “wasn’t pretty enough.” With each cosmetic surgery underwent by the petite musician, it was painfully evident the disparaging remarks continued to haunt her. Lil Kim was not diagnosed with the disease—at least to the public’s knowledge—but her struggle isn’t an isolated one.
We often criticize Whites for not acknowledging how their race has allowed them innumerable advantages and opportunities. While battling hardships as Black folks, it can be easy to disregard struggles that may not be our own.
Pretty is a privilege. And privilege invites tunnel vision. If you’re the type to turn heads, you probably aren’t thinking about what life is like for the girl no one looks at twice and feels destined to a loveless life.
We’d like to believe beauty is only skin-deep—but that just ain’t the case. And there are too many Black women silently dealing with the repercussions of that reality. We’ve been conditioned, to an extent, to evaluate a person’s worth based on their attractiveness. There are many women made to feel unworthy of love because of the way men react to them.
Infringing on someone’s self-esteem can be dangerous. Jones was bullied into having to question her worth before a simple gym routine. A lot of us have been.
But this struggle tends to fall under the radar, despite the risk it can pose to mental health. It’s never enough to simply be conscious. Avoid engaging in fruitless debates about whether or not your female co-workers are cute if you don’t plan on dating them. Check your shallow friends who feel emboldened enough to knock a woman’s appearance. Champion the Black women around you before they get to the point of asking themselves “what’s it all for?”