In his victory speech, President Barack Obama told his two daughters they are strong, smart and beautiful; adjectives blogger Alice Robb considers “inappropriate” and “sets up beauty as something young girls should aspire to.” Do young black woman need to be told they’re beautiful? The Root‘s contributing editor Demetria L. Lucas believes so. Check out her rebuttal for Essence.
There were plenty of complaints about Election Night (and its results), and one that’s gaining traction was from blogger Alice Robb for the Oxonian Globalist. In an opinion piece posted last Thursday, Robb complained that President Obama “conformed to the ideology that sets up beauty as something young girls should aspire to” when he referred to his daughters as “beautiful” during his victory speech.
(I’ll insert the “huh?” here for you.)
I stayed up until past 1 a.m. EST to hear that speech. I heard POTUS lovingly recognize his girls, Malia and Sasha: “Before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom,” President Obama said, and I thought it was so sweet, not problematic in the least.
But Robb found it ever so. She wrote, “Obama’s comments beg the question of why a girl’s beauty should be source of pride for her father — and why beauty should be a value lauded alongside strength and intelligence.”
My first thought was “Really? No… really?” But I rolled her argument around for a bit in my head to see if I could get where she is coming from, generally. Overall, there is too much importance placed on women’s looks. Anytime a women gets promoted to a position of prominence, there’s an inevitable critique of her appearance. For Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin it was weight; for Hillary Clinton is was her clothes (pantsuits); and for First Lady Michelle Obama, it’s been the size of her backside and, of all things, the tone of her arms. Young women who are navigating changing bodies hear this and it can make them even more sensitive about their appearance, making it a bigger deal to them than it should be. And that is indeed a problem.
But it doesn’t apply here. In an effort to be politically correct (and likely feminist), Robb is going too far in the opposite direction. There is nothing wrong with any father calling his daughters beautiful — more fathers should do so, especially Black fathers, so that young women won’t go into the world seeking affirmation from strange men because they didn’t get it at home.
Read more at Essence.