advice · feminism · feminist · gender · misogyny · race · racism · sexism · strenght · Uncategorized · women

Beauty and the Bill? Harriet Tubman, The New $20 Bill, and Contemporary Beauty Standards

Racism and sexism is alive and well and rearing it’s unquenchable head once again!

Only yesterday, the US Treasury announced – in what will be a milestone for women and people of colour – that abolitionist WoC Harriet Tubman would grace the new $20 bill.

Harriet_Tubman_by_Squyer,_NPG,_c1885.jpg

While the new bills won’t be available until around 2030 (or so the reports say), racists and sexists have taken to Twitter and other social media to lament the decision to represent blacks and women.

The biggest complaint I’ve seen so far is, strikingly, that Tubman doesn’t conform to modern (and often unattainable) standards of beauty. Many of the posts publicly found on Twitter question why Tubman’s “ugly ass” (that’s an actual quotation there, by the way”) should be on the bill;another claims, in what is evidently a racist trope, that Tubman belongs on food-stamps rather than currency. Shockingly, – in what can only be seen as a  manifestation of the insidious nature behind sexism and racism – it seems even many people of colour are falling into this sexist rhetoric; as though having, say, Tyra Banks on the notes would have been more applicable and timely.

The more important question here, it seems, is why Tubman’s history  is being relegated straight back to her physical appearance? Current ideology continuously positions women – of all races, ethnicity, and backgrounds – as relevant only according to the standards of beauty, physical appearance and attire they present; anything else which they may achieve during their lifetime is either an added bonus to this imperative or is, sadly, inconsequential.

So what does this treatment of Tubman reveal: that women continue to be regarded, despite their historical influence and present status, as relevant only as symbols of beauty in our culture. Tubman herself is quoted to have said:

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

It’s time to free women from this rhetoric, too.

 

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