Skin, hair and body : Black women's perceptions of beauty on a diverse university campus.
Shabangu, Nontobeko Clementine.
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Women’s bodies have been considered surfaces upon which power struggles and narratives of inequality are played out (Bordo 1993). All aspects of women’s lives, especially their bodies and notions of feminine beauty that come to dominate those bodies, are influenced and controlled by their societies, and should be studied as such (Denis 2008). This study aimed to uncover how Black women perceive themselves and are perceived by society, especially in term of their skin, hair and bodies as influenced by social constructs of beauty. The study took place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus. It was conceptually framed within Black Feminism and Bourdieu’s concepts of Symbolic Violence and Taste. Making use of qualitative methods, particularly in-depth interviews with 30 Black female students, the study found that young Black women experience and express ‘beauty’ in intricate and unique ways, as they attempt to position themselves within their societies. In doing this they engage with both their own identities and the identities of others.