Every wanted to hear Kareem Abdul-Jabbar cover The Meatmen’s “I’m Glad I’m Not A Girl”? Though that’s probably not happening anytime soon, the Bucks/Lakers great-turned-ace social critic (above, far left) considers the creepy scrutiny afforded Serena Williams recently and argues, “we have established a definition of beauty so narrow that almost no one can live up to it.” From Abdul-Jabbar in Time.com :
The typical American woman spends about $15,000 on makeup over a lifetime (if that same money were invested into a retirement plan, it would give her about $100,000 at age 70). Even though Americans spend the most on cosmetics in the world, we are ranked only 23rd in one list of “satisfaction with life.” In a futile effort to fit this mythical ideal of beauty, millions of American women torture their feet with high heels, undergo unnecessary cosmetic surgeries, starve themselves, and make themselves physically and mentally miserable—all over an imaginary ideal they didn’t even create.
Some of the body shaming of athletic black women is definitely a racist rejection of black women’s bodies that don’t conform to the traditional body shapes of white athletes and dancers. No one questions the beauty of black actresses such as Kerry Washington (Scandal) or Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) because they fit the lithe image perpetuated by women’s fashion magazines. The body shaming of Serena Williams is partly because she don’t fit the Western ideal of femininity. But another cause is our disrespectful ideal of the feminine body in general.
The bigger issue here is the public pressure regarding femininity, especially among our athletes. It’s a misogynist idea that is detrimental to professional women athletes and to all the young girls who look up to these women as role models because it can stifle their drive to excellence, not only on the playing field, but in other aspects of life.