Imagine you are a publisher of a known and prominent family magazine with nearly endless potential readers. You know the type: weekly or monthly periodicals that lurk in the corners of restaurants, bars, grocery stores, parks, and other public places – most likely nationally syndicated yet somehow personalized according to each city — like this, for example, or this. However, Houston Family Magazine seems to be pretty specific to this city, which makes my annoyance with their February cover all the more profound. Partly because I live in Houston and partly because of other stuff that I am going to rant about… rightnow.
Leaving aside the inexplicable choice to plaster *a child* in more makeup than most Miss America contestants wear (for now), let’s focus on the primary headline of the cover:
Teaching kids to be body confident. An admirable goal indeed: based off the choice of cover photograph, one that can apparently be achieved by slathering your little one in something which actually changes their appearance with makeup (in this case, looks like they went full-on 80’s Mary Kay — we are in Texas, after all. No accounting for taste I guess) and a fair amount of quality time up close and personal with some hot rollers for that special Victoria’s Secret voluminous curl every 8 year old girl craves. (Oh don’t worry though — they’re “good” curls)…
But wait! Let’s read the article before we rush to any harsh judgments…
Oh. snap. Listen I’m sure that race had absolutely nothing to do with the decision to have a conventionally beautiful blond prostitot on the cover, despite the fact that the second picture is 1) appropriate to the article and 2) adorable but let’s explore the idea just for a second.
While Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country (yay!) it is sadly one of the most segregated (boo!). Hopefully I shouldn’t have to explain why the former is awesome and the latter is not. But suffice it to say that as a city, Houston has a long way to go in terms of improving racial tensions, not unlike the rest of the nation.
This morning I got my beautiful daughter ready for school picture day. Her caramel skin was gorgeous and glowing against her lacy white dress – always reserved for special occasions. Her hair was an irresistibly intricate puff of curls and kink, soft and strong, haloing all around her face. It’s been in braids for about 2 weeks now, and last night after I took it out I begged her to wear it as it was – ‘Just like Esperanza!’ – I coaxed her. She bounced out of the house – confident and happy.
Later in the day, around noon, I realized I had neglected to send a piece of paper that was due in with her for re-enrollment. As luck would have it, I approached the office at the same moment she was walking by with her class and was dismayed to see that her hair had been put into a ponytail – halfassedly, so maybe she did it herself. I pouted when I saw it and wailed, Please tell me you left it down for picture day! She winced and said, It was too messy, Mama.
Whether or not she came to that conclusion on her own will remain to be seen. But I know one thing – every time she looks in the mirror and wonders aloud how she would look with straight hair, or complains about her curls, there is no amount of maternal coaxing that can compensate for images like the one on the cover chosen by Houston Family being constantly upheld as the ultimate standard for beauty. And that breaks my heart.