Marilyn Mckenzie Counselling in Bank, Angel Islington and Forest Hill

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Dark Skin Women in relationship therapy.

This article does not discount men at all who may have similar issues and I hope it also isn't used to alienate women who are of a lighter shade however I feel it's time to weigh my oar into the debate around shadism.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about,shadism is not in the Oxford dictionary but was suggested to the collins version. I would tweak the definition however from:

"Discrimination against people with darker skin colour within the Black community"
To
"Discrimination and prejudice against people or darker skin within communities of colour in particular in Black and Asians communities".

My reason for this is purely due to what I have witnessed personally and professionally with friends, colleagues, peers, clients etc.
It is something I noticed from primary school till this very day and it is subjective and relative at the same time.

As a relationship therapist I don't always work with couples. In fact alot of my work is with single people (often women) who find it difficult to meet partners who they feel they can build a life with. This includes different sexualities, race, sex, age and hue!

What I have found repeatedly is how much your complexion can be of benefit or of detriment  to your experience of dating. Many women who are considered darker within their respective communities struggle with finding a partner. They almost experience a sense of shame through it and those who are their partner sometimes have to defend their position of being with them. Sounds crazy, but true. Many men have found their friends less enthusiastic about their partner choice because they are not considered the mainstream  version of attractive. 

For the women involved this can be soul crushing. From childish comments from other children of all races about your blackness, to feeling unattractive in secondary school, to feeling looked over in the dating scene and the constant bombardment from media (inside and outside of the community) that you do not have "pretty privilege" in fact you are considered lowest on the ladder in some research by people who claim to be scientists.  This together with the usual pressures of being
A. A woman
B. A minority
Puts us in the most precarious position.

When does this start?
From before children can speak they are given constant messages about beauty/ cuteness and the hierarchy of attractiveness. This filtered through time has such a profound effect on self-esteem and confidence.  I have written previously about how hair often comes into the therapy room (I have alot of it) and how this influences the dynamics in the room, shade similarly plays a part. As a therapist I am dark skinned black women but I am aware that other black women may put me in some other category. I never was crisitised for my complexion however I am one of the darker women in my extended family. Did this come up? Not explicitly but it certainly was implied. In the therapy room when working with Black or Asian women who have been through similar experiences I make a note how their complexion may or may not have had an influence on what brought them to relationship therapy.  Unfortunately I am finding that far too often it does have an impact.

Some people would prefer to say that part of the problem is that Black or Asian  people who are constantly talking about this is part of the problem. As though those who are being discriminated against shouldnt bring this up as it's divisive. This makes as much sense as not talking about racism as it makes people (often the aggressor) uncomfortable!

Shadism is real. It's so real that it is almost normalised and not only do I worry about the future generation, I also worry about those who come into my therapy room so lacking in self worth because of these messages that building their self esteem in an environment that constantly tell them they are wrong for how they are born is an uphill struggle.

I don't have all the answers. I'm glad that this is being debated more and that people are no longer telling dark skinned women to get over it





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