This post should be called let me tell you how tired I am of seeing this meme! I have tried to ignore this meme, but I feel it was poking at me every time it’s shared. It’s rubbing me the wrong way, and it’s not even directed at me. As a woman of color, I feel like my identity is always being questioned.
If I chose to straighten my hair, then I don’t accept my natural beauty. If I decide to wear a lighter hair color, then I’m trying to be white., If I like Marilyn Monroe, I don’t know any historically pivotal black actresses.
I am not just wearing a Marilyn t-shirt I’m representing the fact that How To Marry a Millionaire, Some Like it Hot, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes are some of my favorite films. Just because I like these films does not mean that I have not seen or enjoyed Carmen Jones, Foxy Brown, or Anna Lucasta.
I had to calm down to realize the meme wasn’t even directed at me. I decided to investigate my anger and breakdown the concept of Marilyn vs. Dorothy. I have a fond appreciation for “Old Hollywood Glamour” and I just assumed anyone rocking a Marilyn t-shirt had the same affinity for vintage reprints. It dawned on me that maybe there are women of all races just mindlessly purchasing Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. Women that may simply find her image appealing and aren’t necessarily fans of her work or the era.
I want to defend the consumers of color who are just buying because they saw a face they liked. Since when did being a woman of color rob you of your right to be mindless. Mindlessness is just that; it’s the space you allow yourself not to over to analyze why you like whatever is you prefer. In all honestly, you may identify with the image of Marilyn Monroe beyond the fact that she’s white.
The question of why are black women not wearing Dorothy Dandridge on their shirt kept being asked. My only reply was where do I find one? Marilyn shirts are everywhere from Target to rag bins all around the country. I can honestly say I have never walked into a store and seen a shirt with an image of Dorothy on it. I don’t think black women have a real choice when they are shopping. For that, I am saddened that we don’t have the opportunity to choose between the two.
I put out a challenge on Facebook for someone to find me a t-shirt and one of my friends directed me to an Etsy shop. I was excited to purchase the shirt but in my mind, I thought this isn’t the same. As someone who is into all things vintage, I have to search for most of the things I like. I’m also a plus size girl I have to search for clothes that fit period. Although a Dorothy shirt is in existence, it still felt unavailable. It didn’t feel as accessible as Marilyn. For consumers who are mindlessly purchasing Marilyn for what she is and less of who she is what would provoke them to search for Dorothy? (other than this meme that I am not fond of) Maybe the shaming is necessary because outlets like Vintage Black Glamour aren’t viral.
I see a lot of black men posting this Marilyn vs. Dorothy meme. I think that may have ignited my initial anger. We never culturally question black men’s pop culture interest. A man can be a Star Wars fanatic, idolize Scarface, or quote The Godfather, and their loyalty to their racial identity is never questioned. As far as I am concerned if you are a Black man concerned with the available images of beautiful black women for purchase, start a company. Sell the shirts and I will buy them from you directly. I would love to see more vintage memorabilia.
The reality is we are African Americans despite the racial inequality unless you were raised on a commune there is a great chance you were exposed to or influenced by American culture. If you so much as ate potato salad on the Fourth of July you are participating in American culture. It’s impossible to say you don’t enjoy anything.
As a Black woman, I am just trying to be! It’s hard enough being young and having diverse interest especially the ones that don’t reflect the interest, my peers. How do you know the awareness level of a Black woman you pass by wearing a Marilyn shirt? Unless you know them, personally you don’t know. I’m all about awareness and educating each other, but our social culture has a way of educating by shame.
I am inspired by women and not just the ones who look like me. From what I know and have researched about Marilyn she was a woman in search of being seen beyond her surface. She aspired to be taken seriously and viewed as a real talent, not unlike Dorothy Dandridge. I realized that to be a champion of all women I have to cheer for all women. I plan to cheer even if it causes others to question where I stand. I don’t need a soapbox to prove I am proud of my culture because I am both a woman and black,
I choose to wear the images of three women Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, and Frieda Kahlo. I love all three of them for different reasons. Women of color are bold, exciting, sexy, smart and funny. We are diverse in quality, and all deserve equal face time on a t-shirt that is available for people to mindfully or mindlessly enjoy!
My heart aches not just for the little black girls who don’t know or can’t find Dorothy. My heart aches for all the women who can’t find images of women who look like them in the media.
“I am beyond your peripheral vision. You might want to turn you head”- Ani Di Franco
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